Courting the web
Written by Connolly Tate
Strater Patrick shifts several non-functioning laptops onto a stack of boxes in his office at the Lethbridge courthouse. He’s getting ready to move out.
Despite the amount of technology packed into it, the office is quite roomy. It has a small indoor balcony that overlooks the courthouse entrance. Too bad it can’t be used since stacks of computer towers are taking up all the room.
Patrick is the systems support specialist for southern Alberta and takes care of all computers, printers, scanners and other technology for Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Drumheller courthouses. He also maintains the ones at all of their circuit courts, of which there are eight altogether.
“Basically, anything that plugs in” is his domain, he says as he pushes his thick-rimmed glasses up.
It won’t be long until he has a new office to go with a new title – web architect.
“That’s just a fancy title for someone who manages websites,” he says.
As a web architect, he manages and maintains websites for Alberta courts, including the main site, which is accessible to the public. Generally speaking, he talks to fewer people and more computers these days.
“It’s still a lot of talking to people,” he says, “but it’s less of a support role and more of a planning and project-based role.”
People from all over Alberta will be coming to him with problems, not just those in southern Alberta courthouses.
At the moment, Patrick is filling both the roles of web architect and systems support specialist. He began the web architect position in January, but will continue acting as systems support until a replacement can be found. He says it could be May before this happens.
He says he’ll miss some things about the old position, though.
“In this new position, I won’t be travelling to Medicine Hat and Drumheller, so those staff members, I won’t be able to see anymore. I’ll miss them. In Lethbridge, I’ll still be around and able to maintain relationships that I’ve built and still be able to indirectly support those staff members.”
On the other hand, after six years, there are plenty of things he won’t miss even a little bit.
“I definitely won’t miss the calls about ‘my printer’s not working’, ‘my computer’s not working’. I don’t mind when people phone about stuff, but it’s those types of problems that can get tedious,” he says, “so it’ll be nice to handle bigger project-based problems instead of small things-breaking problems.”
When it comes to small things breaking, Patrick is your go-to, fix-it guy. Sometimes, he doesn’t even have to put any effort in before a problem fixes itself.
“I had a judge once ask me to come to his house to fix his home computer. It hadn’t been working for weeks. So I go to his house, he turns on the computer, starts to describe the problem he was having and lo-and-behold, it starts to work and it works fine. “
“It’s funny when all you have to do is show up and the problem is fixed,” says Patrick. “Computers are scared of me.”
He says he’s good at fixing things because he takes the time to understand them.
“Whenever there’s some new technology that people are talking about, I have to know, at least on a cursory or a basic level, ‘how does that technology work? What are the basic principles that make it function?’”
Patrick is a self-admitted nerd and he likes it that way.
“Everybody’s got their thing,” he says, “and this is my thing.”