This story is from the category Miscellaneous 

Mr Red Shoes

Almost 20 years ago, Markus Graf, 55, was known as the "Internet Prince of Liechtenstein".

Text: Séverine Jagmetti, published on 11.09.2015

"My alarm clock always goes off at quarter past six. I need a little time to get going in the morning, so I'm really grateful that my wife makes breakfast for me. Just before seven, I climb into my Citroën C5. The drive from my home in Arbon in the canton of Thurgau to Vaduz in Liechtenstein takes about 45 minutes. Thankfully, the traffic normally flows well on my route to work. This makes the drive enjoyable and lets me prepare mentally for the day ahead.

A wide range of responsibilities

There's no such thing as a typical day at work for me. I'm the man people turn to for all sorts of things. Central Services comprises Study Services, the Central Services Office, the Library, IT Services, Facility Services, Internet and Communications, and the Student Dormitory. I act as Director of Internet and Communications, which handles software development, Internet services and the campus network. Across all the departments, I'm responsible for about 40 staff.

When I get to the office, I check the network and server monitoring systems and read my e-mails. Working through all my new messages can take two hours or sometimes as much as eight. I also attend meetings on a regular basis. Over the course of a week, I meet with all the Central Services department heads, my own IT team and the Rectorate.

Playing a game of pool with colleagues or students. That's one of my passions.

When I can, I meet up with members of my team at 11.30 for lunch in the cafeteria. I have something of an after-lunch ritual: playing a game of pool with colleagues or students. That's one of my passions. I didn't have room for a pool table at home, so I bought one for everyone to use at the uni. I installed a controller with an NFC chip that releases the balls and cues.

A job for a fireman

My people and I take care to keep the network as clean as possible. We regularly check all the computers connected to it for security issues. From time to time, we have to scan a professor's or a student's infected machine and clean it up. When things get rather more complicated, I'm fully involved and looking for solutions with my people. Alerts from the firewall or SWITCH's Computer Emergency Response Team can sometimes cause a minor panic, so you feel a bit like a fireman. But I find that sort of thing exciting.

We're all on first-name terms, and we even know most of the students by name. They know me too, because I usually wear red shoes – occasionally blue ones, but never brown or black.

I enjoy my job. What I like in particular is that I can play a part in improving the uni's processes and thus help young people with their education and development. I'm also fond of the relaxed atmosphere at our uni. We're all on first-name terms, and we even know most of the students by name. They know me too, because I usually wear red shoes – occasionally blue ones, but never brown or black. It's just a thing I have. The students call me "Mr Red Shoes".

A long-standing relationship with SWITCH

After working for a few years as an industrial electronics developer and later in IT at a bank, I joined an institute at what was then the Liechtenstein University of Applied Sciences in 1997. My job was rolling the Internet out to all state-run schools in Liechtenstein. At the time, I was known as the "Internet Prince of Liechtenstein". When all the schools in Liechtenstein were linked up with fibre-optics, I became progressively more involved in developing network and Internet technologies. I’ve been Head of Central Services for five years now. SWITCH has been a constant partner.

I have good relationships with lots of people at SWITCH, and I really appreciate their open and straightforward approach to working with us.

The Liechtenstein University of Applied Sciences, now Uni Liechtenstein, was hooked up to SWITCHlan at the start of 2006. Former SWITCH Managing Director Thomas Brunner instigated this project, and the network grew quickly thanks to the short decision-making paths in Liechtenstein. It's something we're still proud of today. I have good relationships with lots of people at SWITCH, and I really appreciate their open and straightforward approach to working with us. I'm a member of three working groups headed by SWITCH, namely Mail, Network and Security. These are a platform for me to foster a broad network of contacts from my profession throughout Switzerland.

I leave the office after five o'clock and drive back to Lake Constance. I've had to learn to prioritise and pay attention to my work/life balance. That hasn't always been easy, given my huge workload, but I'm managing it well nowadays. When I get home, I like to unwind. Our three children have already moved out. During the summer months, I like spending time in the garden and regularly swim in our pool to keep fit. Then I usually prepare dinner for my wife and myself. Other activities that provide a counterpoint to my work include photography, walking, city trips and playing with my grandson, who's two and a half."

This article appeared in the SWITCH Journal October 2015.
About the author
Séverine   Jagmetti

Séverine Jagmetti

Before joining SWITCH in 2006, Séverine Jagmetti worked in marketing and communications at various firms. She has a degree in media studies from the University of Zurich and a Master of Advanced Studies in Corporate Communication Management from the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland.

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Working groups at SWITCH

Clients play an active role in shaping SWITCH’s services. There are a number of subject-specific working groups that facilitate knowledge transfer and networking.

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