I recently joined the regional board after a number of years supporting board activities. I have lived in Haxby in the north of York since 1997 when I ‘migrated’ south from Glasgow. I decided it was time to become a full member of the board when my day-job expanded to take ownership of the Managed Service contract work which BT does to support KCOM in Hull. This led me into a close relationship with Hull city Council, getting ready for the City of Culture 2017. I am a founder member of the Safer York Partnership and increasingly active in the North Yorkshire Chamber. I raise funds for the McMillan Charity and am a keen supporter and volunteer chauffeur for my local church.
I’m a proud BT ‘lifer’ commencing work as an apprentice engineer in Glasgow at the age of 16. After graduating with a degree in Electronic Engineering I managed a number of important projects for BT Group. These included cultural initiatives such as the My Customer Programme which included a full companywide back-to-the-floor plan, long before it was fashionable! as well as numerous engineering roles including Emergency Response and the Ofcom supported Not-Spot removal plan. In my time at BT I have covered a number of national roles including a refreshed approach to customer service through the Keeping Customers Informed programme. I also headed up the national Service desks for Openreach, bringing back into York the national Complaints and Directors Service Office – which handled all high level issues and MP issues. In Scotland I headed up YES (Year of Engineering success) – which was a successful programme to stimulate engineering careers for senior school-age students, especially young women.
I currently manage a team of around 250 people across the whole of the UK delivering engineering services for major BT contracts. In Yorkshire the principal customer is KCOM where BT manages the national voice network through a 24 hour Network Management Centre near Hull. My team also provide all fibre optic and exchange services so are vital in the day to day communications needs of 180,000 people in Hull and East Yorkshire. My role is critical in providing technology support across a broad range of national telecoms and data networks; making cutting edge engineering capability available on a shared basis across a broad range of customer applications, that is good for UK Plc. In Yorkshire we have expanded our technology hubs in Wakefield and the 32 seat Network Management Centre in Cottingham to cover UK wide activity. Success in this onshore cross-customer business model has generated healthy, high skilled job growth.
Across the UK other contracts in my remit include the Virgin Media national voice services, Prison telephony for the Ministry of Justice as well as operating the national BT provided alarm service known as Redcare. Recently my team have also taken responsibility for the introduction of the inLinkUK active payphone service- which provides targeted advertising, free street Wi-Fi and of course traditional payphone and emergency services
Skills remain a significant challenge, both recruitment and retention are the usual problem areas. More recently I have seen the difficulties in creating the space for our existing team to keep pace with technology changes – so that their skills are future proofed, whilst maintaining legacy and in many cases very bespoke customer solutions. In technology there is clearer demarcation between complex and simple activity. The traditional model where all simple activity could be done centrally and complex neededto bedone on-site has swung around almost completely, meaning very highly skilled people are needed to work in local centres providing high level of support to field based teams – retention and motivation is a non-stop test. We have recruited 25 apprentices in Yorkshire in the last year and have an active graduate and apprentice recruitment process.
The BT managed service team in Yorkshire manage the voice telephony service for over 5m end customers across the UK as part of its managed service contracts, monitoring 24/7 the telephone exchanges and fibre-optic transmission networks that connect them. We manage the interface those customers need to communicate both internationally and linkages to other Telco’s like BT and the mobile operators.
The team in Yorkshire are developing the processes and technology to manage the monitoring of the next generation of ‘payphones’ providing local WI-Fi, emergency service and a massive targeted advertising board. Many of the historic skills that the team have continue to be needed to ensure we can remotely monitor and keep in service these essential communications links across the whole of the UK. This is just the first of many opportunities that will develop as the Internet of Things moves from being a fun-to-do to become a business essential.