Access Network Architect Dan Manifold describes how a chance meeting via a chip shop and a car forum led to him embarking on a dream career in technology.
I went from a chip shop to working in tech support
The story of how I started out working for what was then Metronet shows what can happen when people are given a chance. I was working in a chip shop at the time and a friend of mine happened to go on a car enthusiast’s forum that Metronet’s founder also used.
Through that, my friend happened to hear that Metronet was looking for a new techie and thought of me. I was known as a bit of a ‘techspert’ at home and amongst friends, it had always been a passion of mine. I was always the one at home who fixed things when they went wrong, I’d done quite a lot with computers, more as a hobby than anything else, but not much with networking.
A meeting was set up with Metronet and they saw something in me they thought they could use. I was taken on and started in support and administration. It was a role that combined the tech side with the admin side, a side that I think it’s fair to say a lot of tech people tend to overlook, filing case reports and updating records and the like. But it gave me a start and from those beginnings I have since learned everything I know about networking technology working for this company.
I became the go-to guy on wireless (aka radio) installations
My role evolved into working more with engineers and customers. I got heavily involved in the wireless technology side of the business, and I eventually took a role advising customers on the connection solutions that were available to them.
This allowed me to build up what was basically an internal database of all the systems and the technology involved, and I became the person people would turn to if there were problems with installation or provisioning. There was always a lot of time pressure, I had to solve problems on my feet for customers as quickly as possible to ensure we maintained our SLA’s for our customers.
That meant I was learning more about all the different technology all the time, and what happened when it was deployed in different ways. This meant I got a very broad experience of all that wireless technology encompassed very quickly, and that then led into an infrastructure role, followed by what I do now, Access Network Architect.
My role is built around my love of technology
There’s plenty I love about my job, I love technology and in my current role I get to play with and test out all the new stuff first, which is great. There are lots of exciting things happening in wireless tech that could revolutionise delivery, testing and reporting. I assess all of that, and then if we decide to take something on, I am responsible for teaching everyone else about it, so I have a role in learning and development across the business.
I’m also in charge of redesigning all the wireless POP sites, with a view to optimising costs and expanding bandwidth. We’re investing a lot into upgrading our wireless infrastructure, and a key challenge is how we can grow capacity going forward for connections. Another part of my role is expanding our presence into BT exchanges, how we can optimise costs again with a better, bigger footprint.
Another big plus of working here is the people, I’ve made some great friends and I have some great working relationships. There’s a real camaraderie around the entire company. I remember in my early support days, if we’d had a bad day, if there had been a load of outages to deal with, it always felt as if people pulled together at the hardest times to make it all worthwhile.
I always think of running an ISP must be a bit like sailing a ship. There are days when it is plain sailing, there are others when all sorts of problems hit and it gets choppy, but that’s when everyone must pull together to keep everything on course. That’s certainly the culture we have here.
M247 is a company that can offer your everything in a tech career
Right across the company, there’s a little bit of everything for all tech interests at M247 – there’s the wireless side, fibre networking and BT exchanges, the hosting and data centre side of the business, security and DDoS and so on. You can get the best of all worlds and there are plenty of specialist avenues you can explore.
And it’s not like once you start down a certain pathway here, that’s it, you’re stuck with it, and that’s where you are always going to work. If you start in, say, networking but decide it is not quite for you, there is plenty of scope to move departments. This is a company that wants people to be fulfilled and passionate about what they do, and it also encourages people to broaden their horizons and learn and develop in as many different ways as possible.
This is also a place where everyone’s ideas matter, and you are encouraged to make a difference in any way you can right from the start. For example, we’ve launched an internal innovation scheme where if someone has an idea for the business they want to share, they can email it in, and it will get considered seriously. If it’s a great idea, it will get adopted, but even if it needs some work, you’ll get support to see how it could be built upon to the benefit of the business. There’s a big push on innovation overall.
It really is a company that is moving onwards and upwards. I’ve seen M247 grow from a regional wireless ISP into a mainstream wireless and fibre connectivity provider and expand its services into new areas and give it an international reach. And there is plenty more to come, with exciting wireless last mile solutions coming on board now and further global expansion into the Americas and plenty else besides.