20 years ago today...
It was around this time that I was working at Directory Enquiries. In those days, it was either free to call from a phone box (if you remember those) or a very cheap fixed price call, so you can imagine some of the types of calls we used to get. When I was working one Christmas Day, a lady even called to ask what time she should put the turkey in and how to make gravy. It was 9pm at this point, so I told her it was probably a bit late and maybe just carry on with her celebrations instead!
But in all seriousness, we were speaking to at least 800 people a day, providing numbers in under 20 seconds, and quite often we would find ourselves at the forefront for information when world changing events were taking place.
The downside though was I was a temp and there we no opportunities - and it couldn’t go on forever. University had always been on my agenda and having been inspired by Ab Fab, I decided that PR was clearly the right career for me. At this point there were only two universities that offered this course, compared to the much wider variety available now. I plumped for Plymouth because having been to Devon on a couple of holidays I thought it would be a nice place to live. I then spent three expensive years being the annoying older housemate, making sure the bills were paid and the washing up was done. I was only a few years older, but it seemed to make quite a difference to the levels of concern given to these things.
Compared to student life these days, I think my experience was quite basic. We had no internet in any of the houses we lived in, I’m not sure it even crossed our minds to see whether we could get it. So instead we used computers at the Uni which made everything much more of a chore. I remember when I was having to research a project, they explained how to use a search engine (you know the one I mean) and now it’s just second nature.
Our landline phone bill was always high because it cost too much to call your home landline from a mobile. Most of us didn’t even have one anyway, because they were only just on the scene at the time or ones you could put in your pocket instead of in a rucksack anyway. And as for our Parents having a mobile, well you could forget that idea. Even I finally succumbed to the lure in the end, if only so I didn’t have to get involved in highlighting whose calls were whose, and don’t forget the highly addictive game of snake.
After graduating a few years later, it was finally time for me to put all that hard work into practice and find a real job in my chosen field. Or so I thought. I quickly discovered that it was never going to be that easy and with no experience in PR it was seemingly impossible, especially considering I needed to pay my bills. I changed tack and after trawling the newspapers, I saw that TTL (now Bamboo) were growing their team. With my background and experience in telecoms (and the fact I lived around the corner) it was the obvious choice.
I attended an open day and fortunately for me, they agreed to take me on - and that was when my career began. From Admin Assistant through to Operations Manager, I’ve spent the past 14 plus years immersed in the dos and don’ts and whys and why nots of the Telecoms and IT world and I have to say there is always something new to learn. From teaching myself to connect a mobile number directly on the network via the ABS ‘black box’, to developing and managing a successful customer service team, to working with a software development team to launch our first self-serve portal in Network Live and a variety of things in between. It has definitely been an education. Starting with only a few core products to what we’re able to offer now and what the potential is for the future, it is absolutely an exciting time to be in the industry.
Did I initially think this industry would be for me? I honestly have to say no and to begin with, it wasn’t. But it didn’t take long for it to stick. I’ve had so many opportunities to develop not only myself, but support others to do the same.
When you’ve got a genuinely great team of people, you also have a lot of laughs along the way – it’s made 14 years fly by. Not the PR career I had envisaged but Ab Fab all the same.
And as for the next twenty years, we shall have to wait and see, but I know that I will probably look back and laugh at some of the current and emerging tech we are using now with fond nostalgia.