20 years ago today...
20 years ago I was a system design engineer working for a global mobile operator. Not only was I fitting, designing and testing data networks across the world, I was also going out to exhibitions in various countries, demonstrating and working with sales teams in Brazil, China, South Africa, Singapore and Malaysia. Terrible times, five star hotels and great food – what was I thinking…
One particular trip stands out to me for that year - I ran a marathon in Kenya, across the Lewa Down on behalf of the company and SafariCom. At high altitude around Mount Kenya, we ran through a game reserve – starting in the early hours of the morning just as the sun started to hit the horizon.
Immediately the starting gun fired, a herd of Zebra ran past us! As they started to clear, an armed ranger was shouting, “just keep running!” and a huge female ostrich appeared on the side of the road! (Yes, you are reading this correctly!)
Not only that, but there were helicopters and small aircraft tracking the lions and predators during the race (as the big five are plentiful in Lewa down). This was quite nerve racking mentally, before you even start to think about the physical exhaustion, humidity and altitude!
At one point the runners had to wait as the security team stopped the clocks so that the rangers could buzz a young bull elephant out of the marsh with a helicopter. The security team were incredibly worried that it might charge. I haven’t got any pictures of that moment unfortunately. In those days I had a Nokia Communicator so it didn’t quite have the camera specifications of phones today!
Email wasn’t the best at this point either but the communicator was more like a Psion and as I was in engineering, it meant I could plug it in and complete diagnostics abroad. So, in that sense they were actually really useful for us.
Something else that sticks out vividly from that time is staying in a Masai lodge overlooking part of the game reserve and spending time in Nairobi helping in an orphanage – that was quite something and incredibly humbling.
Work-wise, there were ten of us in the team at this point and if there was a fault on any network anywhere in the world and we couldn’t fix it remotely, we would pick up our case and tool kit before travelling out to fix it. The network was the forerunner to the Internet of Things (IoT) and was a data only over-air x-25 network (the first mobile network) – the company I worked for owned the licenses for the UK and resold that system across the globe.
In terms of where I was based at the time, I lived in Ascot in 1998. Originally, I was born in Charlton Kings, disappearing from the local area when I was 12. I later moved to the Thames Valley to study before eventually finding my way back home to Cheltenham, which is where you’ll find me now!
My daughter Luca was born in 2002. That obviously, had a big impact on my willingness to travel and be away from home as it’s not really compatible with being a Mum. I made the decision to move into marketing to ensure I was UK-based and spent some time as product manager where I looked after the PakNet Network in the UK, before moving more firmly into IoT/M2M.
So how did I get into the IoT side? It was very much a ‘right place, right time’ situation.
It all started with a chance encounter with a manager of a company I had met a number of times. He caught me after a particularly bad day in the office and said, ‘oh, you don’t look very happy, want to come and work for me?’.
I asked what I would be doing and of course, it was sales-orientated. It was in 2007 that we started to build our first IoT team and I was the first sales person employed to work on the project, so it was really exciting. Although it wasn’t called IoT at the time, first it had the catchy name of Machine to Machine (M2M) and really focused on machine/solution-based connectivity - things have moved on a lot since then.
Fast forward a few years to my arrival at Bamboo, I’ve now been in telecoms for over 30 years. The key for me was to grow and bring my IoT experience to the team and, although my remit has changed somewhat - I’m still very focused on that.
Having been part of the growth of IoT in the UK since its early days, I’m excited to see what new innovations the developments of smart cities and buildings, the built environment and even drones will continue to bring.
When I work for someone, my heart and soul goes into that business. I also have to believe in that business - and I really do believe in Bamboo, a great company with great people.
There’s so much determination, energy and desire within the company to go to the next stage and I want to be an integral part of that growth as we go forward.
When I think about what my next 20 years looks like outside of work, there are a few bucket list items I’m keen to tick off.
The first things that comes to mind are the fact that I’ve never been to Australia and I’d also like to sail around the English coast (but in a large boat!). Experiences in life are key for me. I would love to travel across the west coast of America – San Francisco, California and continuing up through the Yosemite.
I want to cherish the time I can spend doing these things with my daughter whilst she still wants to be seen with me. She’s 17 now so it won’t be long now until she feels that’s an outrageous thought!
But in the meantime- happy anniversary to Bamboo!