The News Years

The News UK/News International site at Wapping shortly before it was demolished. Photograph courtesy of Ian Dunton

In 1996 I was told that News UK (formerly News International) were looking for staff with a customer service background for a 6-month contract. The purpose (in a nutshell) was to establish a service desk – a single point of contact – to manage incoming calls to the IT department and help establish a framework to improve the IT fault/request resolution service to the company. Following the interviews for this role, I was invited to be the supervisor for this new team. As well as working directly with receiving calls and logging faults, I was also working closely with the project consultant, IT managers and other department heads within the business.

h100

As a side note, unfortunately no photographic evidence remains of me commuting from Bedfordshire into Wapping on a 100cc motorcycle prior to passing my bike test and graduating to  a Kawasaki KLE 500. At the time this was a huge leap forward, reading the MCN review now though, perhaps I was mistaken as the review is depressingly accurate!

 

As mentioned before, the initial purpose of the service desk was to handle calls and maximise the time that the various IT teams had to resolve issues  and, as the six month contract approached its conclusion, the project was deemed a success and our contracts were duly extended. Having established the service desk as an integral part of the IT department, the stage was then set to begin to develop a ‘fix at point of call’ service.

Because ‘The Business’ had become more familiar with the service desk, department heads (from director to team manager level)  became increasingly interested in the number of calls being logged, resolution times, age of outstanding requests and so forth. To meet this reporting requirement, I was asked to step back from the day-to-day supervision of the service desk and look after all report writing and performance  management of the service desk.

What followed was the most interesting period of my working life so far. I had joined the company in a non-technical customer service role but through a mixture of ‘right place, right time’, eagerness to learn and honesty (admitting that I didn’t have enough work – I know!) In the space of a couple of years I went from writing reports using various applications then adding the administration of the Microsoft Select Licensing to my responsibilities to then move away from these tasks to learn NT administration when the company began to migrate to Windows NT (yes, it was that long ago – ah, the excitement of moving from NT 3.51 to NT 4!)

NT
The initial NT project was to migrate users from WfWG (anyone remember that?) onto NT and creating domain logons, mailboxes and other mail objects as well as setting up tailored logon scripts. Initially, as this was new territory for me, I was primarily involved with creating logons and mail objects though I subsequently added the administration of logon scripts and mail server administration to my skillset. After the initial migration, there was a need for other support staff to learn NT administration skills and I became the focal point for passing on these skills to my colleagues within the Desktop Support Team. When the opportunity arose, I applied for a position as a Desktop Support Engineer recognising that I had much to learn on the hardware side but had developed strong software and account administration skills. After a couple of years, during which I had written documentation on all key NT admin tasks that  the team might encounter, I was asked to take on the role of Desktop Support Supervisor (which ultmately changed into Desktop Support Team Manager – same job, different title).

Clearly, one of ‘those days’ where the questions started before I had chance to change

During my time as the Desktop Support Supervisor/ Desktop Support Team Manager, I led the team through periods of major change including some where two support teams were combined which required some of the engineers learning new skills (principally the administration). When the company then moved to Windows XP clients, the user administration changed once more but the team’s support capabilities were maintained though updating the documentation, use of a team intranet (Sharepoint) site as a central repository for support documentation as well as one-to-one guidance and discussions via team meetings. The days were very, very busy and (as the picture above shows) some days I did not have chance to change out of my walking clothes (Euston to Wapping and back again) before the questions and requests started flying from all and sundry.

I loved working with my team and thoroughly enjoyed the pace and high expectations of working at News UK. As well as the working relationships within the IT department, I built strong rapport with team & department heads and directors within the business to ensure that, as a team, we were knowledgeable about what was happening within the business, were aware of any exceptional ad-hoc requirements and were able to be responsive in the event of any major incidents. I don’t miss the long commute but I still miss the great people that I worked with.

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