From Apprenticeship to Field Engineer
By Harry Mackenzie, Trainee Telecoms Field Engineer
From working independently on networking projects to being part of a dynamic on-call team, myrole has provided me with valuable skills and a deep appreciation for the global telco and data centre industry. How did it all begin?
I left school at 16, took a business course and knew I had made a mistake. College felt too much like school at a time when I wanted to be out in the real world doing a proper job. So I applied on the government website and was contacted by PQMS, a midland-based training and management consultancy that was part of the UK government’s apprenticeship programme.
The option of working in telecoms with Indigo came up and instantly appealed to me. It looked like every day would be different with a fair amount of travelling. It didn’t disappoint. I signed up and spent the next three months doing a variety of work in data centres, being trained on the job by Indigo engineers. A two-week stint at the PMQS training centre followed, where I was pleased to find it was as much about practical instruction as theory. It’s been an amazing experience.
Starting as an apprentice and learning on the job
I started as an apprentice where I learned the ropes. Each Friday I was given my assignments for the following week. Usually they involved me being out in the field with different engineers, where each has their own expertise and experience to share. They were all really helpful and supportive, teaching me real-world skills, from terminating cables to installing copper wire.
I got quite proficient at working with fibre. I know how to use a fusion splicer to melt two optical fibres together to form a single cable. I also learnt how to test the integrity of fibre optic cables using an OTDR (Optical Time Domain Reflectometer) to verify splice loss, measure length and find faults.
I’ve learnt that it’s really important when working with fibre to keep it clean. Even a miniscule piece of dust can mess up a connection, so you’re always scraping the fibres and using scopes to make sure every spec of dirt has been removed.
Time spent in Indigo’s customer locations has given me a feel for the scale and complexity of the business. I work for a range of Indigo customers including Meta, Orange, Nokia, Vodafone and Neos Networks.
Appreciation of the sector
The apprenticeship more than met my expectations. I enjoy doing something different every day and gained a real understanding of what’s involved in being a telecoms field engineer. It’s been great working alongside seasoned professionals as well as other apprentices going through the same learning curve. We spend a lot of time on jobs together and there’s a great sense of camaraderie.
Becoming a Field Engineer
This year I became a trainee field engineer. I work mainly by myself now unless it is project work. The comprehensive training means I feel comfortable doing a lot of the jobs on the networking team.
In February I started being part of the on-call rota. For one week a month I am out and about at any time reacting to either planned works or critical faults. I have access to my own van filled with the needed equipment. (optical scopes, testing kit, tools, etc.)
Maybe the biggest and best thing about my Indigo experience is that it’s opened my eyes to what the global telco and data centre industry is all about. It’s been funny explaining to my parents how the sector affects everybody’s daily lives and connects so many things around the house. There’s a good feeling about working in such a big industry where there is always going to be opportunities and job prospects. I’m convinced I’ve found the right career path and it’s been a really enjoyable experience.
The future is bright
Looking ahead, my goal is to continue honing my skills and applying the knowledge I have gained. Indigo’s commitment to people development has been remarkable, as I have had the opportunity to complete various training courses, including radio frequency awareness and working at height. These additional qualifications not only expand my expertise but also enhance my ability to cater to diverse customers’ needs.
One of the aspects I adore about being a field engineer is the diversity of environments I get to work in. From sugar factories to beer breweries and even renowned locations like Stockley Park, where VAR refereeing takes place in football, every day brings a new and exciting setting. This variety ensures that no two days are the same, keeping the role fresh, engaging, and full of surprises.
Becoming a field engineer has been a transformative experience, allowing me to grow both personally and professionally. The opportunities for learning, the exposure to the telco and data centre industry, and the satisfaction of contributing to the seamless functioning of critical infrastructure have solidified my conviction that I have chosen the perfect career path. With an optimistic outlook and a commitment to continuous development, I am excited to see what the future holds as I continue to thrive in this dynamic field.
I’d recommend an apprenticeship with Indigo as a great way to start your career.
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