Indigo Career Path Q&A with Howard Payne, Global Head of NOC Services
When Indigo opened a Network Operations Centre (NOC) in the USA to better support a growing North and South America presence, Howard Payne saw an opportunity to take his telecoms engineering experience to the next level and lead a support team. He hasn’t looked back in a company that he loves because it’s constantly looking forward, embracing new technologies and bringing something new to an industry he knows well.
How did your career path take you to Indigo?
I started out as engineer over 20 years ago, flying around the world, installing equipment for a US telecoms multinational. Since then, I’ve been at various companies. I was working as a principal engineer involved in planning networks in a job based in Colorado when I heard about Indigo. It was good timing; I was looking for a management position. I told them what I wanted to do in my career, they told me what they wanted, and I could see it was a great opportunity.
What attracted you to Indigo?
A lot of telecoms companies are reluctant to change despite all the new technology. They operate the way they always have and don’t want to invest and innovate unless it has a direct return on the bottom line. With Indigo it’s different, the sky’s the limit. Because we’re starting from scratch in the new NOC in the USA [it opened in 2022], we can take advantage of new technologies. It’s still early days, but there’s a chance to lead the industry because we’re putting people in place that really take the time to listen to problems and don’t give up until we have a solution.
How has technology changed the way you work?
It’s not so long ago that the compute power we take for granted on a smartphone used to take up a whole room. In my job, you have to keep up with technology, you have to able to run the race, side by side or you won’t be able to support your client’s business. Right now, it’s about more and more automation and using AI in predictive maintenance. We’re getting to a point where our systems will be able to tell us if a network card is going to fail three days before it happens, which mean we’ll be able to fix it before it becomes a problem. If you’re starting a new NOC today, that’s what you’re striving towards.
What does your day-to-day job involve?
I have a team of 10 people where everyone has a role. My job is to make sure it all runs smoothly and keep our clients happy. We have a project coordinator responsible for recording incidents and updating documentation; someone else handles the provisioning requests. The rest of the team do the real time monitoring, taking it in turns across 24-hour shifts, 365 days a year. We have a contracted team of engineers that we call out if there’s a problem that needs to be fixed on site.
How does your personality suit your tole as a team leader?
First of all, I was raised by great parents on a farm in the country and working hard was instilled in me at a young age. Then my fraternity in college had a big influence, teaching me to have values in what you strive for, values that matter not just to yourself but to the people around you. In terms of managing a team, I mentor kids and coach basketball at high school level. Believe it or not, that helps. Some of the same principles apply when it comes to the things you have to deal with.
How has your Indigo experience been?
It’s a great company. Of course, we’re seeing some growing pains as we develop the new NOC and grow our presence, but it’s very exciting. I have no doubt that North America will play a big part in making Indigo an even bigger company. For me personally, Indigo gave me an opportunity and have been true to what they said they’d do. I’m just working hard to make sure I hold up my end of the deal.