More than just a Helpdesk

Steven Szymoszowskyj, Team Leader for Hutchinson Networks’ Global Technical Services and Support team talks about the expanding responsibilities of his and the team’s role. Steven describes the challenges he faces day to day as a time- and resource-pressured area of the organisation, and how the team manages to overcome them.

 

How do you solve problems when you manage so many global projects?

 

“The role is more than just guidance we act as moral support for the partners carrying out the work too.”

 

In many ways the role goes beyond support and becomes one of companionship – engineers or technicians on the job know that they have got someone they can turn to that can help them problem solve. Partners and customers have told us that it’s reassuring to know that the Global Technical Services and Support team is there with the onsite engineer walking them through a job and coming up with resolutions that ensure the project stays on track. We must be adaptable, we might have to work with short notice periods, documentation might not arrive on time, so we are continuously re-evaluating and re-planning the resources to complete the work as planned.

 

How has the team developed as Hutchinson Networks has grown?

The team has evolved as Hutchinson Networks has grown and overseeing quality assurance is now a big part of the role. The moment a contracted engineer arrives on the ground we’re there to make sure that they’re fully aware of the scope of work, know what’s required and what to expect. Site management, engineering, communication, customer care and outcome assurance are all aspects of projects that we are involved in now.

Our team is also now restructured to align different engineers to specific projects, allowing them to narrow their focus on it more and provide better service, and build a better rapport with the project team prior to the site even starting. As we are expanding the services we provide, we, therefore, felt a change in name would be appropriate for the rebrand.

One of the main elements of the job involves keeping the customer updated on things as work progresses, ensuring the customer can be informed of a successful visit as soon as the work is complete but also acting as an avenue for escalating any onsite issues in real-time so that any relevant parties can be made aware of the situation and what is being done to resolve it.

 

What are the types of customers that your team supports?

 

“I’ve seen the calendar where we’ve had 20 jobs on the one day. You really have to apply yourself and engage your problem-solving skills and time management at that point.”

 

I wouldn’t say there is a typical ‘type’ of the customer. We look after everyone from small companies to huge corporations, many of which are not necessarily in the technology industry either. The work that the customers do or the service they provide ranges drastically simply because everyone needs a network install or upgrade at some point.

If it gets quieter, we can have more engineers to focus on fewer sites so it’s easy to keep the quality high. But I know at some points I’ve seen the calendar where we’ve had 20 jobs on the one day. You must apply yourself and engage your problem-solving skills and time management at that point to keep the quality of service consistent. When there is a challenge, onsite engineers can continue to make progress on other work whilst our remote teams troubleshoot or, if necessary, escalate the problem. This pressure can be eased by our experience as a team – these days on our projects we have good knowledge of what’s involved and have likely encountered any potential issues the onsite engineers might face before they do, which allows for faster resolution of issues.

 

What are the challenges you face day to day?

 

“We need to think on our feet and apply the resources and talent to where it’s needed.”

 

We work around the clock in 24/7 rotations so there is always someone on hand to troubleshoot and take care of any issues as they arise. At 1 AM in the UK, we might be supporting work in the US, China, India, Australia and Nigeria. While the work we do is already challenging, this could also mean that one week we have 90% of jobs falling on night shift hours, and the next most of it happening in mid-morning. We can also never know where the big issues will arise either so they may end up being on a shift with a small number of sites and less staff online to deal with it, so it can be a real challenge to make sure we’re covered.

We need to be agile, think on our feet and apply the resources and talent to where it’s needed. Making sure the team are prepared for the upcoming work can also be challenging, especially when shifts are busy. It can be tough to fit in time for everyone to review site documentation and prepare ahead of time, so the sooner it’s made available the better.

We have been involved in network design, surveying work (both wireless and infrastructure), various rack and stack jobs, infrastructure refreshes and wireless network upgrades to name a few. If there is any work where we’ll have a technician on the ground, we’ll have a Global Technical Services and Support engineer there to support them and update the customer on the progress.

READ MORE: Seeing is believing when it comes to encouraging young women to enter Technology

 

How has the Global Technical Services and Support team changed over time?

The team has grown rapidly since I joined the company. I believe we had around 5 people at the time of my joining, and we are now up to 12 including myself.  The work we were getting was increasing at a fast pace so hiring additional staff became necessary.

But while a larger team of people helped us handle the workload better, their varying levels of experience (as newer starts were staggered over time) did pose a bit of difficulty keeping the quality standards to the same level across the board, however as the experience grew this became less of a problem.

 

How does that experience manifest itself?

 

“There’s only so much you can read and be told but actually sitting behind the screen being the one guiding the engineer is the ultimate test.”

 

I do feel that most of the learning within the team comes from the team itself. There’s only so much you can read and be told but actually sitting behind the screen is the one guiding the engineer is the ultimate test. Experiencing and dealing with issues first-hand on a daily basis quickly develops the skillsets of our engineers. Pairing up experienced engineers on shift with new starts ensures that when situations arise that they may not be familiar with, they can be supported and will learn how to handle it on the next occasion. Working on so many projects we have developed a great deal of experience in a short space of time.

READ MORE: The Secret Life of an IT Manager

 

Have you faced any challenges yourself?

For me, one of the most challenging projects of my career at Hutchinson Networks I tackled when I initially became a Team Leader for Global Technical Services and Support. I had to plan shifts for a large number of engineers around large numbers of sites, aiming to allocate our resources effectively based on the experience of the team members and density and type of sites on each shift. It was around this time that the work taking place over the weekends became more populated so that meant requiring more staff online to support it which also complicated things for shifts.

I found it challenging to adjust to the new role and difficult to ‘switch off’, constantly checking up on sites after work hours and even in the middle of the night if I ever woke up. The workload the team faced was also at the highest it had been, so it was tough for me and the team as a whole to stay on top of it all, but I do feel it empowered the team and strengthened our ability to handle tough situations.

 

What motivates you in your role?

 

“Whenever a critical issue pops up somewhere it’s great to see how well the different teams in Global Technical Services and Support rally around it and work together to resolve it.”

 

It might sound boring, but simply wanting to be successful motivates me. I really enjoy seeing the positive results of work I’ve been involved in, and it encourages me to aim for even more positive results the next time around. Seeing members of my team going above and beyond when supporting sites is also a great motivator for me. Whenever a critical issue pops up somewhere it’s great to see how well the different teams in Global  Technical Services and Support rally around it and work together to resolve it. It’s true what they say its in the tough times you learn a lot about each other and its inspiring when we all come together to complete a project.

 

Did you always know that you wanted to work in technology?

I can’t say I did, to be honest. But I was always on the computer a lot from young age playing games, and one thing led to another and I found myself getting pretty good with the ins and outs of technology. Later in life, I decided to study computing at university to develop that knowledge, and I found myself enjoying it a lot, especially programming and networking. I am glad I went down this path with it being such a fast-growing industry and I’m very happy with my career in networking.

 

What plans do you have for the future of GTSS?

With the new re-brand into GTSS, I’m excited to see where this will take us. Seeing the remote engineers having a larger presence within projects is great so we’re planning on continuing down that road in the future. The results and feedback from the changes have been positive so far and this will pave the way to expand the services we provide. I’d like to see us more involved with configuration side of things, potentially having a dedicated remote config team for some projects so that we can be more involved in all aspects of the work happening onsite, but also offer continued network support long after the physical work is complete. That may be something we’ll get into further down the line.

READ MORE: Building a Global Team – Looking Beyond Technical Skills

 

How do you spend your time off?

I’ve been playing the guitar since I was very young and that’s stuck with me. I find myself picking it up most days and I find it a very relaxing way to unwind. I do love game a squash or going out with friends too. If nothing else, a quiet night in watching some TV or films keeps me pretty happy.

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When technicians and engineers thousands of miles apart collaborate with each other a partnership develops, making us more agile in how we solve challenges.

Steven Szymoszowskyj, Team Leader GTSS
global technical services and support

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