On new challenges

Published by Matt Setchell on

In April 2012, 3 months before my daughter was born I took a leap.

I was running my own business, and had an offer on the table to fund myself for a year to offer schools IT support, from a friend who was the leading networking expert in Worcestershire.

I was really tempted, my own business was expanding fast, and I had a constant stream of customers and the income alongside my full time role was welcome, having recently got married and baby on the way.

I was working for a secondary school as a technician, and I was bored. Development was non existent. My boss was fighting anything coming his way with a ‘why should we’ and an aversion to risk. I was changing toners.

I was also building a WordPress dashboard for the school, bespoke, that offered a personalised news feed for staff and students, akin to Facebook, booking of cover requests, holiday requests and a free VLE. I delivered training and the system was working well. Then I made a mistake.

I asked for a pay rise. Just to the next grade, some £30 more a month. I was denied it.

A job advert for a network manager job came up, in Redditch, a 45 drive away. I worked with my then wife, shared a car and lived nearby. But I wanted a job that I was in charge of and running the show.

I went for the interview, and because I thought of it as more of a warning shot to my existing employer, I was surprised when I got offered it, even more surprised when I asked for more money and got it.

So I took the job. Shut down my business, to focus on my family and my new role, and took on the network mangers role in a 600 student middle school. And it was the single best thing I’ve done work wise. Taking that risk led me to work with an inspirational head, and allowed me to do incredible things at the school. Stuff that actually had an impact. A service that was respected and relied upon. I got a buzz from solutions that made an impact, seeing people embrace the technology.

6 years later, and I left. I was supporting 7 or 8 schools, and my team and I were too big to remain in a school, we were moved to be a central team under the MAC business manager. And things got busy, but our levels of support didn’t drop. Our impact in rebuilding school networks and faith in IT in schools, within a team of mostly hardworking and dedicated IT people, many who we had trained with no prior experience, continued and grows, with more and more school’s putting their faith in us based on recommendations.

This summer I was left with a choice about a new role elsewhere, or staying put. This time I stayed put. I enjoy my role, and I enjoy the team and working with my boss, who is as, if not more, ambitious then me.

Interestingly the role I wasn’t able to take up, became something I took on as a consultancy, an IT Strategic lead at an ambitious and growing MAT. And now I get to combine growing my team, my multi academies IT plan and that of the other MAT, and I now manage IT for over 20 schools, PRUs, first, high, middle and more with 10 staff.

The challenges have grown immeasurably, as has the responsibility. But, the determination to make impacts with IT beyond just having a fantastic network and robust support team is still there.

I’m still driven to make sure my team give the best support possible. Friendly, helpful and proactive. I am driven to ensure my team are looked after, developed and challenged. I’m driven to ensure networks are secure and reliable, that staff are trained and have resources. That pupils are excited by our IT developing as they develop, that they think of good IT as a standard thing. I’m proud that teachers and pupils demand so much more and that on the whole we deliver.

It makes me cringe when I see people who are stuck in their ways. I know my ex boss is still in post, he could do so much more. I could still be in the school I left as a pupil and got a job at straight away, with people and a site and network I knew. After the move to my second school, I could have regretted moving, and not challenged myself. I could have said no to the new role in Redditch as it was ‘just £30 more’ – but I didn’t. And I’m so glad. Just as I am glad I stayed with my team this time. I am making an impact in the place I could have headed too, whilst still building my team at the beginning of our exciting journey.

That journey includes joining together communities with seamless IT. Joining MATs and MACs together – working with a bloody fantastic team and a very supportive manager and directors. And the fantastic feeling that our schools choose us.

I was lucky enough to appoint 4 new techs this summer in one go, and I have a new work experience lady, and I have tried to share my love of the role, from first line to Strategic lead. All are important and enjoyable, my single piece of advice?

You only get out what you put in.

So when I promote from within, when I take on new schools and see the difference my team makes, where I can make decisions now and be respected, I know it’s worth putting everything in, as I am getting everything out.

It’s going to be an exciting year, we have already smashed every record we have ever set, we already have more schools then September 1st and we make WOW moments every day. I have the figures!