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Music bypasses all the senses and goes straight to the soul
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Music bypasses all the senses and goes straight to the soul

Ken Morton, who heads up Client Engagement at Network ROI, talks about his long career in IT and his passion for music, guitars, and Social Enterprise: 12Guitars.org

There is nothing more satisfying than meeting a client and they tell you they are really pleased they chose you as their IT services supplier.

Starting Out

Ken first got involved in computing in March 1980 with Philips Data Systems just as Micro Computers were coming onto the market.

Philips had just launched a PC but it was overshadowed by the excellent ACT Sirius which was far more competitive.

In 1984 Ken and two business friends then launched one of the first Micro Computer companies in Scotland: Select MicroSystems.

We saw an opportunity and became resellers for the ACT Sirius and the brand developed into Apricot Computers that were well ahead of the curve in the 80s.

See below a picture of an Apricot XEN from the 1980s, it was one of the most innovative micro computers of its day, complete with an integrated phone.

Apricot Computers sold computers to companies investing in their first-ever office computer systems and over 10 years built a client base of around 400 with 3 offices: Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Kilmarnock.

Moving to Consultancy

In the 90s Ken moved into IT consultancy and helped a Scottish IT consultancy and advisory service expand from its Scottish base to the entire UK mainland.

Our consultancy was in personal contact with around 50,000 key IT buyers in the UK. These were companies and organisations of £2Million turnover up to £100 Million.   Our role was to keep a finger on the pulse of IT suppliers and garner statistics of the best of these to introduce to corporate IT buyers looking for ideal solutions.

As a result, the IT consultancy was involved with £Millions of investment in IT solutions from Network Systems to Financial Applications, from Production Software to HR Solutions and everything between.  Clients included many small to medium-sized IT firms as well as some big names in IT: BaaN, SAP, SAGE, Pegasus, Cable & Wireless, and many more.

The business model was devised in 1976 and worked extremely well for over 40 years but the Internet changed the business model from known, trusted IT advisers to self selection of applications via online searching.

Personal Service is Good Business  

Ken has seen many changes in how business is conducted over four decades in business and he still firmly believes in the personal touch.

Ken firmly believes that the best outcomes, when selling business solutions, come about when key people from the buying and selling companies have a genuine personal connection, built on mutual trust, and they work on solving the client’s problems together.

The happiest clients are those that have really benefited from the transaction, who feel valued and cared for throughout their IT support contract.

Variety of work brings multiple experiences

Ken has worked in many sectors for IT companies over several years, bringing his experiences to bear where it was needed. His roles have included helping a Scottish network and cabling company to expand into England, helping a specialist London based company open offices in Scotland, providing professional sales training courses, working in the Digital Marketing sector, Cyber Security sector, Financial Services sector, Hospitality sector, and the Production Engineering sector amongst others.

The common denominator to lasting success in all these business sectors is the building of strong business relationships coupled with a genuine desire to work towards solving the client’s needs.

Sincerity, commitment and focus to ensuring real benefits were realised for the buyer always won the day and built long-lasting client relationships.

Working at Network ROI

Network ROI is the first employee-owned company Ken has worked for and he said:

I have to say that the difference in staff attitude towards genuine customer care is a world away from some other companies I’ve been involved with. Every internal meeting and every goal-setting session is made with real client service at the heart of every agenda and you can tell that everyone’s motivation is genuine.

Network ROI is a happy ship and it is great to be part of the crew!

Music bypasses all the senses and goes straight to the soul

Ken has a lifelong passion for music and has played in a Rock/Blues band since he was 15. He still plays and gigs regularly in his own band: ‘Papa Mo Blues Band’ and has many written songs and has two albums now released. His passion for guitars has led him to build his own electric guitar brand (Morton Guitars) and outside of his IT career, he is a director of 12Guitars.org, a fast-growing Social Enterprise.

At 12Guitars we receive guitars donated to us in all types of condition. We fix them up to play well and donate them to young people and others in need of a boost, who could not otherwise have access to a guitar.

12Guitars also makes music tuition accessible to the people they donate to.

We’ve even had a guitar donated by the CEO of Fender Guitars in USA (a fellow Scot) and we’ve recently raffled a Martin acoustic guitar signed by Ed Sheeran.

Music is Mindfulness and there is nothing that brings people together more than making music together. 12Guitars has helped hundreds of people from all walks of life with gifts of guitars and the additional gift of teaching them how to play. “This is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done” says Ken

To see young people open up and express themselves through music is truly wonderful.

Recently 12Guitars has donated several guitars to the Teenage Cancer Trust in two teenage cancer wards in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Finding the right Spark in Life
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Finding the right Spark in Life

To commemorate International Women’s Day in March, Network ROI asked our Finance Manager Magda Dabrowska about her career to date and her positive experiences during ‘lockdown’ life.

Embracing the chance to live and work abroad

Magda said: “It was hard leaving Poland sixteen years ago to come to work in Scotland. I had to learn another language and embrace another culture. So, it was difficult having to start my career again”.

Magda described how Scotland made her feel at home: “In Edinburgh, the historic buildings are like Wroclaw where I grew up.

The people are very friendly in Scotland and working for Network ROI everyone I met is very genuine and sincere, it’s like being part of a big family”.

Working within Finance

Magda described how she has always wanted to work in finance “I fell in love with finance when I got the chance to work in accounts in a kilt hire company a few years ago. So, I knew from that moment then that’s the career I wanted to follow.”

Magda is studying for the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants Institute) qualification. Magda describes what drives her when she said: “Studying and working full-time requires a lot of perseverance and hard work.”

I enjoy learning new things, analysing problems, and coming up with solutions. Network ROI has really supported me in my studies, but it also requires a lot of self-discipline from me.

Finding the ‘Spark’ that makes us happy

Lockdown has been tough for everyone this past year, but Magda found that her dog Sparky, a border collie, helped get her through the tough times. She said: “Although I miss seeing people I have enjoyed being at home with my dog. It also benefits my mental health by making me feel better if I go on a lunchtime or evening walk to relax. Even when the weather is bad it gets me out and chatting to others in my neighbourhood.”

Magda explained

I love walking in nature, and I have even taken up landscape painting as a new hobby to help me relax. If I exercise at home or walk the dog it gives me energy. During tough times it’s good to keep your spirits up and find something you enjoy doing when you are not working.

Network ROI

Network ROI has diversity as one of its core values. We have a strong culture of inclusion embrace diversity in all its forms. We want all our employees to feel valued, appreciated, and free to be who they are at work. It is our uniqueness that binds us together and ensures the diverse voices of our employees fuels innovation for our clients.

Network ROI are not just employees, we are employee-owners. With a strong culture and an emphasis on training, we believe our people are our greatest asset. We look after our people, so they’re ready to look after your people. Working with Network ROI, you have a UK-wide team of technology experts available to help with strategy, give you practical feedback on your goals, and guide your business growth. You’re getting more than an “IT person”—you’re getting a strategy team.

Contact Us if you would like more information on our services.

Bringing a little sunshine into people’s lives
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Bringing a little sunshine into people’s lives

Pete Gower, a service desk engineer with Network ROI talks about his charity work during the coronavirus pandemic in Wigan, what inspires him at work, and what it’s like working for an employee-owned company remotely.

The two most important tools are not in your toolbox, they are your eyes and ears.

“In my role, I need to both listen to what a client has to say and see what’s happening on the ground, to get the background to their challenges. Then I can evaluate the situation and make plans to improve their IT”.

Starting Out

Pete said he was first interested in technology and more widely how things worked through his father, who was an electrician. He used to go with him when he was young, pushing his tools around in a pram. Pete then followed in his footsteps and became an electrician working in a food production company and then a theatre company working on stage lighting and sound. Pete said:

I love problem-solving and fixing things, if I see a problem, I look for a solution.

Helping people get on in Life

Before working at Network ROI Pete describes how he ran his own training company:

I enjoyed giving IT skills to people that didn’t have any or helping the long term unemployed develop their skills to get them back into the workforce.

“I used to train homeless people and would ask them to let me know how they got on after the training. One day I had a knock at the door after running a course and it was a young couple that I had trained three weeks earlier. They were there to tell me they had moved into a house and got their life back on track. It was very emotional to see them improve their lives.”

But due to austerity cutbacks, Council funding became scarce, so Pete left his role running his own training company and jumped at the chance to work for Network ROI, covering the North West of England.

In his role with Network ROI, Pete enjoys mentoring a young apprentice called Michael Wilkinson. He said:

I like to see young people get on in life, it’s great to see an enthusiastic young man make a start on their career.

“Many times, they just need a little coaching to make a start on their career path. As I said to my students, the most stupid question is the one you never ask, so you can ask me anything.”

Working in an employee-owned company

Being employee-owned, there is no ‘them and us’ culture.

Pete enjoys the variety in his work dealing with clients in the charity, health and safety, and veterinary sectors. He said “I try to be adaptable to our clients’ needs, but I have learned over the years the most important thing is talking to the client. I love dealing with high priority incidents as you get real pleasure when you can get a site back up and running.”

Pete describes what it’s like working for an employee-owned IT company: “Being employee-owned, there is no ‘them and us’ culture. Despite working remotely, we have an open-door policy where you can talk to anybody. We get to chat to our senior leadership team and board on a regular basis, there is not many companies I have worked for where you can do that. So, you get core insights into how the company is doing on a regular basis, you know where your piece fits in that jigsaw and what’s expected of you.”

Pete went onto say: “The company has a big focus on training and enabling their employees to grow, as well as being empathetic. Last year I was in hospital for a few days and the support I got was fantastic, just asking how I was made a big difference, never mind the lovely flowers.”

We are not just a team, it’s like one big family.

Giving Back

Sunshine House helped me in setting up my business, so it’s great to give back

Pete is passionate about his role as Chairman of the board of trustees Sunshine House a community centre charity in Wigan. The charity supports the local area in various ways including delivering food to vulnerable community members. Pete said “During lockdowns in the pandemic we have lost 95% of our income. But that hasn’t stopped us from helping those in need, including people self-isolating. I am proud of the fact that we are supporting the local community by delivering food to vulnerable people. We are now up to 40 meals a day and on New Year’s Day we delivered 90 meals.”

“I started out helping the community centre by teaching people about computers and they helped me make a start in setting up my own business. So, it’s great to give back, recently I helped upgrade their IT system to Office 365, taught them how to use Microsoft Teams to keep people connected during the pandemic, and on a practical level, love helping them by delivering meals on a Sunday with my wife.”

Full Steam Ahead  

Pete has a love for smart technology and has made his home a smart home, where even the Christmas tree lights were operated remotely. Pete’s other love is model railways, which also came from his father who took him to mend locomotives at a railway yard from a young age. Pete said: “I started a lockdown project to build a model railway, which I’ve wanted to do for ages. I can see it taking a while but it’s a multi-faceted hobby, as it combines my love of electrics with craftsmanship, so it’s a relaxing way to spend an hour or two. Oh, and it has to be computer-controlled.”

Network ROI

At Network ROI we have a shared purpose. We are not just employees, we are employee-owners. With a strong culture and an emphasis on training, we believe our people are our greatest asset. We look after our people, so they’re ready to look after your people. Working with Network ROI, you have a UK-wide team of technology experts available to help with strategy, give you feedback on your plans, and guide your business growth. You’re getting more than an “IT person”—you’re getting a strategy team.

Striking the right note
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Striking the right note

Josh O’Brien, a field engineer with Network ROI discusses working during a pandemic, his love of music, his start in IT, and the expertise he has built up in his career.

As an engineer, I love working against the clock on conversion projects, they are like a giant jigsaw puzzle at the beginning, but with a robust plan followed by effective implementation and testing you get great satisfaction from completing a project end to end for a customer.

Starting Out

Josh said he has been interested in computers from a young age and was motivated by an uncle to start a career in technology. Josh started out with Network ROI in 2012 on the helpdesk based near Edinburgh when he was nineteen and added: “I learned a lot by shadowing experienced members of staff such as Neil Douglas, Alastair Hoey and Greig Mackenzie. After 3 years I left Network ROI to move to Wrexham in Wales in 2015, so I was delighted to rejoin Network ROI as a field engineer in 2017 when a new role for a field engineer came up.”

Adapting to a new norm

In the first lockdown, in March 2020, Josh helped his biggest client, a large veterinary group, get 300 emergency laptops up and running throughout the UK in less than 3 weeks.  Josh then helped vet practices adapt to new social distancing protocols, such as having IT equipment in different locations, using tablets, or supporting virtual consulting.

As the first lockdown eased more conversion projects got up and running, this included a new Veterinary Hospital for Woodcroft vets, in Greater Manchester, which Josh helped lead. The project required over 40 computers and has 12 consultation rooms, that all needed to be kitted out. Over the years Josh has gained a lot of expertise in onboarding new Vet practices “I have now worked across over 100 sites, from small buildings through to state-of-the-art hospitals, so the team is now highly skilled in managing these new IT Infrastructure projects. We have systemized our approach. We gather information and plan on day one including site surveys and telephony, then ensure that core software such as Robovet is up and running or other hardware such as X-ray or blood analysis machines work properly, finally on day three we troubleshoot issues, making sure everything works as it should”.

Josh explained that communication is the key when he does project work for the veterinary industry: “We need to work around people. Before we start work it’s important to ask people how they feel about their IT systems and find out the issues.  If we are doing a new fit-out, we would do the work when there are fewer appointments.  If we are doing a site survey, where we need access to every part of a building, we might start with a key room, such as an operating theatre, when it’s quiet in case an emergency comes through the door and the vets need quick access”.

Josh describes what motives him:

When I see a poor running system that makes people unhappy, I get a great buzz out of solving the issues and making it work more efficiently.

Playing in a band

Josh’s other big passion is music, where he plays in a band called the Cazales. The band name was inspired by John Cazale who starred in movies such as the godfather. Josh said: “for me technology and music cross paths, technology is a big help to me playing in a band and I couldn’t write nearly as much music without it”.  See a video of the Cazale’s released during the lockdown, put together by Josh.

Mental Health and Well-being during the pandemic  

A smart person said never let a crisis go to waste and like many others, Josh took up running to improve his fitness and mental well-being. As a recent father, he finds ways to fit his runs in, whether it’s running last thing at night or first thing in the morning. Josh described how running makes him feel better: “even when I am tired from a long day or I am about to start my day I always feel more alive having got a run in, it makes me feel more organised in my mind”.  Josh now runs 40-50KM a week and likes to track his progress using a run tracking app.

Josh misses playing music with his band, he especially misses performing at the weekend in various UK towns and cities, “I miss performing at live music events, that’s my happy place, but at the moment I will need to make do with listening to music on the way to clients or writing more songs when I have time”.

Network ROI

At Network ROI we have a shared purpose. We are not just employees, we are employee-owners. With a strong culture and an emphasis on training, we believe our people are our greatest asset. We look after our people, so they’re ready to look after your people. Working with Network ROI, you have a UK-wide team of technology experts available to help with strategy, give you feedback on your plans, and guide your business growth. You’re getting more than an “IT person”—you’re getting a strategy team.

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The Modest Mentor

Greig McKenzie talks about his career journey at Network ROI, his personal career evolution to becoming a Training and Development Manager, the transformative power of learning, and how employee ownership changes the workplace culture for the better.

Training isn’t about just transmitting information; it’s about transforming learners’ careers.

Starting Out

Greig grew up as a logical thinker with a fascination for computers (Sinclair ZX80 and Commodore 64 to name but a few). Greig was even programming from an early age and as an analytical thinker, his guidance teacher recommended to him that he should build a career in the burgeoning tech industry. So Greig went on to study Systems Analysis and Design. That was what first drew him to work in technology.

Greig started at Network ROI as a level 3 engineer 8 years ago, but his views on what makes a great workplace culture started way before that. He learned from two wise business owners, Colin and Mick, that mentoring was about more than just offering guidance, but someone who can give you daily the confidence you need to progress in your career path.

Working in what was then a smaller Network ROI, his role soon evolved and he became the go-to person for other engineers, moving from being a Level 3 Engineer, through “Service Desk Mentor” to the “Training and Development Manager” he is today.

There is no typical week for Greig, but he relishes the varied challenges, from delving into training, HR policies and onboarding new employees to overseeing the Quality Management certification.  But he still enjoys helping engineers with technical issues and has even become a shoulder to cry on for some if engineers have had a tough day.

Successful onboarding

Greig explains more about the approach he takes “It’s a bit like seeing a learner driver on the road, you have two choices, you can be very impatient and honk your horn, or you can ease off the accelerator and think ‘I was a learner once, show a bit of patience’”. Greig prefers the latter more tolerant and understanding approach.

Greig talks about expectation setting and how it’s a two-way street. “In the beginning, I try to connect with people to identify what they are good at and how to do it even better. I strongly believe in this collaborative approach to the personal development of people and I love helping people start on the road to fulfilling their potential. It’s about developing a pathway for success within Network ROI, finding one area they can become an expert in, and building on that. To me, it’s a privilege to be one of the first people to meet and get to know a new employee. We have a strong focus on life-long learning, being an employee-owned organisation, so onboarding never really ends; rather, it morphs into employee engagement and retention.”

Network ROI’s approach to training

“We might be an IT company, but we are in the relationships business”

Greig describes Network ROI’s approach to training and development from a comment made by Sean Elliot, the Chairman and founder of Network ROI who said “We might be an IT company, but we are in the relationships business”. Greig went on to explain that what Sean meant by that was that it’s not worth burning a client relationship over a short-term profit if by doing so you lose that customers hard-earned trust. So, when Grieg trains employees he talks about our values-based culture and the importance of building trust with clients.

In a practical sense when Greig is training new staff on Network ROI values, he feels the soft skills matter as much as the technical qualifications. “I tell engineers to always do what they say they will, and how important it is to own a problem.”. When talking about how to treat customers Greig explains the importance of being down to earth, yet professional, when engaging with customers “we should talk to people like real people, that can mean dropping the Sir or Madam, as that can be a barrier to deeper interaction”.

Greig went on to talk about the Network ROI culture and how it differs from other companies “As an employee-owned company and as a more flexible organisation, I like to think that when we hire someone we look at the whole person and what they have to offer, rather than pigeonholing them. I like to think staff feel they can approach the board and senior management, we have a relatively flat hierarchy, so senior management is on hand to listen to the entire workforce.”

Greig talked about what he sees as one of the most important aspects of the company’s culture “At Network ROI we don’t have  a blame culture, issues that come up are a learning exercise, a springboard for improvement, we can all learn from our mistakes. We have a value-driven one team approach to our culture, and our staff are empowered through Employee Ownership.”

Greig spoke about continuous learning and lifelong education at Network ROI “We are focused on continual process improvement right across our business through aligning ourselves to best practice in ISO management system standards in Quality Management, Information Security Management and Service Management.  As our business is constantly evolving and improving, so must we. Lifelong education is important to Network ROI, so when someone wants to pursue a course of study, we do our best to satisfy that wish.  This will sometimes involve training someone not for the role they currently occupy, but for the role they are aiming for.  One of the joys of working in a smaller organisation is the ability to evolve your role over time – I believe I’m testament to that!”

Working Remotely

Last March, Network ROI’s employees shifted from working in offices to working from home (WFH) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, traditional, classroom-based training at Network ROI stopped — yet our business operations clearly had to continue.

Network ROI evoked its well-rehearsed business continuity plan, so it was relatively straightforward for the workforce to move to fully remote working during the lockdown. But when days, became weeks it was important that we all stayed in touch said Greig, “For me personally it was a big help to have remote staff meetings and interact with my colleagues. I missed the banter and it was a good feeling when people approached me during and after lockdown”.

What are your passions when away from work?

Like many who work in IT Greig has a big interest in gaming as he explains “I am a gamer, I am never happier than sitting in my den surrounded by glowing electronics. When I am not gaming or hanging out with the family, I am a huge movie fan and love Japanese gore films.” “I came to family life quite late on and it’s changed my life, my wife and two step kids mean everything to me”.

Greig was asked if there is something that not many of his colleagues know about him and went on to describe one of his passions “when the clocks go back in October, I love to look up at the night sky.  Still, dark nights are a great relaxation, especially if I get the chance to go to an area of the country where there are true dark skies and little light pollution, you see so much more and I am in my element as there is so much to discover!”

Network ROI

At Network ROI we have a shared purpose. We are not just employees, we are employee-owners. With a strong culture and an emphasis on training, we believe our people are our greatest asset. We look after our people, so they’re ready to look after your people. Working with Network ROI, you have a UK-wide team of technology experts available to help with strategy, give you feedback on your plans, and guide your business growth. You’re getting more than an “IT person”—you’re getting a strategy team.

 

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