MEET THE PLANET HEROES – JOSEPH GRAY – 1ST LINE SUPPORT ENGINEER

One of the younger members of our team, Joseph Gray is a key member of our IT Support Helpdesk. He is always near the top of the “Tickets Answered” leaderboard and has gone 4 months at 100% satisfaction in our customer survey results. In fact he has only 1 survey against his his 100% record in the whole of 2020!

He’s a big Spurs fan, loves a pint and has a strange relationship with a certain Caribbean Celebrity Chef… but he’ll get into that.

This week’s Planet Hero is Joseph Gray!

 

So Joe… let’s start easy… tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m 21, and as per the stereotypical IT worker love my technology and games, both of which I love discovering and spending far too much money on!

I also love my football and am a big fan of Tottenham hotspur, deciding to get my first season ticket on possibly our worst season in some time! I also love to play football and have games twice a week.

 

How did you get into IT and what brought you to Planet?

I think the main aspect that got me into IT was from a young age being so invested in technology and fixing both my own and families pieces of kit, the natural progression from this was to get paid for it! The constantly evolving element of IT is a big driving force as you can never see what is coming around the corner, and it’s an exciting industry to be a part of.

My decision to come to Planet was definitely the people. From my first interview I could see how happy and driven everyone was, and it looked like such a positive atmosphere that I knew I wanted to be a part of. Definitely a decision I haven’t regretted as I smile through (most) days! ?

 

 

Why the helpdesk?

At an early stage of my IT career I felt the helpdesk was the best place to start my journey and begin learning how to fix different things in different scenarios as we have such a wide and varied client base, having experience across different systems definitely helps things keep fresh and the cogs ticking over in my head!

 

What emerging technologies most excite you?

Whether we like it or not I think artificial intelligence is already playing a huge role in our day to day lives, through basic things such as recommendations on Netflix to self-driving cars, AI will become such a big part of our lives that we won’t look back… unless it comes sentient… best not to think about that…

 

What current tech can’t you wait to see improved or made redundant?

Personally, I cannot wait for the improvements to wearable tech. The thought of having directions pop up over your current eyesight or being able to interact with holograms or objects with your hands seems awesome to me. Though I think we have a while before that tech becomes available to me!

 

From a young age I was so invested in technology

 

You’re part of a key team for Planet. The IT Support Helpdesk consistently achieve over 98% customer satisfaction. However, in the last 4 months, you personally have achieved 100% satisfaction. What’s the secret?

Haha, I’m blushing! ? It’s a number we are all really proud of, and I like to think the secret is giving good service with a smile, but I guess now its been mentioned its only a matter of time before the streak is broken!

 

Over the last few months of businesses moving to home working, then some starting to move back to the office – what trends have you noticed? Has anything surprised you?

I think the speed in which all of the various industries adapted for the ‘new normal’ was staggering. It only took a matter of weeks before the masses adapted to working from home without skipping a beat, and productivity was incredible. Of course, some businesses still need help with these, and to that I would say our account managers are always here for a chat ?

Planet IT – what’s it like to work there?

Planet IT is a brilliant company to work for, I really do feel appreciated for the work I do both from the company and our clients. It’s always a nice, positive atmosphere in the office which promotes hard work. I think Planet giving back to us so highly is also a motivation for a lot of us… work hard, play hard is the saying, I think!

 

Favourite Planet Memory?

Ha-ha, there is a lot of those, but you’ll need to buy me a beer before I can mention certain events on Christmas parties…

 

Biggest challenge at Planet?

The initial rush going into lockdown was certainly a challenge for all involved. As any member of the helpdesk will tell you, when nearly all of our clients were sent home to work and everyone needed it working ASAP it was certainly a challenge to get everyone setup quickly and more importantly correctly in such a small space of time. The team handled it brilliantly and everyone is a credit to the company.

 

 

Outside work – what makes you tick?

As mentioned, before I love football, so I watch and play as much as I can. More recently I’ve enjoyed learning different things to try too, I have been magnet fishing a number of times looking for my next ‘big score’ though so far I have only picked up a nail and a metal post… stay tuned for any exciting finds though ?

 

Please explain two things about this photo… The glasses… and Ainsley Harriott…??? 

The minute I took this photo I knew it would come back to haunt me! – The glasses are from a local nightclub on a retro night, I love a good boogie to some cheesy music so you can imagine when they were giving these away, I was all over it! I actually have about 4 pairs in different colours if you ever need to borrow any ?

Ainsley is one of the weirder Amazon purchases I have made (safe to say my recommended items is yet to recover) but was actually our pub quiz mascot for a while! Now he keeps watch behind my monitor as a creepy reminder to keep working hard!

 

What’s your guilty pleasure? (Please don’t say Ainsley Harriott!?)

Ha-ha, I wouldn’t call it a guilty pleasure, but I love cheese music. Anything from Atomic Kitten to Sophie Ellis-Bextor I’m your man. Oh yeah and wham! (congrats if you got that one)

 

This is all about Planet Hero’s – if you were a real-life superhero, what would your superpower be? 

This is one I think that regularly changes, but currently I think I’d love the ability to fly. The thought of not having to ever take the stairs or worry about plane tickets should be enough to convince anyone. ?

If you were to give advice to a 14-year-old you – what would it be? Wait, you’re older than 14, right?

I’m not going to warrant your second comment with a response. ? My advice to my younger self would definitely be STOP SELLING YOUR TECH. I sold far too much when I was younger that is now worth a lot of money that it makes me cringe!

 

If you were to give advice to a young person thinking of entering the world of IT – what would it be?

Definitely open yourself up to IT, it’s such a varied line of work which is constantly evolving and changing, which makes it one of the most exciting lines of work to be in currently!

 

Joe Gray is part of our Award-winning IT Support Helpdesk team. The Helpdesk is the heartbeat of Planet and keeps our clients businesses operating as efficiently as they could hope to be.  

In these strange times, organisations of all kinds are turning to technology to help their businesses thrive. If you have outgrown your current IT solution then you should probably give us a call – 01235 433 900 or email enquiries@planet-it.net

MEET THE PLANET HEROES – JAMES DELL, LEAD TECHNICAL ARCHITECT

In 100 years from now, when they look back and talk about the top 3 IT legends: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and James Dell. There may be some debate about the order.

This week’s Planet Hero is the one and only James Dell.

 

Firstly James, Why IT?  

I remember distinctly my Mum and Dad getting a PC for our house that ran a command line operating system and took 5 floppy disks and an hour to load a simple word processor, from that moment I was hooked on technology. Because of this when it came time to choose a career path, IT was the only one for more and I dove head first into my academic studies around IT which eventually lead to the career I had always wanted and the opportunity to engage with technology on a daily basis.

 

Being the Lead Technical Architect, there’s few areas you don’t cover, but what’s your favourite?  

For me the highlight of my role is engaging with customers and solving problems, in whatever form that takes. The reason this is always my favourite is because it requires me to look at and engage new technology to overcome the range of challenges our customers have.

What’s your favourite tool or hack? 

The biggest hack or tool in my life is integration, so my entire house, infrastructure and devices for me and my family sit inside a single eco system *cough* Apple *cough* , this allows me to control my house from my phone, provide that family IT support from anywhere around the world (I had to do this at 3am in a Vegas hotel room!) and to know that seamlessly I can move content from my phone, to my iPad to my TV and never miss a beat. With a background in development I should really have something I have built be my biggest hack, but I would say all my projects look like something from Mary Shelley’ Frankenstein.

What’s your favourite technology toy? 

For the last few years it has to be my iPhone as it’s the one piece of tech that stays with me 24/7 and is used nearly as much and so far, I haven’t found something it cannot do. We have reached the point with phones where the tech is so good that I no longer need my DSLR to take a great photo, or a MP3 player to carry all my songs, or even my old fashion paper diary that I had until 2007. Now this one piece of technology can make my life infinitely easier.

 

What emerging technologies most excite you? 

As a big part of my working life focuses on infrastructure , I am interested in the world of Kubernetes and technologies like Docker. The reason that these develops excite me is as we look at the next evolution on from virtualisation and the introduction of cloud services, it key to see how the separation of function from operating system will change the way that solutions can be developed and how this will change the landscape of IT in the next functional jump.

The highlight of my role is engaging with customers and solving problems

 

 

What current tech can’t you wait to see improved or made redundant? 

I really want to see the end of the TV remote, I think that technology like Siri and Alexa have started to path the way for this, but like many people I don’t like the hours of my life I spend hunting for the TV remote, and would much rather be able to say “Hey TV, continue playing Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet on Apple TV+”

 

Anyone that looked through your LinkedIn activity could instantly tell that you’re an Apple Nut! Why? 

So I believe in some of the fundamental ideas that Steve Jobs embedded in Apple around the functionality and the feel / design of the devices, this drove me as a college student to save hard and buy my first Macbook (one of the lovely white plastic ones, which I still have and it still works!!). Once I had that device I was never going back to being a full time Windows user. Maybe unfortunately for my wallet the Apple fanboy in me requires me to buy a new Apple device as soon as it comes out, and this has led to me having owned nearly ever Apple device since 2005 (when I could afford to buy them!).

During this time of Covid – what business habits have you seen emerge? What has impressed you? What has shocked you? 

I suppose to start with what has really shocked me is the lack of business understanding about what happens when you remove the edge of a network, with so many people working from home the edge of a business network suddenly ended up being at the end of a BT telephone line. However speaking to many IT managers, they didn’t have and still don’t have the technology to protect in a Zero trust environment, this scares me. We cannot look to operate in the long term with people working from home if we are not going secure the home as you would your corporate network. In terms of what has impressed me, it has to be the resilience of people and their ability to embrace change, so many people where trust into the world of Teams and Zoom in March, but everyone has embraced it and the number of people that I now speak to who could not live without a Teams call is impressive.

 

What advice would you have for businesses right now? 

The days of large offices full of people is coming to an end, technology has saved many businesses during COVID 19. So embrace it make it your ally and allow it to drive forward your business, don’t hide behind the ways of the past, allow staff to work from home, give them the tools to be part of the office wherever they maybe. Embrace security and cyber defence and make sure that you’re not a victim, it’s easy to save money from your office rent and to sit pretty , but your safer if you even put 10% of that back into securing your business. I believe in the change and think that every business can embrace it.

Planet IT – what’s it like to work there? 

So Planet IT for me is like having a family of 50+ people, I have had the pleasure of working in many business, in many settings but nothing compares to the experience I have ever day working with my Planet family.

 

Everyone so far has mentioned the Planet Family! What makes it so special? 

Having worked in many different organisations across different business sectors and I have always been part of a “team”, With Planet this is completely different, I know no matter what that if I am having a bad day and I need to speak to someone that from the directors to the apprentices you can easily sit down grab a coffee, or if it’s after work a beer! Have a good chat and feel like you’re with family. I’ve never felt more at ease with the people I work with and I know that this family spirt carries across into the team building and team drinking that regularly occurs!

 

Outside Planet IT – what makes you tick? 

My life outside work is as geeky as you might expect , I am an avid PC gamer with many hours spent building and playing games with my friends and colleagues! I also enjoy being outdoors and engaging is sports like Surfing, Mountain biking and paddle boarding.

 

When people think IT guy, they think gamer. That’s fair enough. But lots, like yourself, are musicians too. Why is that?

For me it comes from a great respect for what music is and how it differs from the black and white , on and off that IT is. I will often just sit and strum my guitar to unwind or just to find a little moment of calm or escape in a busy week, when it comes to playing I’m no Davey! You never know one day you might see a Planet IT band playing at one of our events!

 

This is all about Planet Hero’s – if you were a real-life superhero, what would your superpower be? 

I would love to have Telepathy like Professor X! I think that would be the most useful superpower! As cool as having adamantium claws would be, other than opening boxes I am not sure what use they would be to me day to day!

 

Any guilty pleasures? 

As the previous question may have alluded to, I am a massive comic book geek, to the point that half of my arm is covered in superhero logos! I have spent far too much time and money on all think’s comic related and I don’t think it would ever stop! I am that guy who watches a new Marvel film at midnight then goes back the next day to watch it again!

 

Fine dining & champagne or BBQ & a beer? 

For me it’s a BBQ all the way! I love my GRILL; my wife gets sick of me thinking I am a cooking expert when I’m Infront of it! Also, you cannot have a good BBQ without a few cold beers! It’s only a shame that in the U.K the foods cold too because its normally raining!

If you were to give advice to a 14 year old you – what would it be? 

I would tell myself to follow my love of technology and never let anyone tell you that passion and belief won’t help you find a job, people would often tell me that IT jobs won’t pay and that I should be a plumber or a painter , but I would tell my 14 year old self to keep strong and follow your ambition and it will all work out!

If you were to give advice to a young person thinking of entering the world of IT – what would it be? 

If anyone out their wants to get into the world of IT then they should do it, I have had the pleasure of developing a number of young people through the start of their IT careers and it’s something I am still a massive advocate of. If you’re looking for advice of guidance about how or what you can do it the world of IT please reach out to me, because I know it can be a confusing choice between; development, support, cloud and all the other areas you can choose from. What I can say is you will never regret working in IT!

 

James Dell is our Lead Technical Architect and is the fountain of all knowledge. He is an expert in security, backup, cloud, hardware, networking… the list goes on

If are struggling with making IT decisions, no matter what the area, then I strongly recommend a conversation with James. You can get in touch directly on 01235 437154 or email james.dell@planet-it.net

MEET THE PLANET HERO’S – FARAH NAZIR-CHAPMAN, VOICE & CONNECTIVITY SERVICES MANAGER

You’ll often hear her coming before you see her! Farah has been with Planet just over a year and recently landed in her natural position of Voice & Connectivity Services Manager.

SIP, VoIP, FTTC, FTTP, PSTN, ISDN, ADSL, GEA, EFM, UC… she can spell them all!

This week’s Planet Hero, Farah Nazir-Chapman ?

 

Firstly Farah, Why Telephony?

I fell into it by accident actually, I was studying ballet and drama and took a part time telesales job for Samsung Telecom.

Following the completion of my studies, I was contemplating joining a travelling theatre company to get an equity card but ended up accepting a full time job with Samsung and the rest is history!

 

Telephony has changed so much in the last few years and is still rapidly evolving. What new area are you most excited about?

Definitely hosted and UC. Planet IT have partnered with leading industry vendors and have a wide range of telephony and connectivity offerings available to suit every organisation of any size. I am particularly excited to be working with Wildix, as it is truly disruptive due to the extensive feature set, rarely seen on a hosted solution. Working with the Wildix team and seeing what it is capable of now, makes me truly excited to see where it will go in the future.

What’s your favourite tool or hack?

Due to the telephone engineer code of conduct, I cannot answer that …….

So gaffer tape, yeah?

Ahmmm… I said I can’t answer… ?

 

When you start getting geeky about SIP, Unified Communications and Data & Access – what do you think is going through other people’s minds?

To be completely honest, most people assume that I am a beautician or a hairdresser ?…. When they ask what I do for a living and I start talking excitedly about how the virtualisation of voice is changing the way people work, I can see people thinking “I didn’t see that coming”…..

I also frequently look at which handsets feature in well know TV programmes and in shops when I am out and about….. In fact, I did email a large TV production company and advised them that in an episode of a much loved TV Detective series the combination of handsets and dubbed over ring tone was inaccurate, I offered my assistance from a continuity perspective but sadly I did not get a response…

 

What current tech can’t you wait to see improved or made redundant?

ISDN and copper based services. Its outdated and restrictive, however it is set to be phased out completely by 2025 with a cease to provide September 2023.

 

My voice is on hundreds of systems and on hold services everywhere

 

During this time of Covid – what business habits have you seen emerge? What has impressed you? What has shocked you?

COVID has definitely changed most peoples perception of working from home. Many organisations have shyed away from implementing home workers, despite the tech having been available for years!

For example Wildix can be deployed very quickly and is available across up to 10 devices at no additional charge. In a business critical situation we are able to implement this within a very short space of time, which is crucial to maintaining the business continuity for our clients.

The shocking side, has been calling organisations where they have literally recorded a message saying that they are out of the office so send an email or have even diverted a fully loaded ISDN 30 to a mobile!

I love that video calls frequently feature children and nonchalant cats and that UC is now pretty much the norm.

I urge anyone is struggling to identify the best way to move into the cloud from a voice perspective, to contact me, first and foremost I am an engineer (not a sales person) and finding the most technically appropriate solution for a company is why I do this job, it is actually very rewarding.

What advice would you have for businesses right now?

Now is an ideal time to install dedicated fibre connectivity, particularly when Planet can offer big incentives such as Virgin contracts with 5 months of free rentals (ending soon). Also once the connectivity is in in, start the process of moving voice into the IP cloud, whether that is via Direct routing for Teams, SIP trunks connected to an on premise system or going fully hosted with Wildix or Ring Central. There are so many incentives available and me and my team are on hand to demystify the tech side.

Planet IT – what’s it like to work there? 

Its like one big family! I believe that the noise levels have increased since I joined…… but I like that it’s a team where we work and play together. Also there are some great characters and colourful personalities. It’s a great mix and a fun place to work.

 

Outside Planet IT – what makes you tick?

Shopping!!! Its called retail therapy for a reason…..( I own over 300 pairs of shoes … don ‘t judge me) and have a huge makeup collection….. Spending time with family, friends  and my nephews and nieces.

 

Since dogs are clearly superior, why are you a cat person? –

? how dare you……. Princess Mariah has featured regularly in my Video calls since March… I love that she is a diva… I have no idea where she gets that from

Wait, your cat is called Princess Mariah? What? Why? Really?

It’s a long story, my niece Lara was only 3 at the time and wanted to name her. She loved Mariah Carey and Disney Princesses. I didn’t really think it through though… when she is called at the vets they always say her name and then my surname, the looks I get are pure comedy! I fully acknowledge it’s a tad extra ?

 

OK, I have to ask; Pole dancing… explain?

I fell into this by accident and just went to a trial class. Pretty soon after that I had passed all of the exams and loved it! It’s actually a really technical and disciplined dance form, very similar to ballet. When I first started learning years ago, I was always covered in bruises, but it’s so empowering and an amazing way to stay in shape.  It completely deserves to be an Olympic sport!

 

You are also a Voice Over Artist tell me more?

I recorded by chance, some prompts on a system as a favour and then ended up recording prompts, greetings, information on hold and queue messages. It pretty much snowballed from there. My voice is on hundreds of systems and on hold services everywhere. I frequently get calls and texts from people saying they have been stuck in a queue of my voice telling them their call is important, please continue to hold.

 

If you were a real life superhero what would your superpower be?

Definitely a cloak of invisibility……. ?

 

Guilty Pleasure?

American crime series, Sex and the City box sets and cocktails….. oh and bizarrely I like River Monsters… I only found this out when I lost my TV remote and sat through 3 hours of Jeremy Wade ?

If someone pronounced your name wrong what would you do?

This is a hot potato….. I get called so many variations of my name, my favourite is Nadia Chapman, Dr Farah, Farrah, Farrar, Sara I could go on….……. but many people refer to me as “the Telephone lady” It does really depend on the situation… I tend to spell it out using the Foxtrot alpha Romeo alpha Hotel……. The amount of times I do that and hear the rest of the office laugh ……..

 

If you were to give advice to a 14 year old you – what would it be?

Believe you can do it and you will. There are still few female engineers in comms and I honestly never thought I was a technical person nor had the ability to grasp the technicalities of an engineering role in this industry. I joke all the time that I fear one day I will wake up and not be technical anymore …

Wear SPF all the time, start skincare as early as possible and ALWAYS buy the damn shoes!

 

If you were to give advice to a young person thinking of entering the world of IT or Voice & Connectivity  – what would it be?

If technology excites you, this is definitely the industry for you. The satisfaction you get when a system is configured and implemented, is the best feeling ever. Seeing the difference it makes to our customers and how the user experience is improved, is the reason I have stayed in this industry so long. Its fast paced, a bit stressful but really rewarding!

 

Farah leads our Voice & Connectivity team and holds a wealth of knowledge about all things telephony, connectivity and beyond. Seriously, there are very few in the industry with the capability Farah has. 

If are struggling with communicating with your team, your customers or the outside world, then I strongly recommend a conversation with Farah. You can get in touch directly on 01235 433916 or email farah.nazir-chapman@planet-it.net

MEET THE PLANET HERO’S – MIKE HEDGES, SALES MANAGER

Look up! What’s that? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Mike Hedges at the top of the sales leaderboard!

Mike has been the Planet IT Salesperson of the Year for 2019, 2018, 2017… I could go on. However, this is his greatest achievement, being named this week’s Planet Hero!

So Mike, let’s start with an easy one… tell us a little about yourself..?

Haha always a tricky one to sum up without rambling… but in a nutshell, Born and raised in Oxford, from a young age sport was always a big part of my life and still is. Most my childhood was spent with my family travelling around the UK chasing that dream most lads have of becoming a professional footballer… Oxford Utd released me at 16, I became a window cleaner at 18.. keep chasing that dream kids! ?

Although the footballing ability diminished over the years my competitive nature did not and I guess that’s why I enjoy sales so much. Outside of work I am a very social lad, always up for anything that will make me laugh and always interested in a physical challenge, a Boxing match being the next on my list.

 

What brought you to Planet?

Honestly? When I knew I was working in a warm office and I found out I didn’t have to pay for the milk, I was sold!! At 19 years old I had no idea what I wanted to be in life, I just sure as hell knew I did not want to climb another ladder in -3degrees cleaning windows.

Luckily for me Planet had an apprenticeship scheme, so I knew I wasn’t under pressure to know anything about IT, I just had to work harder/smarter than the other recruits on the course, which I backed myself to do.

7 years on I look back and pinch myself how lucky I am making the decision I did. I’m glad free milk was so appealing to me back then ?

 

Have a look at the top of the sales board… yep, all the way up… is that always your name up there?  

Ultimately as a salesperson you are only as good as your customers, don’t get me wrong, you need to work hard, accept rejection on a daily basis and try to keep a positive mindset when at times it just feels like you are sinking. It takes a certain person to choose to do that as a career, so I respect all sales people in any sector!

But good long-term customers and strong working relationships are what make you successful in sales. If people look at what I have achieved and think that’s success, then all I can do is thank my clients for staying with me and trusting me to provide them a service for so long.

 

What emerging technologies most excite you?

I would say VR, I think this will play a huge part in our lives moving forward.. the thought of estate agents not having to show you round multiple houses, but instead put a VR headset on and walk round a few properties in 10minutes. Crazy times ahead! ?

 

You get a great understanding of Planet’s larger clients. During this time of Covid – what business habits have you seen emerge? What has impressed you? What has shocked you about other businesses out there?

From a business perspective if there is one major positive to take from Covid-19 it is how much we have all had to embrace technology to continue to operate. Whether that’s teachers still able to take lessons, Doctors still able to consult patients when quarantined at home, or companies like ours having to work from home to ensure we can still deliver a service to our clients, IT has played a major part in keeping our economy going and business moving. The trends I’m seeing is obviously clients now fully using Microsoft Teams as their leading platform for communication.

What shocks me? When I come across Clients still not backing up data offsite, but thankfully we have a fantastic team here that can build a strategy for them and help implement a safer approach.

 

 

What advice would you have for businesses right now?

I’m no MD so can’t exactly tell customers how to run their business’s but from an IT perspective, my advice will be to do a complete IT review and build a 3year Road Map. Technologies you were using in February might not be the best solution for you now, there might also be simple ways to save money long term by adjusting your IT approach. That would be my 2pence..

I look back and pinch myself how lucky I am making the decision to join Planet

Planet IT – what’s it like to work there?

The best!! Cheesy as it is, I look forward to going in to work every day, I’m extremely fortunate to work with the most amazing group of people, the planet Family. Everyone here is so different in their own unique ways but fit in to this company and work together so well.

The Ethos at Planet IT is if you work hard for them, they will reward that effort and recognise you! No one is just a number here and in every job role there is an opportunity to progress and build an amazing exciting career.

Favourite Planet Memory?

There are honestly too many… My first amazing moment was after only being at the business 4months Kaspersky took me to Italy to drive Ferrari’s in the Italian mountains which gave me a taste of how amazing a sales career at Planet could be.

But to single out 2x top memories they both happened last year and were both once in a life time moments for their own reasons.. 1st would be the Sky Dive in Dubai over the Palm, wow what a scary but brilliant experience that was one I’d never forget. 2nd was a less positive experience but certainly as life changing, when in Budapest the day activity was to ride on Segways through the city, but when stood on my Segway posing for a photo at an extremely busy tourist spot, I fell off.. well actually I jumped off, the Segway then seemed to develop it’s own brain and thought “I’m going to run over Hedges” after landing on my head in front of hundreds of tourists the Segway continued to cannon in to other passer byes. My colleagues or you might as well call them Hyena’s at this point  watched this all unfold and thanked me for making there trip.. silver linings hey.

Biggest challenge at Planet?

Biggest challenge is to be consistent in sales, once you set yourself standards and performance levels its always hard to maintain them. Stress of achieving targets and being able to handle that and not let it affect your home life is also a challenge.

 

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Not sure I can reveal it on Linked In Barry ? but lets say Karaoke.. I do actually enjoy singing on Karaoke which I know is shocking to admit haha

 

So, I came across this photo…

explain please…

It’s impossible to know everything and sometimes you need to take advice from an expert that has been there and done it.. this photo is us meeting David Brent and taking tips on how to manage people.. what an idol

 

This is all about Planet Hero’s – if you were a real life superhero, what would your superpower be? And keep it clean please!

Invisibility would be my super power – Would like to be able to sneak in to any major sporting event without buying a ticket, would also like to understand what you do in your spare time Barry ?

 

If you were to give advice to a 14 year old you – what would it be?

Enjoy only charging your Nokia 3210 once a week, in the future they bring out iPhones and battery life is a joke!

If you were to give advice to a young person thinking of entering the world of IT sales, what would it be? 

Be comfortable about being uncomfortable! If you want a steady, stress free job then a job in IT sales in today’s competitive market isn’t for you. However if you are full of self believe and willing to roll the dice on a career that can give you sooo much back then go for it! Work hard, learn the technology, and become an EXPERT in what you are selling. Customers buy from salespeople who know what they are talking about, not just waffle. And Good luck, all sales people need that!

 

Mike Hedges is our Sales Manager at Planet IT and leads our team of large account managers. He manages some of our top clients and is their go to person when it comes to anything they need from their IT. He is as much part of their team that he even gets invited to their Christmas Parties and Summer BBQ’s.

If you’d like to benefit from a trusted technology partner like Mike, then get in touch directly on 01235 433 913 or email mike.hedges@planet-it.net

MEET THE PLANET HERO’S – STEPHEN MCCRANN, IT HELPDESK MANAGER

At the core of Planet IT, is our award-winning IT Support Helpdesk. Made up of a team of over 30 top class engineers, they keep our client’s businesses functioning. At the head of this powerhouse team is Stephen McCrann, this week’s Planet Hero!

Ok, let’s cut straight to it – Over 6 weeks in June & July, your IT Helpdesk team achieved 100% Customer Satisfaction. That’s a complete lie right?

Not at all! It’s only just over our 2020 average of 98% too, which we’re really proud of!

I think a lot of people were surprised that we were working from home during it, I’ve got a really solid team and everyone likes to help each other and that’s the real core of how I like to work. We are really transparent with our clients and it means we can have a conversation with everyone as if they were in our own company and I think that’s a real key to our success.

 

Right, let’s rewind a bit. Tell us a little about yourself?

Haha this is always a difficult one, I’m one of those people that likes to get into everything, Whether that’s all types of cycling which really grew back during my courier days, bit of mountain biking, racing or even bike polo! Outside of cycling I enjoy FPV quads, playing video games, making things and just learning about different topics. I’m quite an independent person and like to learn lots of skills myself whether that’s in or out of work which is quite evident from the various life experiences I’ve had! I often feel like I’ve had a go at something at some point!

 

How did you get into IT and what brought you to Planet?

I got into IT quite late all things considered, I studied games programming in Uni and looking back at that time I had been fixing PCs for people for years because I just understood it and was surprised that other people that use them day in day out couldn’t!

My IT career all came about when I applied for a junior role when I was 24, Three people there took a chance on me and within a short period of time I was running that department with clients that are high profile household names. I loved the pressure and how it drove me to learn in such a small period of time and had a real good knit of people.

I moved to Oxfordshire as my girlfriend had a fantastic opportunity to continue the work she had done through her PhD in cancer research. Just by chance Planet we’re looking for engineers at the time and following an interview none of us will ever forget I knew I would be getting into a similar environment which would challenge me further!

An interview none of you will ever for forget… should I ask about that?

Yes, but not here ?

Ok, later then ?

 

So, why the helpdesk?

Helpdesk is an interesting place, you deal with weird and wonderful problems day in day out, you get to meet so many people and when you fix their issue there’s a real satisfaction and appreciation which is priceless. You get to work with so many different technologies and there is always something to learn, it’s even better when you can bring people in the team up with you.

How do you manage such a large team with so many users?

I have a real team of rockstar’s and they know it, As we mentioned we have a real track record with our survey responses and every single one goes back to the team so there is a real pride there.

We use Microsoft Teams on the helpdesk, this lets us talk to each other almost as if we were in the room with functionality such as screen share and control and with the bonus of being able to create chat groups on the fly, it’s invaluable. To back that up we always chip in and help each other through the day and those are really key to our success

What’s your favourite tool or hack that you think everyone should know?

Windows key, Shift + S. We all use screen snip and that’s one to have in the bag

 

What emerging technologies most excite you?

I really like automation and how that’s adapting to work with cloud technologies. This is something we are working with at the moment and the potential is massive, it’s always satisfying making something yourself and to be able to apply it and save yourself time or even better if it’s saving multiple people or the business.

My job and my team are problem solvers at heart.

What current tech can’t you wait to see improved or made redundant?

I got two things that really, one carrying multiple devices, I don’t want to have a phone, a laptop and what ever else you need to carry. Having a single do it all device would be great, I think we are getting there and USB-C is helping but we’re not quite there yet.

Another one I’m really hoping that 5G internet shakes up the scene with broadband for home and business, we shouldn’t settle for what we have and competition is always good for the consumer.

You get a great understanding of all Planet’s managed services clients. During this time of Covid – what business habits have you seen emerge? What has impressed you? What has shocked you?

Some companies were ready and I’ve seen a real shift in business investing in people and their IT. Companies were made to work from home and technology allowed that, What is really good is that it’s shaken up the traditional views. I also like how during this time we’ve broken down the corporate barriers and it feels more like you talk to people as opposed to the structure of the company. I think one thing which I covered in a recent webinar is that even though staff are home, security should be viewed the same as if you are in the office and going forward I think it’s important that companies invest back into their IT, things like moving to the cloud or getting a good working and resilient environment is more important now than ever, servers all in one office is no good for everyone at home when there’s a powercut!

 

What advice would you have for businesses right now?

Getting stuff offsite reducing risk, investing in tech so the business can do what it does best

Planet IT – what’s it like to work there?

Planet is full of brilliant individuals we have a real work hard play hard ethic which always means at the end of the week we can all have a good laugh. It was one of the main reasons for joining I wanted to join a family to which the directors certainly agreed it is and with that I feel I’ve been able to grow with the company as everyone has a voice.

 

Favourite Planet Memory?

There are so many memories it’s hard to choose, from spontaneous nights out to even the planned ones, the main things are the people and spending the day working with them, even on the odd occasion abroad and it not feel like work pretty special, Dublin was one of those!

 

Biggest challenge at Planet?

That’s a hard one, my job and my team are problem solvers at heart, Biggest challenge is that our work is carried out on our clients infrastructure and that adds it’s own complexity, no company is the same, no budget is the same and what is both fun and a challenge is getting that to work for everyone.

 

You’re from Wales right? Big into rugby? 

Haha I am, get me in a group or after a few and the accent comes out. Think most are just used to the weird phrases I come out with by now. Rugby and a pint of S.A are a right of passage back home and at the end of a night a curry with half and half or if you’re in town you head to chippy lane for a Dorothys! When the Six Nations are on you definitely know about it!

 

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Always a cheesy music playlist and a BBQ with friends, During one of the planet get togethers we all decided to make the worst playlist possible, secretly it’s got a lot of bangers on it

 

This is all about Planet Hero’s – if you were a real life superhero, what would your superpower be?

I always like to be in the know and telepathy was always something that I thought was cool ever since seeing Jean Gray as a kid in the X-Men tv series

 

If you were to give advice to a 14 year old you – what would it be?

Just to focus on what you enjoy doing and the traditional views of going to university won’t make a real difference! Experience is key!

 

If you were to give advice to a young person thinking of entering the world of IT – what would it be?

During my time at planet I’ve had a few apprentices and I think that a can do attitude, the will to learn and gain experience is key. What worked for me and the ethos my team have is always be willing to give something a try and help each other out whenever you can. It takes you places.

Stephen McCrann leads our IT Helpldesk. He and his team are the first call any of our clients make when they have an IT question and are the powerhouse of the Planet offering. They consistently achieve over 98% customer satisfaction and often have a run of 100% (It’s true, just ask to see the stats!). There are few teams in the UK with the ability of Stephen’s. 

If you’d like to benefit from the service our existing clients rave about, then get in touch with Stephen on 01235 433 900 or email Stephen.McCrann@planet-it.net

MEET THE PLANET HERO’S – LAUREN CAREY, RENEWALS MANAGER

Meet The Planet Hero’s – Lauren Carey, Renewals Manager

LOZZA!!!!!  ?

This month’s Planet Hero is the reigning Queen at Planet IT. She has never missed out on a Planet Award, smashes targets EVERY month and never, EVER, says no to a night out.

Ladies & Gentlemen, Miss Lauren Carey ?…

 

Firstly Lauren,How did you end up working at Planet IT?

Luckily I joined an agency who used to work with Gav & Sean @ Planet IT and as soon as she met me she said she has found the perfect place for me where I would fit straight in, she wasn’t wrong! I’ve also followed in my Mums footsteps as she works for Microsoft and I’ve seen her progress in her role over the years, Sales was always something I wanted to get into! I love having targets to meet, the ability to overachieve and get recognised for your hard work. I’m a bit OCD when it comes to being organised so what better role for me than managing software licenses for clients?

 

Has the business changed much since you joined? What do you think has driven those changes?

It has changed humungous amounts! When I first joined, we were in a small office on the Harwell campus and we had around 20 employees at the time. I have been fortunate enough to watch the company grow to more than double in size! The growth/success is down to the MD’s vision and is definitely down to employing the right people. To have specialists in the products/services we sell, means we can fully support our clients. We listen and understand our customers’ needs and have evolved as a business to provide the best service to them. Praising and rewarding staff only makes them want to work harder because they feel appreciated and that’s exactly what we have at Planet, we are not just a number in a big workplace.

Planet is my second family for sure! I even accidentally called Gav, Dad once – easy mistake to make right? 😀

What has been your favourite Planet memory?

There are too many to list! So here are a few…

Firstly (work related) Planet Awards each year and I’ve been fortunate enough to win one each year I have worked at Planet. A great feeling to be recognised for your hard work.

Secondly all the Planet Christmas parties, Marbella, Barcelona, Milan, Iceland, Budapest!

Iceland, we went on the snowmobiles and rode to the top of a glacier, I have never seen anything like it – the views were spectacular! I shared a snowmobile with Mr Rob Laidler and he let me take the driver’s seat (regretfully!) Rob and I were at the start of the line with 20x Planet people behind us….next thing I’ve taken a sharp turn and ROLLED the Ski-Doo! 😀 OH and also going to see the northern lights…. Which never appeared was fun 😀

Milan was probably the best Xmas Party, I don’t think I stopped laughing the entire trip! Fave memory here was our Sales Director Ade, he began a cat walk in the middle of the club and 1 by 1 randomers started joining in, next thing the whole club is pretty much walking up and down this non-existent cat walk strutting their stuff! Late that night, when it was time to go home, also Ade (shock) went up to a parked limo who was waiting for people and paid him 50euros to take me and two other colleagues back to our apartment ….which was 2 mins away.

Furthermore, some of the incentives have been amazing, last November I went to Dubai and the bosses surprised with me a sky dive over the palm!

If I ask about your favourite parts, I have to ask about the opposite side too – what challenges do you face in your role?

The volume of work can be challenging sometimes, when one of my customers is having a technical challenge trying to respond as quickly as possible to help them ….

 

HRH Lozza

You talk to and deal with lots of very different types of business outside Planet IT. During this time of Covid – what business habits have you seen emerge? What has impressed you? What has shocked you?

I am really impressed how quickly business were able to adopt remote working, its now OK to meet family and pets on conference calls!!, I feel that everyone has had such ‘can do’ attitude and tried really hard to minimise covid has had on different businesses, People are busy, sometimes busier than they ever have been but everyone is really pulling together. ‘You are on mute’ – is the new strapline!  I am impressed by the determination so many customers have gone to, to simply ‘make it work’

What has shocked me – the speed of my day, time just flies and video fatigue is REAL!

What advice would you have for businesses right now?

As we move to a New world of working, continue at pace, on your digital transformational journey, accelerate this where you can. Security and Safety has to be top of mind and continue to offer support to employees to skill and up skill

Alright, since it’s you we have to ask about Man Utd. Only one question comes to mind… why??

Because they are the best. Simple.

Plus I also named my hamster Giggsy and dog Trafford, can’t really go back on that now!

Also, the fact my Uncle Paul would disown me if I supported anyone else 😀

 ?“Ole’s at the wheel, Tell me how good does it feel, We’ve got Sanchez, Paul Pogba and Fred, Marcus Rashford is Manc born and bred, The Greatest of English football, We’ve won it all, Du, du, du du, du, du, du du du”?

 

There’s a very fancy looking black Audi TT parked outside. That’s yours right? I take it you like to spoil yourself? 

I’m the type of person who enjoys spoiling the people around me, I get more satisfaction out of that than I do buying things for myself!

Also… Work hard, Play hard!! – maybe I was having an early mid life crisis??? Hahah  I thought I would spoil myself before I get saddled with a mortgage

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Full fat Hellman’s mayonnaise!

My E-Cig… slightly addicted

Real Housewives of Cheshire

Midnight snacking which involves a wedge of mature cheddar cheese and salt and vinegar crisps

(and copious amounts of vino)

If you were to give advice to a 14 year old you – what would it be?

Try hard at school, respect your parents, dream big, set goals have a plan and remember to have lots of fun doing it!

Also, do not panic! I didn’t know what I wanted to do at 14 years old, neither did I at 21! There is so much pressure on teenagers to decide on which career path to go down, what subjects to pick to study for GCSE’s, Uni etc. My advice is pick something you care about and that you enjoy.

P.s. Don’t spend so much time on your i-pad, x-box – go outside, get some fresh air and have fun!

If you were to give advice to a young person looking ahead at a career like yours  – what would it be?

Perhaps get a coach or mentor, someone that you know that is already in that type of career or that can provide support. Listen and coach,

I would also say push yourself and feel ok being outside your comfort zone, throw yourself in the deep end, its ok to fail fast, recover quicker and develop an appetite to learn, all of the time

Lauren Carey is our Renewals Manager. She takes care of al lour software clients licensing needs, renewals and upgrades. She is am encyclopaedia of knowledge in a real breath of software and our clients find her an invaluable resource. If you have any questions about your software licences, whether you bought it from Planet IT or not, give lauren a call – 01235 433917 or email her on lauren.carey@planet-it.net

MEET THE PLANET HERO’S – AGA ULANOWSKA, PLANET OFFICE MANAGER

I don’t even want to imagine a Planet without Aga!

If you want something done… ask Aga… it gets done.

In the 2nd Meet The Planet Hero’s feature, we talk with Aga Ulanowska, our HQ Office manager. Aga has been with us for 5 years and has seen lots of changes and exciting growth in that time. It’s scary how much work Aga takes care of, and it has become even more evident in recent months with everything going on around us.

Today we find out a little bit more about Aga. Why she enjoys being part of the Planet Family. What makes her tick, why change in business is a good thing and discover her secret passion for gardening…

 

You’re not from these shores. What brought you here?

That’s right, I come from a city in south-eastern Poland called Zamość.

It’s a beautiful place, but since I graduated and got the degree in English, I knew what to do next.

After months of planning, I took a big leap of faith and moved to UK.

It was the most difficult, but the best decision I made in my life. I lived in gorgeous Edinburgh for few months, then moved to Oxfordshire where I found Planet IT, or shall I say Planet IT found me?

Planet found you?

Yes, it was actually Planet IT that reached out to me.

It’s still a bit of a mystery, as I hadn’t even applied for the job ?

One day I received a call asking if I’m interested in a temporary position and that was it – I started the next day.

It was only meant to be for a few months and here I am 5 years later!

 

The business has changed so much in your time here. What do you think has driven those changes?

Looking back to when I first joined Planet IT, it’s undeniable that things have changed.

What I’ve learnt within those 5 years so far, is that you can never stand still, especially in the IT industry.

Changes are good if done for the right reasons and Planet IT did just that.

Every aspect of the business has improved and the drive to be better and more efficient with improved work processes etc. was the key to successfully make it happen.

What has been your favourite Planet memory?

I have so many great memories with Planet – it’s impossible to choose only one.

Some of the best memories was cruising on a snowmobile in the middle of the Icelandic glacier on Planet IT Christmas party, team-building 10-kilometre Tough Mudder runs that break us all every time!

and how can I forget receiving my first “MVP of the year” award! ?

Hopefully many more great memories still yet to come.

 

If I ask about your favourite parts, I have to ask about the opposite side too – what challenges do you face in your role?

I think every job comes with its challenges and my role is no different.

Certain tasks involve more thought and time investment, but it’s important not to shy away from it and take these tasks head on with a positive and “can do” attitude.

 

If you want something done… ask Aga… it gets done.

 

In your role, you talk to and deal with lots of businesses outside Planet IT, during this time of Covid – what business habits have you seen emerge? What has impressed you? What has shocked you?

That’s true, the initial weeks of the lockdown had a significant impact on most UK businesses. Customers and vendors I’m taking to are telling us that the connectivity and technology are absolutely vital to them at this time. It’s always been important, but who would have thought it would be this critical to keep businesses functioning at this time.

What shocked me is that we are also seeing a noticeable increase in malicious behaviour, as scammers and hackers try to take advantage of people working from home.

What advice would you have for businesses right now?

My advice would be to focus on what you can control and set yourself reasonable expectations.

We’re in this together and throughout this crisis people are doing the most amazing things to help each other, so stay connected.

 

 

Outside Planet IT – what makes you tick?

I don’t want to sound like a pensioner, but I really enjoy gardening! Especially now, it’s been my little escape from what’s currently happening in the world.

On a flipside believe it or not, I enjoy a bit of online gaming! It’s a great way of spending some time with my friends, especially those that are far away.

Dog person or Cat person?

100% dog person.

We’ve always kept dogs in my family and I’m planning to keep the tradition here in UK.

However, as small dogs are out of the question, I might need a bigger house first… ?

 

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Chocolate and coffee, definitely.

There’s no way I can start a day without a nice cup of coffee, although I must be going though litres a day…?

And who can resist a lovely bar of chocolate!

This is all about Planet Heros – if you were a real life superhero, what would your superpower be?

Good question…?

I think I would like to have the ability to control time. Life moves way too fast and to be able to slow it down, pause or even go back in time would be amazing!

 

If you were to give advice to a 14 year old you – what would it be?

I would say to believe in yourself more and ignore people’s opinions. The only opinions that really matter are that of your family’s.

Also, don’t stop playing piano just because you didn’t get to the music school. You will later regret it.

 

If you were to give advice to a young person looking ahead at a career like yours  – what would it be?

Just make sure you do something you enjoy doing.

Also, keep learning new skills, you will never know when it might come in useful.

 

Aga Ulanowska is our office manager here at Planet IT. If you’re one of our clients, you’ve probably spoken with Aga a few times! She is typical of the personality and work ethic of our team. If you’d like to work with Planet IT or think you need one of our services, then give the team a call on 01235 433900 or email enquiries@planet-it.net

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