From studying at Loughborough University, joining Orange on a master’s placement scheme, winning graduate manager of the year back in 2008, we spoke with Sara Jones to find out how she’s got to where she is today.

What’s exciting about Technology at BT?

We are always at the cutting edge of new technology, usually the first to deliver in the UK and across the world e.g 4G, 5G etc. We enable people to connect and communicate in any way they need to. Our technology is inclusive of everyone, and we are continually evolving to be better, faster and more reliable than ever before. You can never get bored, you are always learning it’s awesome! There are so many opportunities to progress your career, I have had around 9 roles over my 20 years at Orange/EE/BT.

What impact does your work have in the business and/or customers?

I manage the Mobile Network for over 30million customers. My teams support the network 24/7, 365 days a year, rolling out new technology, capacity and ensuring our customers can access data, make calls and send messages, anywhere, anytime, and securely. If we get it wrong it can have a major impact on our customers being able to use the mobile network and that also includes the Emergency Services Network (ESN) which we support, so it’s a matter of life and death if we don’t do our job correctly.

What’s the favourite project you ever worked on?

Many years ago (15!) when I was in IT as a Principal Design Engineer, I developed a speech recognition platform for customer services. People could talk to the automated service (IVR) and top up their phone by card, register a SIM amongst other things. It was brilliant and I loved being part of the team designing, coding, testing and delivering it. It improved customer satisfaction and reduced pressure on contact centre agents. 

Are you involved in specific Diversity and Inclusion initiatives?

I am part of the Technology D&I team, focussing on inclusive recruitment. We were about to start a placement scheme in Bristol in April 2020 with the National Autistic Society but had to pause it due to the Pandemic. I am a STEM ambassador in the South West and work with several local schools in work experience, mock interviews, CV support, business mentoring, careers assemblies etc. I am an ALETO mentor for the second year running and continue to mentor some of my mentees from the 2020 ALETO leadership programme. I have run the Apprenticeship scheme for Mobile Operations for 6 years and used to run the EE Technology Graduate scheme (on top of my role). I have recently been asked to be the Service Platforms early careers lead, I find out more next week. 

What was your career path? Did you do a technical qualification? If not, how did you get to the role you’re currently in?

I started as a Network Design Engineer. I had my MSc in IT but only had a very brief background in networks through my masters. I learnt a lot on the job, studied hard in my own time initially, and did as many technical and softer skills courses as I was able to. I got promoted in my area of expertise and became the Design Authority for IVR and Speech Recognition technologies. I then got promoted into the Senior Manager of that team (youngest at Orange at that time), and over the years have moved into other manager roles in both Testing and Operations once I felt I needed a new challenge, or that a restructure encouraged me to look around for other roles. I have taken opportunities, applied for roles, and taken a leap of faith at times, even when I didn’t feel confident. I have to keep telling myself I can do it (even now at times), I work hard and make building relationships with my team a priority. I really feel that if your team are happy, supported, and clear on what you expect from them, everything else is straightforward (well most of the time 😉)

What volunteering opportunities are available at BT?

I do a lot of charity work, and we host a yearly fundraising event within our area for Children’s Hospice South West and Macmillan. We also collect gifts at Christmas, and I deliver them to the children’s hospice and the children’s hospital in Bristol. I have raised over £20k for the Children’s Hospice South West, and over £15k for other charities over the last 10 years.

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