From Copper to Gold

Meet Ant, the Network Director bringing Grain’s full fibre broadband network to homes across the UK!

“As a child I had three things I wanted to be when I grew up: a fireman, an electrician or Spiderman. As I got older, I realised that I had a passion for electronics and all things that allowed people to communicate ‘The Internet’, so I knew I needed to pursue a career in this up-and-coming sector.

During secondary school, having already set-up a business migrating most of Cumbria away from dial-up internet and onto a high-speed ADSL network, I realised higher education was just going to slow me down. I wanted to break free of the structure and restrictions of archetypal higher education and continue to learn in a more hands-on way. So, just two months after my sixteenth birthday, I enrolled as an apprentice with BT Group.

As part of my apprenticeship, I spent 1 of 3 weeks at their training facility each month for the first two years of a three-year apprenticeship. The rest of my time was spent out in the field, working on the copper and fibre network, working at height, underground, in exchanges and on customer premises. I spent a lot of my time under the wings of some very experienced engineers, each of which were a huge influence on me, teaching me the ‘ins and outs’ of the job and giving me advice that I continue to carry with me today.

During my time as an apprentice, I discovered my own personal mantra: Volunteer for Everything

I figured out early that if you volunteer and show a willingness to learn, you are given more opportunities to gain experiences and grow. As such, I was offered better chances, better experiences, and better jobs as a result. My apprenticeship was a good route into a steady career in the telecoms industry, and by volunteering for everything I gained a wealth of experience in almost all departments at the beginning of my career. The more you do, the more that you’re able to do and the more contacts you make.

In the few years following my apprenticeship, I recognised a lot of underserved consumers were stuck with no better option than the insufficient speeds and reliability of copper fixed lines. As a result, I left the slow-moving PLC world and set-up a free-thinking and innovative communications company, providing fixed wireless internet to target this market. This endeavour turned out to be a real success, supplying most rural homes, companies of all sizes, and eventually expanding further with the acquisition of other networks across the UK. All this experience brings us to today. The Grain fibre network has now been serving customers around the UK with symmetrical speeds of up to 1Gb for the last 10 years; and with fibre direct to the router, the competition is still trying to catch up.

Having been in the industry for 16 years now, I’ve had experience doing most jobs, from digging trenches to sitting in board meetings, and everything in between. Not all my career moves have been upwards, but each has added a new string to my bow, and all have roots that stem from my apprenticeship and the things I learned within it. Looking back to my apprenticeship, I aspired to one day become the manager of a team or two; I never thought for one moment that I would be where I am today. I’m grateful for doing my apprenticeship early in life, it opened doors that I never thought possible and has given me an illustrious and rewarding career.

I am a massive advocate of apprenticeships as it proves you have an aptitude for both learning and work and demonstrates your dedication. It’s no surprise some of the apprentices from my time became the next generation of managers, CEOs, and board members. My advice to anyone considering an apprenticeship is to pick a good one, pick something you enjoy and don’t believe what the infamous ‘they’ say.

I am very much looking forward to what the next 30 years will bring, although I’m still holding out hope to become Spiderman one day.”

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