So: let’s kick things off. Tell us about the basics of what you do as a Technical Installer?
“There’s two sides to the role really – the UK-based work, and then the core of what we do: the overseas installations.
When you’re here in the UK, you could be looking at the designs for your next installations in advance of travelling: the practicalities, the manpower you may need, any possible challenges, ways we could improve the installation plan. You may also be asked to help with the master material list as well: what the team need to do the job so it can be shipped out by our logistics team ready for you. You’ll write reports too of learnings from projects you’ve just completed: any lessons learned, reports to be filed, anything to note about the installation – like health and safety issues, additional equipment needed or the need for better lighting – so that when the next person visits that site, we can improve.
Then, you’ll be overseas on installations, and there are three main kinds of work there: installing new equipment, upgrading existing equipment, or decommissioning it. It could be anything really: access control, CCTV, Wi-Fi, radio, telecommunications. You’ll generally be over there for about two-four weeks, and some for up to twelve weeks.”
What kind of places are we talking about?
“It’s absolutely all over the world, sometimes to places not many people go. I’ve been to Budapest, Washington, Oslo, Dubai. I think the most extraordinary so far have been Ulaanbaatar – the capital of Mongolia – and working in a tropical jungle in Sri Lanka.
You work hard when you’re there, but you also get time to explore the local areas in your downtime. In Mongolia, I went on a day trip to see the huge silver statue of Genghis Khan on horseback; went to Turtle Rock; climbed 1,000 steps to a temple – then it was a ten-minute trip back into the city to have dinner with colleagues. You’re virtually always in city centres too because of where the embassies are, so you’re never too far from something going on.”
What makes the work different from what you might do elsewhere as an Installer?
“It’s that travel element, first and foremost. In a CCTV company in the UK, you’d know exactly what you’ll be doing, day in, day out, but here, you don’t know where you’ll be or what you’ll be doing in a year’s time – sometimes even a month’s time. Resources get allocated quite close to the project sometimes, so you get nice surprises – like when I was asked if I could fly out to New York in ten days. I really get excited to get my schedule and see where I’m going – for me it’s like opening a present.
The travel also provides you with very varied challenges. You’ve got to deal with the specifics of that country – like say, temperature. In Oslo, for instance, we were working in a foot of snow. Meanwhile, in some countries, the infrastructure means planning for a lot of power cuts and making sure your equipment has back-up power. The design team will specify kits for the country and the environment, so it’s all in our thinking to help us adapt.”
How do you juggle that kind of travel with your family commitments?
“I think what’s important to say is, you’re really looked after and supported by the organisation. You can go to our management with virtually any problem and they’ll do their best to help you. They’ll work to try to get the right balance for each individual. Travelling overseas is a core part of what we do, but, in certain circumstances, if you have a genuine reason why you can’t travel at a certain time due to personal reasons, they’ll always try to work with you to find a solution, and that means a lot to all of us.”
And how are you supported while you’re overseas?
“Well, first, your travel and accommodation plans are arranged by colleagues, and while you’re overseas, the embassy staff are always there to support you too.
Plus, you’ve also got this real comradery, built from virtually your first hour on the job. You can be away together for a week or more and you’re all staying in the same place; having breakfast together, working together, sightseeing together. Everyone gets on really well and looks out for one another.”
How does the pay compare to the private sector?
“We receive our basic salary, but we also get allowances for travel on top of this, which can be a large part of your earnings. The Civil Service pension also makes the whole package very competitive. Plus, we get invaluable training and development to upskill all employees and make sure we’re able to give the best service to our customers. This is incredibly valuable to myself and my colleagues.”
What about progression? Is there room to move?
“Definitely. I’ve moved up a lot in the past three years – pretty quickly in this industry. And I don’t have to stay where I am either; I can move around within the team. I’ve got so many options really; I can go further in my current role; I can move within the department and within the organisation; I can even get work in a posting overseas somewhere for up to three years if I want to, with the RTSS team. It’s all about what I want to do.”
And what makes you want to keep doing this every day?
“It’s the variety. As a Technical Installer at FCDO Services, work is absolutely never boring. In most installation jobs, you’ll just do one type of installation. For example, in my previous role before joining FCDO Services I was only doing fibre and cabling work. Here, as a Technical Installer, you’re installing lots of different equipment, and doing it in the broadest range of environments and locations. It’s travelling around the world, doing something new every day – and always coming back home again. There’s nothing like it.”
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