Move Into Middle Management
After 2 years, the telecoms industry began to see significant changes. With large swathes of what were previously non-competition telecoms areas of the city being either acquired by larger firms thanks to a change in OFTEL regulations, the writing was on the wall. After a short period of time, the MIS department began scaling back, and I learned that I was one who was “on the list”. Not wanting my career in IT to end here, I began looking for other opportunities. After what seemed to be a brief search, I was offered a job at trading firm in helpdesk support. This was the start of my finance experience – and my first taste of what a trading floor support function was like. This firm also used Windows NT 3.51 and Windows 95 (yes, I know) as the chosen desktop. Interestingly, there wasn’t a sniff of Novell in sight anywhere, but there were still plenty of Windows for Workgroup 3.1 machines. Looking at today’s standards of 64 bit, it’s hard to comprehend how we ever coped with 16 bit systems. Part of my new position meant that I gained exposure to both a finance arena, and Windows NT4 – the “new kid on the block”. Having used NT for several years, I became a self styled guru and was able to offer support to those being weaned off Windows 95, and teach them vital new skills – essentially, the most fundamental change being the concept of the CTRL + ALT + DELETE sequence just to login.
I began studying Windows NT4 server, and also gained exposure to networking – something I seemed to be able to digest easily, quickly mastering concepts and overall design which then gave me the ability and confidence to start asking questions around why the network was structured in this way, and how could it be made more efficient. Not an easy task when you consider that when I commenced this role, we were using NetBUI with a legacy 16 bit TCP stack designed to communicate with Windows 3.1 – which was using IPX. TCP/IP wasn’t the default network protocol either, with small networks making use of BNC connected machines (great until somebody powered their machine off and broke the chain) with the larger entities using Madge and Banyan Vines (I bet there aren’t many people who remember these as standards) with the additional cost of TCP/IP added (believe it or not, this wasn’t free) until the protocol became mainstream, forming the underlying foundations of the internet as we know it today. Working in trading was an eye opener. Not only did you need to “know your shit” in order to respond to an issue quickly, you also needed to learn how to assess a situation and think on your feet. The difference between making and losing a million depended not only on the technology, but also the support behind it.
Having survived the mentality and attitude of traders with all the tact of a 12 gauge shotgun at close range, I began learning the inner workings of the firm. Working closely with operations, compliance, deals desk, finance, and traders themselves gave me the experience I needed to finally take the helm in late 1999 as IT Manager.