29 Aug 2019
Pete Buckle started his career with us as an apprentice in 1983. Three decades later he's now the director of engineering services. We've had a chat with him to find out how he climbed the ranks to be where he is today.
Hi Pete, can you tell us what you do for BT?
I'm the Director of Engineering Services with a team of 1,800 across the UK. The team build, maintain and repair the electronics and power within our exchanges and data centres that deliver service to BT's customers. We are also in charge of the power infrastructure planning and compliance in our data centres, exchanges and mobile core estates. We get involved in so many brilliant things – we designed, built and now maintain the bright banner that runs around the outside of BT Tower, for example, and we have a major part to play in the build of 5G and ultra-fast. The work we do costs around £125m a year, but without us, our network wouldn't run as smoothly and efficiently as it does now. The folks really are at the sharp end of delivering a superb, flawless customer experience.
How long have you been part of the BT family?
I joined as an apprentice in 1983 in the Reading Trunk Exchange as a Trainee Technician Apprentice. Back then I reported to the Technical Officer, who taught me about electro-mechanical telephone exchanges and we provided our customers with local and international telephone calls.
What did you do after your apprenticeship?
After my apprenticeship I became a 'Technical Officer In Training', and then a Telephone Exchange Engineer. It was around 1990 at this time and I worked on switching all of our telephone exchanges onto a new digital system. It was a complex process and I was very nervous the first time I did it at the Reading Central Exchange, where we switched 100,000 customers. Before the switch, customers had to use the old dial telephones that took ages to connect. The new push-button telephones on the digital exchange meant customers were able to connect their call as soon as they finished tapping in the telephone number. It was magical. From there I went on to manage similar switch and transmission projects at telephone exchanges across the area. I made a few mistakes but learnt a lot from some brilliant engineers, many of whom work in Engineering Services today.
How did you get from working in telephone exchanges to becoming a director?
Well, during my 36 years at BT, I've held a lot of different roles including operations manager in the external works team for what now is known as Openreach, global network capacity planning, and various Finance and HR teams. I also business partnered with Strategy and Transformation, and Legal teams.
This diversity really helped me climb up the career ladder. I think the strategy and HR roles helped me develop my strategic planning and people management skills, which are important for my day job now, while my technical and engineering skills have helped me with the daily operational side of things.
Based on your experience, would you recommend the younger generation to consider getting an apprenticeship?
Absolutely. My son Jack was actually an apprentice with Openreach and I couldn't be more proud of him. Before he applied for the apprenticeship I told him it's a great way to get practical experience, formal qualifications and a career, while getting paid.
Any final thoughts for apprentices?
Go for it! And when you complete your apprenticeship, don't think it's over. I finished my apprenticeship 33 years ago and I'm still learning every day – I think my entire career has been one big apprenticeship.
Our apprenticeships are a great opportunity to earn and learn with great prospects of career progression. If you want to know more about our schemes click here.
*Story originally shared on BT's internal newsletter.