5 mins with Jack Johns, winner of the Christopher Mills Award 2019

  • What is your current job title?  

Applied Research Apprentice

  • Can you tell us about your telecoms career history so far?

I started working in the industry almost 18 months ago.

I went directly from sixth form to become an apprentice in the Applied Research department at BT. As part of the apprenticeship scheme we get to rotate into different teams to gain a wide set of experiences and skills. My first rotation was within Security Futures, (a team looking at improving and increasing the efficiency of the cyber security BT has internally and also the security we provide to our customers). In Security Futures I worked on a project that centered around the detection and protection against vulnerabilities to different types of malwares that target home networks. From there I moved to the Operational Transformations team where I investigated the possible use of the concept of digital twins and augmented reality to benefit our field force engineers as well as a project looking at training employees using VR. I am currently working with machine learning for text classification to try and improve the experiences our customers have when using our products.

  • What made you pursue a career in telecoms?

I was inspired to work for BT when I got a chance to do so when I was in high school and sixth form. I did work experience at BT Labs at Adastral Park and the sheer diversity of the work I saw was what drew me in. After my first encounter with BT I knew it was the place for me and I gained as much relevant work experience as possible to maximise my chances of gaining a place on their apprenticeship scheme. I even geared my A-Levels specifically to the work that I did in my placements so I had as many relevant skills as I could.

  • In your opinion, what are the biggest opportunities and challenges for the industry in the next five years?

The many advancements in AI and Machine Learning over the recent years has got me very excited at the idea of the amount of AI related solutions to problems that the telecoms industry faces, whether it be in network design models to the uses in security and the protection of our networks. Obviously with these advancements in technology comes increased complexity of cyber attacks.

  • What is your biggest achievement so far?

Winning the Christopher Mills Award has definitely been my career highlight so far, being recognised for the work that I have done in my first year has been really special and something I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. Another one of my personal highlights came when during my first role in Security Futures. Most of my time was spent developing a proof of concept that showed how we could use our existing cloud infrastructure to monitor the security of our customer networks for any suspicious DNS requests and notify them whilst also detecting possible vulnerabilities to malware in their home devices. After I finished development I was given the opportunity to present the work to many key stakeholders including the CEO of Technology at BT, Howard Watson.

  • What do you enjoy most about your job?

The most enjoyable part of my job is the variety, no day is ever the same. As with the nature of research I get to work at the cutting edge of technology and as such you can’t predict what will happen or where it will take you, I still love that sense of exploration coupled with the fact that the work I do can change the operation of the country and directly impact our customers for the better.

  • How important is mentoring to you? Have you mentored a colleague?

Mentoring is such a vital part of learning and development for new joiners into any company, and BT is no exception. My line manager acts as a coach and mentor too; he was a big contributing factor for me going through with the award application in the first place. During my last placement, my rotation manager acted as a mentor too, always pushing me to take every opportunity and she was the person who nominated me for the award in the first place, something I am very thankful for. My apprentice colleagues across the teams are also always willing to help when they can. When the newest cohort of apprentices started in September I was assigned as a buddy to one of them to give them another support system completely separate to everyone else, much like a mentor. We have regular catch ups and sometimes I find myself learning from them too, it’s a very enriching experience.

  • What did winning mean to you?

Winning the award meant the world to me and has inspired me to carry on working as hard as I can. That sense of achievement paired with the meaning behind the award, to honor Christopher Mills, made me very proud and pushed me to achieve more.

  • What advice would you give others considering entering an industry award? Did you find the process easy?

The application process was simple and straightforward and I urge anyone who feels like they have achieved something to apply. Even if you don’t make it to the finals practicing self-evaluation and recognising when you have done a good job is always a good skill.

  • What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in telecoms?

It’s such an exciting time to be in the telecoms industry, if you are considering it then now is the time!

Jack Johns is the winner of the ITP’s Christoper Mills Award 2019.

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