ITP Awards: 5 mins with Francesca Sartori, Head of 5G Sales e2e Europe at Nokia

Francesca Sartori is Head of 5G Sales e2e Europe at Nokia and finalist of the ITP’s Women in Telecoms Award 2016. We chat to her about her career and women in tech. 

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

My career started more than 25 years ago. After finishing an electronic engineer degree, I was hired by an Italian company with business in the telco sector. It was not an “official” apprenticeship, however I spent the first semester with a tutor who was really supportive and helped me to move from the “school” mindset to “working” mindset (I remember him still after 25 years 🙂 ).

After that, I took many roles from HW designer to System Architect, from Standardization Representative to Senior System Engineer, then I moved to a Product Line role with special focus on European customers.

After the merger between Nokia and Siemens, a second part of my career began. In fact, I moved to less technical roles such as SW Sales Manager responsible for Europe, Customer Marketing Head for South Europe, Global Operators Business Strategies Head and, since April 2017, Head of 5G Sales e2e Europe.

Of course, the technical skills and technical knowledge have been always one of the relevant and distinguishing factors to be kept updated, however I have also developed other capabilities, like leadership and coaching skills, analytical and decision-making abilities, experience in working in virtual international teams, the capability to easily adaptive to new challenges and responsibilities, and presentation skills.

What is your biggest achievement so far?

Being able to achieve excellent results in any role I have had; meaning I am able to leverage what I have learnt and, at the same time, extend my capabilities to go beyond what was required.

How important is mentoring to you? Have you been mentored or mentored a colleague?

Mentoring is an essential aspect in developing people. I am a mentor and I have “mentored” several people and I have been advising many colleagues seeking support and guidance.

What did becoming a finalist mean to you?

Becoming a finalist last year proved that my achievements, experiences, my abilities and skills are valuable and recognised outside my company and my closer working team.

What has happened since the awards? 

I am more motivated to keep pushing and improving as much as I can in any opportunity I am involved with, not only at work, but also in personal matters.

What advice would you give others considering entering an industry award?

Be yourself, be honest and try to define clear goals, and be ready (and sometime even dare) to take opportunities might come unexpectedly. If you work with passion and professionalism, the results will be acknowledged.

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

Have an open mind, do not only think/focus on what is happening in telco industry, but try to be updated in as many sectors as possible. In the future, the board lines among industries segments will be thinner and thinner and something relevant in other verticals might be useful for telco as well.

Read more about this year’s ITP Awards.


ITP Awards: 5 mins with Dave Davis

Dave Davis is a Senior Systems Engineer at VT iDirect, and finalist in the ITP’s Mentor of the Year Award 2016.

Tell us about your telecoms career history so far…

I joined the Army as a Royal Signals Apprentice in 1988; I was steered by the Army Careers Office in this direction, following aptitude tests. I was awarded a Telecommunication Technician apprenticeship, even though I got a D in Technology at school. The Army spotted the talent correctly, as I went on to achieve a first class honours degree in electronic engineering with the Open University, paid for and supported by the Army. My role as a technician took me to Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Bosnia and Belize. After leaving the Army in 2003, I went on to work in the commercial industry, supporting the Armed Forces and commercial clients. I worked at NSSLGlobal for nine years as a Systems Engineer, Project Manager and Engineering Manager and joined VT iDirect in 2013, initially as a defence and security specialist, but now I work on our key account, Inmarsat.

What is your biggest achievement? 

Difficult to say really, as they all reflect different aspects of my life, but I would say being awarded the MBE, achieving Charted Engineer status and being awarded fellowship status of the ITP and IET are up there. To be nominated for the ITP mentor of the year was really special and I was so pleased to see such a high quality award winner this year, who obviously had a real commitment and passion for mentoring.

How important is mentoring to you? 

Very. Both as a mentor and a mentee. I was supported in my early career and was inspired to be able to achieve more than I’d hoped for. I see mentoring as a way of closing that loop and trying to inspire the next generation of engineers to lead us forward.

What did becoming a finalist mean to you?

It was a great honour and it was amazing to meet the other finalists who had achieved so much.

What advice would you give others considering entering an industry award?

I would thoroughly recommend people to apply and put others forward for awards, as it is a great way of recognising those who go above and beyond. The awards dinner is not only a fantastic event, organised by a top-class team of staff, but it’s the perfect environment to network and get to know new people who can open new doors and opportunities.

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

It’s a very rewarding field, which is always changing and this pace of change allows you to constantly learn and keep things fresh. It also has so many niches and areas of specialisation, so there’s a lot of options. I came into telecoms before mobile phones and have seen so many changes. We are truly living in the communication age and being at the leading edge of that is very exciting.

Entries for the ITP Annual Awards 2017 close on 30th June 2017 – apply here.

5 mins with…Ben McGawley, Trinity Maxwell Limited 

This week’s 5 min chat is with Ben Gawley, Operations Director at Trinity Maxwell Limited, who talks challenges, opportunities and apprenticeships.

What are the biggest challenges you face as a telecoms professional?   The pace of the marketplace – from technology to regulation.

How do you feel The ITP’s Apprenticeship scheme has benefited your company? It has enabled us to find motivated candidates with an aspiration to progress.

What do you see as the major trends for the next 12 months? Technology wise, IoT growth and cloud strategy being driven by more interoperability.

What are your priorities for this year? To continue business growth while expanding expertise in key areas.

What would you say to apprentices considering entering the industry? Unlike many industries, the pace of change keeps it constantly engaging and fresh. There are a wide array of areas and roles that you can grow into once you start working in the industry, so if you are willing to work hard then there aren’t many better industries to work in.  You need to make sure you understand the building blocks, so you can understand how different services and solutions fit together, and the benefits and issues that this can bring.

Sum up the industry in one word…dynamic.

5 mins with…Ciaran Gillespie, Apprentice Engineer, Green Telecom


What made you consider becoming a telecoms apprentice? 

I considered becoming a telecoms apprentice because I had a strong interest in IT, especially on the networking side of things. At home, I was always taking apart my PCs, laptops and phones to see what was inside and to see how they work. This led to me building gaming PCs, servers and networks at home. Before the apprenticeship I was studying Level 3 IT and computing, after this I was looking for further study in the field that interested me so I went for an IT & Telecoms apprenticeship with the ITP.

How long have you been an apprentice? 

I have been an apprentice for eight months .

What does your typical day entail? 

My typical day can entail fault diagnosis and maintenance on IT & Telecom systems such as PABX and broadband connections. I also program and install PABX, VoIP and broadband devices on customer sites along with all the infrastructure that goes with it. Sometimes, if I am lucky, I get to take apart and diagnose faults on computers.

What are the benefits of being an apprentice? 

The benefit of being an apprentice is learning whilst you earn. ITP apprentices also have many benefits like ITP insight events and seminars. The ITP is very supportive in your professional growth in the early stages of your career.

What advice would you give to other young people considering an apprenticeship? 

If you have an interest in tech, and wish to gain some new skills In IT & Telecoms, this apprenticeship is perfect for you. It’s a quite technical job so problem-solving skills and a technical mindset is a must.


5 mins with…Gabriel Keegan, Customer Services Engineer at G3 Comms

What made you consider becoming a telecoms apprentice? I didn’t enjoy University and wanted to learn specialised skills while being paid. Also the fact that I would have a guaranteed job at the end of my apprenticeship was appealing.

How long have you been an apprentice? For around seven weeks.

What does your typical day entail? My typical work day consists of answering tickets that customers have logged, speaking to clients on the phones, repairing and installing equipment and occasionally going to site and fixing faults that can’t be done remotely. As well as being shown and taught about the systems I will be using and how to repair them.

What are the benefits of being an apprentice? The benefits of being an apprentice are being trained and taught within a working environment. So not only are you learning the skills required to do a job, you are also receiving real life experience as you are in a professional working environment on a day to day basis. You are paid for the work you do, so you are earning as well as learning, this really incentivizes you to work hard.  As you are an employee, you receive all the benefits that the company offers – for example I am eligible for private health care once I finish my six month probation period. I am also able to take part in the pension scheme. Another benefit is the Apprentice Oyster Card, as I work and live in London this is very useful.

What advice would you give to other young people considering an apprenticeship? The advice I would offer to those looking at apprenticeships is to do research in your field of interest so you can find the apprenticeship that is right for you. Remember that this is a step towards a future career, and to take it seriously as the impression you make while at work will have a lasting effect on your future prospects.

Find out more about the ITP’s Apprenticeship Scheme.


5 mins with…Rhys Howitt, Apprentice Engineer

This week we ask Rhys Howitt, Apprentice Engineer at Premier Choice Telecom, 5 questions in 5 minutes about what it’s like to be an apprentice.

What made you consider becoming a telecoms apprentice? I wanted to be a part of a constantly evolving industry.

How long have you been an apprentice? Around four months now.

What does your typical day entail? Lots of hard work and learning!

What are the benefits of being an apprentice? Learning while you’re earning is a major benefit, but also interacting with colleagues and customers helps you learn a lot.

What advice would you give to other young people considering an apprenticeship? Don’t wait around to start an apprenticeship, it’s one of the best things you will do!

Fund out more about the ITP Apprenticeship Scheme.



5 mins with…Chris West, G3 Comms

New apprentice Chris West, Customer Service Engineer from G3 Comms, tells us about his experiences so far.

What made you consider becoming a telecoms apprentice? 

I wanted to get into telecoms because I saw it as a good career path with great potential.

How long have you been an apprentice?

For around seven weeks.

What does your typical day entail?

Days vary, but during a typical day I am helping on our help desk. This consists of helping clients and customers with their queries. Along with this, I shadow a colleague doing the same so I can learn from them. Occasionally, I am on site doing installations and helping colleagues.

What are the benefits of being an apprentice?

Earning while I learn. I am getting a great education from my employer and they are offering me a good potential career path.

What advice would you give to other young people considering an apprenticeship?

My advice to young people considering an apprenticeship is to go for it. University isn’t for everybody and apprenticeships are a great way to gain qualifications, earn money and build a career.

Find out more about the ITP Apprenticeship Scheme.


5 mins with… the apprentices

George Keevill, Faults and Diagnostics Apprentice at Premier Choice Telecom, gives us the 5 minute lowdown on what it’s like to be an apprentice. 

What made you consider becoming a telecoms apprentice?

In the past, I have had a variety of entry-level jobs, but nothing I would have considered a career. It’s quite daunting for a young person to get started in a technical industry, especially one as established as telecommunications. My careers advisor knew I was interested in IT and technology, and when I heard about the position, I was very keen.

Having built a few computers myself, and used a variety of technologies and software since a young age, the role suited me greatly. It wasn’t until I did further research into the industry that I realised how reliant modern telephone equipment and services are to the internet and computers.

How long have you been an apprentice?

I have been working for Premier Choice Telecom for over three months now and am thoroughly enjoying every day. The staff are all very friendly and there is always someone willing to help me out if I get stuck with an issue or fault.

What does your typical day entail?

Most of my day is spent speaking to customers on the phone and identifying faults. More often than not, the customer isn’t tech-savvy, so I have to be able to diagnose the fault from their own observations. If the fault is beyond my skillset or requires an engineer, I then escalate it to the appropriate person.

When I am not dealing with faults, I am tasked with configuring routers for our customers, general admin tasks and training customers in the use of some of the software we supply them for their telephone solutions.

What are the benefits of being an apprentice?

The main benefits of being an apprentice involve receiving a huge amount of training and education, these go towards your personal skillset and grow you as an individual.

Being surrounded by professionals from different backgrounds gives you a huge bank of information to learn from; as well as the ability to network and gain a large amount of contacts for your industry.

And on top of all of this, you get to earn while you learn!

What advice would you give to other young people considering an apprenticeship?

I would highly recommend becoming an apprentice to any young person who is keen to kickstart their career in telecoms.  It’s a fast growing industry with deep roots in the infrastructure and business of nearly every country.

If you are considering becoming an apprentice, then go for it!

The ITP have been very friendly and supportive since I first got in contact with them. They keep in contact with my college, my work and myself and have helped me every step along the way.

Find out more about the ITP’s Apprenticeship Scheme.