Career snapshot: Build and develop your network of trusted contacts
Andrew Edison, vice president global enterprise & capital markets at Colt Technology Services, is lucky enough to have travelled the world. But the most important lesson he learned, he says, is to nurture and prioritise people in your network – wherever they are.
VanillaPlus: What was your first job?
Andrew Edison: My first job was with a not-for-profit international development company called Crown Agents as a junior buyer. The business sourced and procured a wide range of goods and services for governments around the world and I was focused on the Island of St. Helena. I’d actually been offered a job as a mainframe operator earlier in the same week in the same building for Hoskyns (now owned by Capgemini) to whom Crown Agents had outsourced their IT.
Crown Agents won me over with the promise of future international travel as senior buyers were sent on secondment to whichever region they looked after. I also valued my social life a lot back in the day and the night shifts that came with the IT role would have been an inconvenient clash with evenings out.
VanillaPlus: What led you into a career in telecoms?
Andrew Edison: It was a combination of having a bit of ‘itchy feet’ to move on from my first job, having spent two and half years with Crown Agents, and wanting to further my education. Some inspiration came from my sister who was working for BT and studying for a degree in Business Studies through the company. BT also meant I could connect with technology again I had taken computing at A-Level as well as a younger and more diverse demographic.
VanillaPlus: Without naming and shaming, tell us about your worst ever boss.
Andrew Edison: Generally, I’ve been lucky with bosses who have supported, tested, challenged, developed and trusted me. However, in the case of one manager, they created an environment where “it was all about boss”. Everything I and the team did, achieved or recommended was reflected through a prism of the boss thinking “how does this make me look?”, rather than what is best for our business, clients, team and partners. I couldn’t ever really judge what response I would get to a recommendation or request. This can lead to people feeling unvalued, not empowered and, in the end, avoiding said boss. Let’s just say, that manager set an example of the type of leader I promised myself never to become.
VanillaPlus: What has been your most memorable business travel experience?
Andrew Edison: I’ve been fortunate to travel extensively and live and work outside my home country. One trip that jumps to mind is travelling to Mexico City where our relationships with a key partner were under significant strain. We were seeking to put in place an NNI (network-to-network interface) and a comprehensive joint GTM to extend our MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) services into Latin America. Our travel and security team had also briefed us on the security risks and dangers of downtown Mexico City at that time. I was nervous, both about the meeting where I knew emotions would run high, and about the potential of being restricted to staying in the hotel for the duration of the visit.
The meeting was eventful. It was the first and only time I’ve experienced executives nearly leaping out of their seats and shouting at each other in a business meeting. Thankfully, in the end, we were able to negotiate, repair and strengthen the relationship. Afterwards, I was able to escape the security team to experience some of the local Mexican culture with our partners, safely and without concern. We quickly decompressed from the meeting’s tension and celebrated our successes!
VanillaPlus: What has been the proudest moment in your career so far?
Andrew Edison: One of the most satisfying parts of my career has always been in seeing clear results when the team and I set out to lead and drive a key technology or cost transformation. Whether it’s moving from a traditional field-based customer support model to a digital customer success model, or, as we’re doing today at Colt, transforming sales engagements from traditional, simple connectivity services to advanced solutions based on SDN, cloud, security, mobile and software-based services, the positive impact it has on our ability to support clients’ business objectives is hugely rewarding.
I’m very proud overall to have been able to work and learn in different countries and functions. Being promoted as the first European-based executive to be assigned as an expat into US Headquarters is a highlight, as the norm was for US colleagues to go on assignment outside of the US. While in the US, my team and I established a clear focus on the global business and P&L, which still continues, and gave me excellent experience for my role today.
VanillaPlus: What business/life lesson would you share with your younger self?
Andrew Edison: Take time to build and develop your network and trusted contacts, keep in touch and leverage them to help you with key decisions and choice points. It’s very easy to let it all be about work we all know workloads can quickly take over everything but it’s incredibly important to nurture and prioritise people in your network. They can prove to be great catalysts in your career further down the line. If nothing else, nowadays, I really value catch-ups over a drink, meal or quick chat on the phone; they keep me grounded, help me see what’s going on in other industries, and offer an escape from the norm.