Morning gorgeous ❤️💛💚💙💜 xx
How are you all today? Doing well I hope? Staying safe, looking after your loved ones, adjusting to a new reality? Good. Live your life to the best of your ability and be the best person you can be – “Always put your best foot forward”, as mum used to say.
Moving on from that, welcome to another post from the archives of Vikki Kinsella. Today, we’re going back even further in time. To a time long before my Transition, and to a time when I hadn’t even considered moving away from home. A time when, in my head, I believed that I had put the majority of my problems behind me…
We’re back in 2004. A year that, as I recall, was very difficult. A year full of paranoia. And a year of great, negative, changes in my life. In truth, a year I would rather avoid having to live through again.
There were a few shining moments across the course of the year though. I received a lot of help in dealing with my childhood trauma and first began to use the word “Rape” to describe it – that’s what happened, and so shall it be known. I was also given the opportunity to help others through a charitable organisation. We created a teaching room where they could offer training courses in computer technology, allowing them to expand their reach within the community. It was, almost, a first of its kind in the area…
It’s not that, that I would like to concentrate on though. As, toward the end of the year, I would return to the workplace after a few years out. It was at this point, that I would work towards something which, ultimately, would change the lives of everyone in the UK. Although what I did, and the ideas I created are still largely unrecognised for their worth even today.
Hence I write this. This story needs to be told; whatever the effects it may convey beyond it’s reach…
It starts in October 2004, when I was contacted by a recruiter; offering me a position within a new department that a local communications provider was setting up. The aim was to expand their customer base and offer cheaper telecommunications services to the mass market. In order to do that, they needed to bring onboard people with the necessary technical skill-set & customer knowledge. They wanted computer engineers who they could turn into customer engineers. They were entering the broadband marketplace. And they did, in earnest, in November 2004…
It turned out that I was the oldest and most experienced of those engineers. I was in my early thirties, with the rest of the external applicants being younger than me. Of the 30-strong team that started the department, only I had all the necessary skills and experience that the role demanded. I was the all-rounder, the backbone of the problem solvers, the final piece of the puzzle; so to speak.
I don’t profess to being an expert in any of the required areas of expertise. I wasn’t. But I was knowledgeable and had all the transferable skills to become an expert in customer broadband very quickly. And so I did. I became the expert who could solve the problems no one else could. Especially when I came to supporting those cases outside of the “norm” – The norm being Windows XP, while I concentrated on MacOS, Linux and what-have-you.
I’d have probably faired better had I transferred to the business side of things, rather than consumer. But that was not going to happen. The managers of the department could not afford to lose me, my manager in particular had a very… Interesting attitude towards me. Looking back I was his commodity, to be used whenever he needed a lift; but kept away from any actual progress. I was kept under a thumb and only allowed to progress when it suited him. This would eventually lead to my demise, and subsequent exit from the business two years later.
But that’s for later. During my meteoric, yet controlled (no thanks to him) rise within the department. I was responsible for a number of developments that would assist the company as a whole; but burn me out and destroy my faith in corporate mentality going forward. The burnout, as we now know, was Autistic burnout. My mental health was never taken care of and I clearly remember working at least one 14-hour shift. And taking several customer calls that lasted over two hours. Average call handling times of less than four minutes were commonplace, along with call queues hitting treble figures on a number of occasions.
To give the company credit, they did not know the marketplace they were entering. And prior research into customer needs didn’t exist – We were pioneers, the first company to offer these services on a mass-market scale. No one knew if what we were doing was even possible outside of the incumbent telecommunications provider. But the law makers wanted a competitive industry and after the idea that I came up with while there; and what they did with it, that’s what they got. In spades…
So now you’re asking what was the idea, what did I do? And why is it so important? Easy, listen…
I came from a corporate background, working on corporate networks. Connecting them to the Internet, assisting users how to access the Internet and building confidence in Internet technology at a user level. Without realising it, my background made me an expert in broadband technology at the time. With a lot of that knowledge still being appropriate today, with only the underlying technology developing in a way which I had envisioned – Fibre Broadband? Corporate networks had that in the 90’s!
So, a point of note. If you’re running a pioneering broadband company and advertising their services across the UK, you need to have that broadband in your home? Correct? Absolutely. And if that broadband goes down during a storm (as our chief execs did in 2005), you’d expect them to be able to fix it, right? In our case, wrong.
In fact, there was only one person in the entire broadband department that had the knowledge to fix it. And he was pushing hard for the company to support alternative operating systems and being hit by brick walls – No one realised at that the time that the boss’s home computers were Apple and the company was dedicated to only supporting Windows…
Guess who’s desk the problem landed on? Yep, yours truly. Guess who had the idea that would propel the company into a market leader? Yep, yours truly. Guess who no one was listening to (they thought he was crazy)? Yep, yours truly. Guess what happened next?…
So we had the conversation. While diagnosing a line fault (telecommunications poles had come down in the storm, the incumbent took their time fixing it despite my pushing hard – Autism does not rock all the time). I told the boss my idea, to create a large scale corporate network as a back bone, then to provide a direct outlet to the consumer via the recently established LLU (Local Loop Unbundling) technology. This would create a corporate network of sufficient size and technology to offer, once established, broadband services extremely cheaply. Possibly even for free!
It came with a warning though. And that was NOT to use the word ‘Free’ as a marketing strategy, until a sufficient number of subscribers were on board and the system could sustain itself.
Straight forward, you might think? I thought so. And so did he. It was a productive conversation. But then… Nothing.
Not so much as a kiss my backside!
I expected it. I was, in fact, used to it. I’d worked for many companies by then and I was well versed in corporate life, so to speak.
What happened next though, would; over time, change everyone’s lives here in the UK, forever. And destroy me completely – I came to close to taking my own life on several occasions before transition. Because of the events that followed…
Not long after that, the company began investing in Internet Service Providers. Buying them up and integrating their network into its own.
I wrote the original macintosh manual that eventually appeared on the CD, accompanying the company’s massive broadband sales push that happened in 2006. My name on my birth certificate is permanently attached to it. As is my home phone number at that time (a screenshot is there for all posterity – roughly page nine, 01925 810928). Are you starting to sense an issue here?
You’d be correct. As I was never consulted any further on the idea. Even though suggestion boxes suddenly appeared around the company, requesting ideas on how broadband could be developed. And then, on April 11th, 2006, the company launched an initiative that would, ultimately, fail. But the reasons why it failed have never been told. Until now.
You see, the Free Broadband initiative that the launched. Was, ultimately, my idea. And when they published my Apple Macintosh connection manual on that CD, that was the proof I needed. They should have consulted me and given me the opportunity to rewrite it, removing my home phone number (it was a TL;DR, to be fair and I am Autistic – I digress though). But they didn’t. And to this day, I still wonder why. I’ll never know what happened
There is proof that this happened, though. I do not possess a copy of that CD – TalkTalk’s “Free Broadband” initiative from April 11th, 2006 – But someone does. And on that CD is my manual, containing my home phone number. And they don’t have corporate intellectual property rights over that! Do they?
I can prove who I am, and what I did. My question to them is, can they? If not, and I don’t believe they can, then they owe me a debt. And I think it’s about time it was repaid…
Vikki Kinsella xx