E13 - Ian Tinney at 4 Data Solutions

Lewis West
Ian Tinney

By Lewis West & Ian Tinney

On this episode on The Route to Networking, Lewis West, the Head of Cyber Security at Hamilton Barnes, sits down to talk with Ian Tinney, the Chief Executive Officer at 4Data Solutions. Ian has been in the IT industry for 31 years now and has extensive experience under his belt and many stories to tell.

Ian left school when he was 16 and decided to go straight into work, at 22 he saw an advert in the paper to train to be a computer service engineer and this was the exact point where his journey started. He went on a 7-week course as a service engineer, all the while having to quit his job, get a loan out and it eventually paid off… he found his vocation from that moment onwards.

On completion of the course, he had a job waiting for him in IT and within 6 months of being there, he was promoted to senior engineer and within 2 years was promoted to tech support. Within 4 years of being on the job, he noticed that technology had moved on to the point where it wasn’t particularly a skilled job, even back then, if you opened a laptop, it had a circuit board that had everything on it, and you were diagnosing the board, battery, and the hard drive or maybe the screen. It was becoming de-skilled, and he decided he needed to get out of that area of IT.

From there he jumped from permanent to contract and re-invented himself as a datacoms expert, where he, unfortunately, was made redundant. This got his mind whirring and so he sat down with a couple of his colleagues and had several ‘long lunches’ discussing the notion to start-up their own business. Their ideas were getting grander and eventually, they came up with an idea with starting their company called Equalis Limited. Equalis ran successfully for 6 years, had 150 customers and eventually led to the company being sold. This was the moment Ian thought he went from being a ‘techy’ to a businessman.

With all this experience under his belt, leaving school at 16 and yet still coming out on top, Ian’s advice is to ensure you get the right qualifications and to try and get a degree if you can. Even though he didn’t take that route, he believes it’ll help you greatly, especially nowadays. He expresses that a degree will open more doors for somebody coming up into the industry, but also says if under any circumstances you’re unable to… then it’s not the end of the world. Some of the most successful businessmen left school without any education and yet they still made it.

After selling his company, he decided to start up another one and this is where 4Data was created. In starting 4Data, he had the mindset of “stick to what you know and know it well”. From there, he asked himself what the big things are happening right now and then from there cross-referenced that with where you they have the skills to solve the problems around those. In creating his own business, he had to take into consideration their competitors and what would set them apart from what is now an expanding and ever-growing industry. 4Data’s expertise in professional services, particularly Splunk and has been doing it longer than any other company in this country. More of a personal desire for Ian, but he ensures it reflects on the entire company, is that they help the veterans in the armed forces. They work closely with a charity called Tech Vets, where they take veterans from the armed forces and essentially look after them. Ian is extremely passionate about the fact that they often get exploited so what he wants to do is take them in, train them up, and put them onto salaries that reflect their market value which helps them retain staff. His main priority is to make sure everyone feels valued and well looked after.

With Covid taking a huge effect on businesses in general, Ian chose not to have an office, but his main challenge now is how to maintain a highly distributed workforce and keep them feeling like they work for a company. The measures he puts into place to keep the team morale alive is they have a stand-up call every day and ensure that it’s early to debrief if there are any issues or problems that need to be discussed.

One way he ensures he and his staff keep up to date on the emerging technology that seems to be expanding by the day is to keep them up to date on their training. He has bought over 100 days of training across 3 people over the last year, which speaks volumes. He also puts them into training academies like Linux Academy and gives them an annual account that allows them to have as much training as they want.

“If you don’t spend the money on training people then you are giving them a reason to leave, you’re not looking after them. You should give your staff enough experience and knowledge to be able to go and find another job but treat them well enough that they won’t want to find another job”.

Want to hear about his biggest network disaster? Something about flooding an entire datacentre… You do not want to miss this! Listen to the podcast here: