E59 - Richard Jackson at Openreach

Seb Mendes
Richard Jackson

By Seb Mendes & Richard Jackson

In this episode, our Senior Fibre Consultant, Max Penn, is joined by Richard Jackson, the Principal of the Fibre First Strategy and Transformation at Openreach. Richard has been at Openreach for 4 years now, where he started out as the Head of the Programme Management Office, eventually making his way up through the years. Richard puts into perspective how important Fibre has been since the pandemic, with the demand now being higher than ever before.

Richard has had two parts to his career, Royal Mail and Openreach. He joined Royal Mail on a graduate scheme specifically on the logistics side in the big regional distribution centres. He ended up making his way up to Head of Operations, he saw a job in their central transformation function, where he ended up doing some exciting work on their transformation program. He got to a point where he had been at Royal Mail for 7 years and thought do I want to be there another 7 years? He couldn’t see the next step in Royal Mail so started to look for a new job. He saw a program Openreach ran called the accelerated leadership program which was a fast-track program into senior management.

While Richard has a degree in Business and Logistics, it doesn’t necessarily have much bearing on his current career. He got on a graduate scheme through Royal Mail and if he didn’t have a degree, he wouldn’t have gotten on the scheme. So, what his degree gave him really was just a foot in the door. All it shows is that you are committed enough to have done something for 3-4 years and not a lot else.

We have seen a lot of changes in the fibre space over the last decade. Richard saw a significant change during the pandemic. It brought light to our country and allowed us to operate as a nation, we rely on good connectivity to allow us to do business and develop as a country. If they didn’t have the super-fast broadband rollout that they had in the UK, they wouldn’t have been able to operate as seamlessly. People are now seeing broadband as a 4th utility, and he has seen a stat that people would rather go without gas in their homes instead of their broadband going down.

Some of the daily challenges they are facing at Openreach, and this is linking back to the pandemic, are they have had to be closer as a team even though they are further apart. This has required them to do team-building activities via Zoom and Teams and it is really just about keeping that team bond.

The UK is one of the most digitally connected countries in Europe and our commitment to digital transformation is well underway. Openreach has made it its mission to ensure that everyone benefits from fast and reliable broadband and is continuously working towards this goal. As part of this, they’ve made sure that nobody is left behind as they’re building fibre into rural locations that previously didn’t have access.

What worried him when he was entering the industry was that he wasn’t an Engineer and didn’t have an Engineering background or degree, which was one of his main concerns about joining Openreach. The answer is if you want to be an Engineer you absolutely need to have an Engineering degree. But the work he does, on the other hand, he needs to know the best person to ask whom the right Engineer is to speak to. With that being said, the biggest skill is learning to listen, there are many people who understand the technical side of the industry but if you cannot listen then you’ll never be able to learn. When you join a new company, go out with an Engineer, shadow them, and find out what it is they do. Additionally, do not accept the norm or accept the answer ‘because we’ve always done it like that’, challenge the norms, just because it’s like that now doesn’t mean it’ll be like that in 10 years.

Have you ever wondered what they do at Openreach? Richard shares with us a bit about the exciting technology they are working on, development and innovation and some of the challenges they face. Tune in now with Max Penn and Richard from Openreach.