Some of the first people whose calls to Firstline IT were answered by a female voice were so startled they assumed that they had got the wrong number.
Little did they know that IT Services Administrator Rachael Farnsworth is not only a woman, but a Theology graduate who had recently left a career in academic publishing, and who is inclined to talk about coding in terms of knitting patterns. So how did she come to be working in the technical and, frankly, male-dominated world of IT support?
“I was always interested in computers, and was the first – and, to this day, the only –female President of my university’s Computing Society,” she said. “I enjoyed working in publishing, but when I got the chance to make a career change, I knew that IT was a field I wanted to explore.”
With that in mind, she googled “IT support Oxford” and sent a speculative email to First Line’s managing director, Barrie Giles. “I was amazed when he responded really quickly and asked to meet me,” she said.
“Neither he nor John Crozier (whom I also met) seemed especially concerned by my (comparative) lack of technical experience. They were much more interested in who I am and the different perspectives I would bring to the company. This just made me more excited about joining them.”
As one of the very few people in Firstlinewho has worked in a department other than IT, Rachael is able to bring real understanding and empathy to their customer service. “I know just what it’s like when, 10 minutes before an important meeting, the printer won’t work.
“You pass the problem to the help desk but you have no idea where you are in the queue or how long it will take to fix. And although you know you ought to have been better organised yourself, you can’t help jumping up and down in frustration and blaming the help desk. It’s at times like that when a quick email or phone call is very much appreciated.”
She likes just how fast-paced the work is: “There are so many calls, and it’s not just fire-fighting. I’m lucky enough to be involved with the projects team – but just because a project is longer-term doesn’t mean that we’re not working flat-out on it all the time!”
The biggest challenge she says is prioritising and making sure that her time is allocated fairly – skills she developed during her publishing days and invaluable when managing projects.“There are days when it feels as if the
whole world is asking us for support,” she said, “and that’s when you need to be able to keep a really clear head.”
The move from a large international company to a small local business was a little bit of a culture shock for Rachael, but it was short-lived. “Everyone has been so welcoming and understanding,” she said.
“I like the fact that Barrie, John and Nim were so open to my working part-time, and have
allowed me the flexibility to try out different ways of working, especially as I have a toddler. Before I joined, a friend told me that once you work for a small business you will never want to go back to a large corporate.
“Working for First Line, I’ve found that’s true in spades.”