Day in the life of a broadband tech
6:30am Bradley Abrahams is already awake, eating his toast and mentally preparing for the day ahead. It’s going to be another busy one, making sure homes and businesses across New Zealand are connected with high speed fibre, without any hiccups.
As a Field Manager, Bradley plays a vital role, making sure his installation teams go to the right premises, on time and with the correct equipment.
Typically, around 600 homes and businesses are connected with broadband each day. During the alert level 4 lockdown, and with only essential connections permitted, that number fell. But since Level 3, the number has been steadily increasing as restrictions ease and Kiwis appreciate the value of having a fast and reliable broadband connection.
“At Level 2 and 3, it’s been business as usual,” explains Bradley, who’ll be monitoring 20 two-man installation teams today. “Customers are very happy to see us, and they’re confident we’re following the Government safety guidelines. Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as safe hygiene and distancing practices are central to how we are working.”
8:15am Namra Shah is a lead installation technician on Auckland’s North Shore, and along with his secondary technician, he’s waiting in his van outside a property.
“We’re usually told which jobs we have two days before,” Namra explains, “and we do our best to begin work at a time that suits the customer, such as 9:15am on school days.”
Namra, who was born in India and has lived here for 5 years, undertook a number of installations at Level 4, which involved wearing PPE and keeping a safe distance from customers. Namra is continuing to follow these government guidelines at Level 3.
9:30am Now in his office, Bradley scans the day’s installations. The system shows that all his teams have started. “For each job there are 4 stages which our technicians tick-off online as they go – from arriving on site to finishing the job.”
From when a customer requests broadband to Chorus activating the connection, Bradley estimates that around 10 people are involved in the process. “There’s a lot of communication and moving parts, so we have an online project management tool to ensure each step is successfully completed. If on the day there is an unforeseen issue, our Rearrangement Team can usually fast-track a new connection slot within 48 hours.”
11:30am Namra has almost finished his morning job and it’s gone smoothly. He finds the internal work in Auckland houses easy because layouts are similar. It’s different to his experience of working in Christchurch, where the earthquake has resulted in many different house designs and cabling configurations.
On the question of unforeseen obstacles, Namra has a surprising revelation: “A few times we’ve arrived at a property and the wife has been totally unaware her husband has ordered fibre. So to help smooth the situation, we suggest the husband pop back from work so we can sort things out!”
12:30pm While Namra enjoys a home-made curry he’s made the night before, Bradley is working with his Despatch Team to arrange installations for the coming week.
“We call the customers and set a convenient install date with them. Then, the day before, our technicians will call to reassure customers they are complying with all Ministry of Health requirements and will use good hygiene practices while on site. The health and safety of our technicians is also paramount, so they will ask the customer if they have been overseas in the last 14 days or have any flu-like symptoms.”
3pm Bradley checks the system and he can see his teams are making good progress on their afternoon installs. Another technician, Owen Mandisodza, is working on a job in Henderson. During Level 4, Owen was tasked with connecting homes where children needed connections for their home schooling.
“The greatest challenge for me has been working in a mask,” Owen says with a smile. “When you’re digging outside, you get pretty hot with all the huffing and puffing. Working with the new gloves also takes a bit of getting used to.”
Owen has been supplied with around 20 sets of PPE and 5 litres of soap, and there are plenty more supplies at HQ. “Jobs aren’t taking any longer, it’s just the additional time of getting in and out of our PPE. The main thing is we’re doing everything we can to keep our customers and ourselves safe.”
5pm The day is coming to a close. Bradley and his despatch team have done their best to give their technicians afternoon jobs which are close to their homes. Namra is looking forward to the day when restrictions are relaxed.
“Meeting and chatting with customers is one of the best parts of the job. If they offer us tea or coffee, I say ‘no’ because it creates work for them - but on a hot day, it’s hard to resist a cold can of fizzy drink! It will be good to get back to days like these.”
8pm Dinner eaten it’s still all about the broadband in the evening for Namra, Owen and Bradley. But this time it’s for relaxing - Skyping family, online training and finishing a series on Netflix!