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August 2014

This Time Tomorrow

This time tomorrow I’ll be at my work desk.  In November, I reach twenty-five years of service with BT.  However, tomorrow is a bigger day than that anniversary, since I return to work after a year’s sick leave.  We’ll come back to that …

Telecommunications has developed rapidly in those 25 years.  BT was privatised in 1984, with the market opened up to competition in 1991.  Telephone billing innovations included Friends & Family and so on.  Mobile phones, then smartphones, emerged.  The World Wide Web was invented in 1989, the year I joined BT.  Increasing consumer demand has driven massive innovation, resulting in wide Broadband access and new services such as Video-On-Demand.   TV down your phone line.

Change continues to accelerate – for example, compare last year with this year.

  • In 2013, the UK had 3.9 million super-fast Broadband connections, today 6.1 million.
  • Last year, 320 thousand people had a 4G connection for their mobile phone, this year it’s 19 times that at 6 million.
  • In 2013, people were online an average of 31 hours each month.  Now it’s 37 hours.
  • And, in the past year, the percentage of people owning a Smartphone rose from 51% to 61%.

Like it or not, these technologies have become pervasive in people's lives.

I joined BT in 1989 as a software engineer.  My first job was to test an early telephone banking system which used basic voice recognition.  Subsequent roles included design of network management and data cleanse solutions before moving into team lead, then project management roles.

Most recently I led a transformation programme to renew some of BT’s technology.  One component – a Business-to-Business gateway that manages BT’s trading with 450 companies – was due for replacement.  After some systems' issues in October 2010, and an all-nighter managing recovery, BBC Radio 4 News led with a story of UK Broadband problems.

A renewed focus on resilience of key systems triggered our work on transformation of this B2B gateway to a multi-site resilient platform completed last spring, just before I went off sick.  There have been no related critical outages in the 18 months since we delivered this solution.

Yesterday, one year ago, after a summer of becoming ill, I was admitted to the City Hospital in a critical condition.  The lymphoma of 2008 had relapsed, tumours were obstructing my digestive system, blood counts were awry, I was having hallucinations due to pain and sleeplessness.  We will always be grateful to Melanie for her timely visit on that difficult day.

Doctors told me I would be off work for a year – I couldn’t get my head around that.  After treatment and months in a hospital bed, I was finally discharged in January. 

Recuperation took three months as I gained independence in getting washed, dressed and moving about.  Driving the car for the first time in February was a big deal.

The following months of convalescence have included walking, physiotherapy, good food with friends and road trips to enjoy one-to-one time with Ruth and our sons Downey & Chris.   The doctors were right about a year off – I have learned to listen to what the experienced experts know.

There have also been times of feeling tired and lost. 

BT have been good to me, with colleagues going the second mile in terms of support.

In hospital, Ruth and I experienced people ‘showing up’ – visits, meals, texts, cards, a prayer blanket from the ladies of Connect!  Similarly, we have tried to show up for others - visiting Stafford to be with Ruth’s sister Janet through her treatment.

I believe I have experienced God ‘showing up’ in times of need.  There will be an article in November’s Methodist Newsletter about these experiences – Newsletter subscriptions available from Gordon and Eleanor!

With recuperation and convalescence behind, my rehabilitation starts.  There’s an outstanding query from a recent scan – but I feel well and a three month phased return starts tomorrow.

Colleagues may think it’s the same old Tim returning.  But it’s not.  I have a clearer sense of what matters to me.

I’ve been given a manageable task for my re-entry to work.  For the first time in BT’s Belfast IT function, we are taking on Apprentices.  Four Apprentices will join us in Belfast – I will work with various stakeholders to drive a rolling development plan, so this new initiative is a success for all concerned. 

Finally, looking ahead, I see 3 challenges in my work, starting tomorrow – my concentration, my energy level and showing up for others when I can

  1. Like many workplaces, the BT environment is intense. 
    I need to focus, concentrate and get through the work, despite any health uncertainties.  In terms of my energy level, as Ruth says, a certain amount is up to me.
  2. So I will work at self-care: diet, physio, exercise, comedy shows, enough sleep & pacing myself. 
    More than before, I know that I need regular times of quiet and retreat to sustain my ability to perform under pressure at work.
  3. Showing up for others.  I appreciate more clearly the importance of support where it is needed.  While work must be about getting the job done on time … there is no law against ‘the most excellent way’.  The Message translation of I Corinthians is so relevant to how we choose to show up in family, work, church and community life.     Any- and every-where.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

“This Time Tomorrow” encourages us to reflect on how what we do on Sundays relates to the rest of the week.  In the past year, often with low energy or motivation, my prayers – when they happen – have been short.  I’ll finish with a straightforward prayer, which we can all use, as we anticipate the week ahead…

Lord Jesus,

I give you my hands to do your work,

I give you my feet to go your way,

I give you my eyes to see as you see,

I give you my tongue to speak your words,

I give you my mind that you may think in me.

Amen … so be it, Lord.