Heidi Chegwidden is Auxilion’s Service Operations Centre Team Lead, based in the Sheffield office. She has worked with Auxilion in a variety of roles since 2019. She told us about her experiences with the company so far, the culture in the Sheffield office, and her ambitions for the future.
What was Heidi’s background before joining Auxilion?
“When I was finishing up at school, doing my A Levels, my teachers were pushing me to do triple science and double maths, but academia isn’t for me. I thought to myself, ‘what do I do every day, what do I enjoy. Well, I spend a lot of time on computers.’ So I decided to go to college and study computers. It was strange, on my first day we had to build a computer, and I was the only one who’d never built one before! So I really started at the bottom of the pile but worked my way through and excelled through college.”
“Then the choice was, do I want to do an apprenticeship or do I want a degree. We weighed up the options, I already had a Level 3 qualification through college, which is what an apprenticeship would have been, so university seemed like the best option. So I went to the University of Wolverhampton to study Computer Systems Engineering. As part of that, I did a placement year.”
This gave Heidi some valuable practical experience.
“I worked with a Level 1 service desk, but we did projects and fixes and when I was on placement, they got me to have a look at Level 2 stuff. They sent me out to sites to physically change hardware and servers, which was quite interesting at that point because I’d never seen a server before that. When they send you over with a hard drive and you’re in the server room going ‘what am I pulling out and how does it get out of here?’, it’s challenging. But it was very enjoyable because it was hands on learning, actually physically doing it, and that was invaluable. At university, you get all the knowledge behind it, but it’s amazing to really put it into practice in that way.”
Heidi finished her degree with a 2.1 and began looking for work.
“I’m sure everyone is aware, when you’re just out of university it’s not the easiest thing to just get a job in IT. So I did a little time away from IT while looking for a job, working in a café, because you still need money! That was when I decided to move away from my hometown to Southampton. Being a city, there were more opportunities there.
"I managed to get a job with Southampton City Council where I started at the bottom on the service desk. It was very different from what I’d done before. I was doing the basic requests for people, starter/leaver stuff, but also with people calling up asking can you fix this in five, ten minutes. I was there a few years and got to the stage where I was my team leader’s second in command. If she wasn’t there, I’d take over because I’d been there the longest, I knew what was going on.”
A move to Sheffield led Heidi to join Auxilion in 2019.
“In 2019 I moved to Sheffield for personal reasons. I applied to a range of jobs all over Sheffield. The best fit for me from those was pretty clearly Auxilion. The job they were advertising was similar in some ways to what I’d been doing, so I thought it would be a good transition. After my training, my options were to shadow someone or just to get on with it. I decided to get on with it, thinking I’d learn fastest that way. I was on the Service Desk for six months and we decided it was time for me to make the jump to the next stage.
"I moved on to RMM Shift, at Level 2. It was a pretty big jump because on service desk you deal generally with end-user issues and desktop machines, whereas shift is looking at server-side and monitoring of systems that all our customers use. It was a new challenge and I threw myself into it. I was on shift for about six months, learning fast, getting daily checks out, getting positive feedback from customers. Then we gained a new customer, now one of our biggest customers.”
This new acquisition gave Heidi a great opportunity.
“We needed a new team and they wanted someone for that team with a lot of experience. I was made Team Lead and one other person from our service desk joined me initially. I did a lot of research on what the customer’s environment was like, what we were going to be supporting, developing a lot of knowledge articles so that I could waterfall it down. The L1 engineer who joined the team became an L2 and I was able to pass on the knowledge I’d developed so that we could work together to build extensive knowledge of the client on the go."
A Growing Team
“There was such a high volume of tickets, more than we’d envisioned, so we ended up getting another person to join the team to help us with the monitoring side of it. I’d waterfall information down to the person who’d started first, who’d do the same for the newer team member. So if one person was off we wouldn’t be stuck because no one knew something. Eventually, we got a fourth person on board because the workload was so high. So there were four of us working together. One of the really nice things about the team was that although it had started out with me having information and passing it down, we ultimately started a daily ticket help meeting. Although we had that structure, everyone would help each other in a really collaborative and supportive way. We all helped each other, and we really gelled as a team and got a lot of work done.”
The nature of the team was particularly beneficial during lockdown.
“Through the lockdown we were one of the few teams in Sheffield to come in every day, during the periods when that was allowed. It was relatively new information we were working with, and we had to collaborate continuously, so we found it easier to be in the same room and shout out as and when we needed to.”
A New Opportunity
After working in this role for a year, another opportunity came up with a different client.
“They wanted a Level 2 resource to help them out with their ticket volume. Mark Charmant [Auxilion’s IT Services Competency Lead] was consulting with them about implementing ITIL there. We originally thought I was going to get the information and pass it on to the rest of the L2 teams and we could rotate, but we ultimately changed that to having me as the Incident Manager, Change Manager and Major Incident Manager on a consistent basis. That was because I had knowledge in certain areas where the client was lacking. It suited them better to have me working on the stuff that they had a more limited or less specialist knowledge of and for me to teach them how to do it.
“That’s actually the kind of direction I’d like to go in in IT anyway. I love fixing things, but I don’t necessarily see my career following that kind of technical path. I get much more satisfaction out of helping other people reach their potential with this stuff than just going, ‘yeah I fixed it.’ Currently I’m working with the Consultancy team within Auxilion and a lot of that is focused on helping customers reach their full potential.”
How has Heidi found the culture at Auxilion?
“Here in Sheffield, we’re a very close-knit team. Everyone gets on with each other. We don’t just go to work and go home, we have a laugh and a joke with each other. We have our monthly outings, which are kind of team building without forcing team building. We do it quite naturally. Within the Sports & Social committee, I’ve helped set up a few different groups. We have a Dungeons & Dragons group which meets on Monday that we started during lockdown. A lot of people obviously weren’t seeing much of other people outside of work. We were already in the office together, so it didn’t break lockdown rules as we were together all day anyway. It’s been a really nice way for that group of people who play to get to know each other better on a more personal level. I do think that also helps our work. You understand people’s strengths and weaknesses in different areas and the soft skills that are involved in that.”
These kinds of social activities have continued.
“After lockdown, we did a Warhammer tournament. I didn’t take part, but I helped set it up. There were a lot of people in the office with an interest in Warhammer, so we set something up and did a mini tournament. It got people on different teams talking to each other who might not have otherwise, which helps that inter-team relationship, getting people working together without really even thinking about it.”
Highlights So Far
What have been the highlights of Heidi’s career with Auxilion so far?
“When I brought on that new client that I mentioned, with all the work I put in, bringing everyone together, pooling all that knowledge, I got Key Contributor of the Year in 2020. It was really nice to feel like I was a person rather than just a number like you get in some companies. My work was recognised and celebrated, which meant a lot. Winning anything feels good, but out of a whole company, your work being recognised is really positive.
“The 25th Anniversary party in Dublin was a great night as well! It was a good party. Until then I hadn’t actually been to Ireland since I was ten. With the company that I’m working with, we decided to coincide a site visit with them. So I got to meet them as well, people who I work with every day but hadn’t met in person. It’s the nice thing about some of the social events- I got to meet people I’ve spoken to for years but hadn’t met before. It’s the same when senior management come over here, they know you, they say hi to you by name. At other companies I’ve worked in, it’s not like that. When Philip [Maguire, Auxilion CEO] comes to Sheffield, he knows everyone, talks to everyone. It makes a real difference.”
How does Heidi see her future progressing with Auxilion?
“I see myself going one of two ways. The work I do as a Team Lead for our service desk and Level 2s, I really enjoy giving people that help and that push that they need to go further themselves. The Service Desk Manager role I think would be a kind of natural progression on the Team Lead side. I feel that I know how the service desk works, I’ve been there and done it. That gives me a very good overview of managing it because you understand it. You understand the people on that team because you’ve been there.
“I’m also really enjoying the Major Incident Management and Change Management with the client I’m consulting with at the moment. I feel that with all the help and support that I’ve had with what I’m currently doing, it’s got me to a stage where I can do that kind of work and it's a really interesting area. We’re implementing work for the client from nothing, I’m giving my knowledge of the practical to them and it’s all going smoothly, people are picking it up. So that would feel natural transitioning in that direction.
“I’m currently studying a Master’s-level apprenticeship which Auxilion are helping me go through on Business & Technology. So that’s looking at the technical side but also how you build a business up. And that’s been very interesting in talking to senior stakeholders within the company to find how they believe certain things currently work and how they should work in the future. It’s giving me a very good overview of Auxilion as a whole and how everything is going to come together and how we’re going to continue progressing as a company. I think this high-level overview of everything within Auxilion is also going to help me catch things that we can do better, because no one’s perfect. I’d like to get to that place where I can help to shape the future of the company that has helped me get to where I am.”