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Five-minute interview: Gavin Jones, BT Wholesale

Answering the questions posed this time is Gavin Jones, channel sales director of BT Wholesale

Hi, Gavin. Tell us what you do for a living

I am Gavin Jones, the channel sales director of BT Wholesale. I lead the team, making sure we’re executing on our strategy and providing our partners and their customers with the right solutions for an all-IP future, which are all underpinned by our award-winning connectivity.

Why are you the right person for this job?

I’ve been in the channel for more than 20 years, so it’s in my DNA. I love the people, the industry and – most of all – working with partners on new opportunities and creating value to support their customers.

What gets you up in the morning?

The channel is such a vibrant industry filled with different people, passions and technology which I love to engage with every day. What’s more, my role consists of so many factors – it’s really exciting and drives me day to day.

BT is introducing innovative products and services and, alongside our partners, we’re providing connectivity to organisations across the UK and supporting an ever-growing list of business use cases. The digital revolution shows no signs of slowing and the channel has such a vital role to play in the country’s digital future.

Who helped you get to where you are today?

In the early days, I worked for a startup with just 25 people to build a fibre network in London during the 90s from scratch – which is reminiscent of what people are doing today. My colleagues had a growth mindset and were prepared to give you an opportunity if you were bold enough to address it. What’s more, there was an aura of being ambitious, challenging yourself and committing to goals that initially seem out of reach, which has led me to where I am today.

What is the best or worst business advice you have received and from whom?

The worst piece of business advice was that people exaggerate on their CV, about what they do and their accomplishments, and for a fleeting period at the beginning of my career I thought that was the best way to approach my career. Rather, the best piece of advice is to be authentic, tell the truth and have integrity.

What advice would you give to someone starting out today in IT?

If you want it, go for it. The culture is less formal in many ways than other industries, and there are several ways to start your career in IT. Whether through apprenticeships or graduate schemes, like we have at BT, hard work can take you a long way so it’s important to challenge yourself.

If you want to progress in your career, don’t treat it like standing at a bus stop and waiting for the next opportunity to come along. Proactively build your career and development plan, as success is always within touching distance.

Is it possible to get through an industry conversation without mentioning ‘digital transformation’?

Digital transformation may feel like a buzzword, but it is more than just rhetorical hot air – we’ve seen a huge acceleration in digital transformations journeys. Our research with Cisco found that 96% of channel partners in the UK say their customers are taking a more strategic approach to digital investments since the pandemic. This is because digitally capable organisations were more resilient to the effects in some cases, able to quickly switch to remote working or find new ways to market, for example.

Gavin Jones

 “If you want to progress in your career, don’t treat it like standing at a bus stop and waiting for the next opportunity to come along”

Gavin Jones, BT Wholesale

It’s therefore now impossible to engage with channel partners without considering what digital transformation means for them and their customers. That’s why we’ve introduced products to the market that support all facets. From fibre to the premises [FTTP] to boost superfast connectivity, to our partnership with Cisco and its Webex solution to enhance collaboration capabilities, we’re supporting all business needs.

What’s more, rather than just talking about the technology, the conversation needs to shift to how we collaborate to reach specific outcomes. Sometimes we get lost in discussions about digital transformation, all-IP and hybrid working, whereas we need to redirect our attention to how businesses can collaborate to be successful, regardless of what specific technology they are using.

What does the next five years hold for the channel?

The future of the channel is really exciting, as we are going to see a shift in the way vendors and partners operate alongside each other, as IT and telecoms becomes a single ubiquitous service. Providers and partners are going to need to evolve what they offer, and by doing this, they are going to be able to serve a much wider portfolio of services that customers actually need. Our partner programme is bringing us closer to our partners so we can work more closely to cater for ever-evolving requirements.

The cloud collaboration tools market also has huge growth potential and will define the channel for the next few years as businesses adapt to hybrid working models. Our research found that nearly half (49%) of channel partners believe that a new hybrid working model will prevail for customers, while 15% predict a predominantly virtual working model. There is a huge scope to deliver adaptable and flexible solutions, such as collaboration and connectivity tools, and this will only be accelerated further by the 2025 PSTN switch-off.

Tell us something most people do not know about you

I have a twin brother, so if you ever think I don’t recognise you, it’s probably him!

Have you learnt anything new – guitar, painting, etc – during the pandemic?

I bought a motorbike that did not work in order to restore it, and I learnt a lot about mechanics and problem solving on the route to eventually getting it working. I can also confess that I had to call in professional help at some points!

What goal do you have to achieve before you die? Why?

To see my two beautiful daughters sail off into the horizon with their own fantastic careers and break all the gender barriers that may have traditionally held them back in the past.

What is the best book you’ve ever read?

Never split the difference: negotiating as if your life depended on it by Chriss Voss.

And the worst film you’ve ever seen?

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial – I’ve never had the ability to watch it for longer than seven minutes.

What would be your Desert Island discs?

Beautiful morning by U2.

What temptation can you not resist?

Chocolate – I try and wean myself off it, but once I taste it, that’s it.

What was your first car and how does it compare with what you drive now?

My first car was a mini pickup. I went on a surfing holiday to Cornwall once with surfboards on the back, thinking I was very cool even though I couldn’t surf. The car I drive now is a BMW, which is without a doubt more reliable, comfortable and doesn’t have any rust.

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with?

Someone who’s totally opinionated – for instance, Piers Morgan.

If you could be any animal for a day, what would you be and why?

I would be a chameleon because I could chill out waiting for the next insect to land. Plus they can change who they are dependent on the circumstance, which is a great skill.

If you were facing awesome peril and impossible odds, which real or fictional person would you most want on your side and why?

I would choose Keanu Reeves from the Matrix, so he can take the Matrix apart and solve the problem for me.

And finally, a grizzly bear and a silverback gorilla are getting ready for a no-holds-barred rumble. Who is your money on and why?

Definitely the silverback gorilla. They have the strength, power and ability to beat a bear in three rounds of boxing.

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