When Robbie Fletcher joined Datacom as a network engineer five years ago, he was initially intimidated by the size of the company.

“I worked for a small business in Auckland, managing everything from servers to networks and printers,” he says.

He made the leap because he wanted to work on big projects and specialise in his favoured area of IT — the networking infrastructure that is so crucial to keeping information flowing in New Zealand businesses, big or small.

“To specialise like that, you need to be in a company that has a lot of enterprise clients."

As Australasia’s largest homegrown tech company, with a large network services business, Robbie was in the perfect place to pursue his passion.

“What I found early on was that, although Datacom is a big place, each business unit has a very strong and supportive team culture. Everyone knows each other and is willing to share their knowledge and lend a hand."

Learning on the job

In his previous roles, Robbie picked up some valuable qualifications including becoming a Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP). But initially, he had business in mind, rather than networking, when studying commerce at the University of Auckland.

His pivot into networking following that intensive year of study came after deep reflection on where his real interests lay.

While IT and networking, in particular, turned out to be Robbie’s sweet spot, his commerce studies have proven invaluable.

“It really helped me to understand the perspectives of a business and what the priorities are.

“Even if you are sure you want a career in IT, gaining a broad understanding of the fundamentals of business will serve you well.”

Robbie was immediately in his element when he joined Datacom to maintain the networks for one of the country’s biggest companies. He soon became a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) — a highly sought-after accreditation.

"It's one of the hardest Cisco exams there is. But the great thing is that you have engineers at Datacom who already have those skills who you can go to for advice."

Multiple career paths

Today, as a senior network engineer, Robbie sets up and maintains network infrastructure linking company sites and data centres, and the links to public cloud providers. He has also pursued his interest in network security.

"We manage large parts of our customers' networking environments. With such a large variety of roles in networking, some engineers focus on wireless and authentication while others focus on firewalls, public key infrastructure (PKI), and even data centre routing and switching. This means engineers can expand their knowledge and learn all different technologies that you don't necessarily get at smaller customers or providers."

Much of his work, he jokes, is about keeping the lights on and making sure networks function without interruption. But there are also intensive periods of work required when customers seek to make big network changes.

“In the first week of the first COVID-19 nationwide lockdown in New Zealand, I must have worked 100 hours. We set up five virtual private networks (VPNs) for customers moving to remote working."

Robbie’s seven years as a volunteer in the Coastguard New Zealand rescuing stranded boaties on the Hauraki Gulf honed his skills for troubleshooting complex problems and dealing with high-pressure situations.

He now aims to apply his extensive network management experience to project work, helping design solutions and network architecture.

“Increasingly, customers have more complex networking needs. They are asking for a single view on all of their connectivity between sites to the cloud and across computing environments. That’s the future of networking and Datacom is delivering it.”

Datacom is hiring for a range of roles. To find out how you can make the most of a career in technology with Datacom, see our latest roles.

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