In this special blog series, we’ll be interviewing some of the people behind the scenes who’ve made Abtran’s 21 years of service possible. In this issue, Abtran’s Chief IT Architect and one of our longest serving employees, Paul McCarthy, tells his story.
It’s December 2000 and I’ve been recruited as Abtran’s first IT Manager. The Contact Centre is based in Hanover house, South Main Street in Cork. The team is spread across six pods of 3 or 18 desks in total. It’s a small operation but growing quickly.
At the time, our technology consisted of a phone system and two other servers.
Interestingly, we were multilingual back then with French, German and Italian speakers on the team. We had a number of clients across the Utilities, Government, Media and FMCG sectors including a technology company providing software to sync palm pilots.
As Abtran’s IT Manager, part of my role was to manage facilities and to fit out new office space. In 2001, the team expanded to another building on Washington Street. Back in 2001, the contact centre industry was really only beginning to grow in Ireland and this served as a catalyst for technology innovation through the years to come. Looking back, this was a period a huge learning for me where I had the opportunity to work with some of our great Technology Partners.
By 2002, our clients had expanded and the Abtran team moved out from South Main Street, Cork City to Building 4 at the University Technology Park, (UTC) in Curraheen. I remember the building being a shell and having to do everything to lay out the new office space while preparing the kit, lines and software for set-up.
By the middle of 2003, our first software developer joined the team and he went on to build a number of bespoke and innovative CRM applications for many of our clients. It was about this time that we also started processing credit card payments, which was quite advanced in the Contact Centre industry at the time. As the IT team grew, we hired a Manager to run the growing Desktop support function.
From 2004 to 2007, Abtran grew quickly onboarding new clients across the Utilities and Financial Services space. A rapid growth in outbound activity led to the introduction of our first dialer technology. By 2009, the Abtran team had grown to over 500 Customer Service Advisors, while still winning significant new business.
For IT, this increase in new set ups and ramp up activity led to the rapid expansion of our team, particularly in areas like software development, desktop support, project management and specialised infrastructure expertise for telephony, servers and networks.
2009 saw other major technology investments like upgrades in our Contact Centre and virtualization technology through to the implementation and hosting of Filenet, giving us the ability to scan and store high volumes of documents in a safe and secure way. This was a significant technology investment and gave Abtran the ability to manage the full front to back office process.
Between 2011 to 2013, Abtran continued to win a number of BPO contracts with large government clients. This was a period of putting structures in place and making our processes more standardized.
When a project to roll out Abtran’s first Employee Development Programme, EDP came about, I put up my hand to join the team. For the next 6 months, I got the opportunity to work with people from lots of different departments across Abtran and to gain new experience outside my core area.
The onboarding of a new government client in 2014 saw Abtran deliver our first end-to-end technology project from application design to telephony to secure back office scanning, processing and storage of data in our new 66,000 sq. foot state of the art facility in Mahon, Cork. A new CTO had brought about a big step change to how the IT and Technology teams were structured, putting in place more standardized processes and controls which allowed us to perform better and to engage more fully across every aspect of the business.
By 2015, Abtran had scaled to over 2,000 people with four business sites in Cork and Dublin. However, this didn’t hamper out ability to try new things. In fact, it was around this time that we developed Abtran Halo, which is the capability to wrap our technology stack around a client’s own system and give them secure access to our cloud as well as Abtran applications and data reporting capability.
In 2016 the surge in digital and customer data led to a series of global ransom ware attacks. Abtran stepped up our security investment while putting in place even more rigorously controlled procedures including a company programme to educate all staff.
Looking back over the past 17 years, it’s true to say that I grew up with Abtran. Every milestone along the way has deepened my experience and I’ve had the privilege of making life-long friends along the way.
Today Abtran continues to be a flexible and forward thinking organisation and the diversity and range of roles and expertise is growing continuously.
The best advice I could give to anyone new or joining the company, is to believe in yourself and that’s it’s OK not to know everything. While Abtran has grown and changed in many ways, there is now even more opportunity to learn and develop new skills. In many ways, the opportunity to learn and try new things at Abtran, starts and stops with you.