Simon Wray is a Bristol-based field engineer for Glide, who are supporting key workers at the Nightingale Hospitals

What is your role in maintaining the network and supporting customers during COVID-19?

As a field engineer, I install hardware and ensure the configurations are correct. This means it’s my job to make sure everything works on the ground and that our customers stay connected. I’ve also been responsible for working on the Wi-Fi at a site in Bristol where keyworkers are using student accommodation and I’ve been really proud to be part of this support.

Has your role changed since the lockdown? If so, how?

Yes, it has a little – in terms of the amount of contact we have with people. Now, we have to do a risk assessment on every site to make sure that it is safe to enter the premises. One of the biggest changes is having to use PPE as it can make things quite tricky - working with small components with gloves on is not easy!

Why do you think it is important that you continue to work during COVID-19?

Now more than ever people are reliant on the connection that broadband brings – they are less isolated as they can talk to family and friends through a whole range of different apps like FaceTime, Skype, Zoom. This means that there needs to be engineers available to make sure people don’t lose this connection. Obviously, people are also relying on broadband to work from home which means it’s important for the country’s economy that we keep things ticking over.

As more people use our network in different ways while working from home or entertaining themselves in lockdown, it’s important that there are engineers available to provide our excellent service. Luckily, we’ve been investing a lot in our core network capacity so we’re confident our network can cope with any increase in traffic.

What do you find most difficult about working during the lockdown?

Wearing PPE is really difficult as face masks indoors means things can get very hot. Also, trying to repair modules in rubber gloves is quite challenging! Although it’s hard not to have that face-to-face contact with people that we’re used to, in some ways it’s a good thing as one of the big fears is encountering people. Luckily, most of the sites I’ve been on have been completely empty, so I’ve felt pretty safe (the supermarket feels more dangerous!), but it’s still quite strange. Plus, there’s always a little bit of fear going on, no matter what. Glide have been really proactive in making sure we feel comfortable going on site by giving us the authority to perform risk assessments and keeping in regular contact to make sure we feel supported out on the field.

Can you tell us about your proudest moment while working during the lockdown?

A few weeks ago, I was sent to do a survey on a building site. I was scared as there were loads of people everywhere and it was difficult to feel safe. But I’m proud that I did it and faced down the fear – and put others first. A lot of our sites have a number of international students living there, and a strong internet connection is their only link to the outside world. Without it, they’re stuck without friends or family – and, in some cases, groceries. So, for me, it’s really important that we keep these people online.

Has the response you receive from the public changed since the lockdown?

Not really, especially since I’m not really seeing anyone. Any people I do come in contact with (from a safe distance!) are just really grateful we’ve come to help.