Business

Coventry at work: Growing through uncertainty

  • 13 October 2011
  • From the section Business
Mike Walmsley

I felt the impact of the financial crisis back in 2009, well before the start of the current austerity measures, as my previous employer Ericsson ended 90 years of telephone-network development in Coventry with their withdrawal of R&D from the UK, shedding 700 highly-skilled jobs.

Closing a facility of that size and complexity inevitably took time, and it wasn't until September 2010 that I finally left. Many "outplacement" activities were started during the closure, with support from Ericsson, local government and other organisations.

Fortunately, another UK-based telecoms company, Metaswitch Networks, saw the opportunity presented by the availability of so many experienced engineers and set about recruiting a Coventry-based team to further their global growth plans.

Metaswitch, founded 30 years ago in Enfield, north London, has grown consistently to its current size of more than 600 employees based in offices around the world, turning over £82m last year. They design and build the systems that control some of the most advanced phone networks in the world.

I'm now part of a team of 16 in Metaswitch's new Coventry office, responsible for taking the products that have enabled Metaswitch to achieve a market-leading position in the US over the last 10 years and replicating that success in the rest of the world.

It's a fascinating role that can take us from the engineering intricacies of complex network protocols to finding out about the languages and cultures of our target markets.

We're based in a business centre run by the University of Warwick Science Park, which has a nice symmetry to it since the local university has been a longstanding source of graduate recruits for the company from well before the opening of the office here.

We expect to strengthen our links to the university, and we already benefit from the local presence of so many technically educated foreign students for help with some aspects of our language-adaptation work.

So far, I have to say, the changes for me over the last year have been very positive. I feel very fortunate, especially knowing that many of my former colleagues haven't been so lucky and that many in both the private and public sectors in Coventry face continued uncertainty.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by the BBC unless specifically stated.

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