All the best for your retirement, Mike

Last week we said goodbye to IT Director and Telecoms MD Mike McMinn after an incredible 34 years of service.

Back in 1984, tech wizard Mike joined Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries as an IT Manager. With just three teammates sharing one computer, little did he know then how much things would change over the next 30 years. We caught up with Mike, who’s twice been named in the CIO Top 100, on his last day. Grab a cuppa’ and have a read to hear more about his most memorable moments and his plans for retirement.

ON THE EARLY YEARS

Mike: “I was looking for a job closer to home. I started on 6 April 1984 – it’s funny, I can remember because it was the start of the new tax year…a complete coincidence! I never thought I’d be here 30 years later though.

“In those days, we worked from one computer and everything else was done manually. Then we got a new type of computer and connected a PC to it. We’d introduced our first company-wide network!”

ON BREAKING THE MOULD

“Someone once told me that the best way to be rebellious is inside the system, not outside of it. That’s always stuck with me! I’m definitely one for trying things before anyone else.

“Originally, we were told we couldn’t put any computer cabling down in the office buildings. But I knew it was the right thing to do, so I went against the grain and did it anyway. I nearly got away with it, until the Finance Director at the time walked into the boardroom to find someone’s legs dangling down from the ceiling tiles! It definitely paid off in the end though.”

ON IT CHALLENGES

“When it comes to new tech developments, there’s always a conflict between what’s seen as an unnecessary cost and what’s seen as an investment.

“I remember my very first presentation to the Board. I was sat outside and was pretty terrified. When I went in, they asked me to justify IT’s existence. I asked them if they’d still ask me that question if I called my team and told them to shut everything down. It went silent – and then we moved on!

“We often faced challenges because our ideas were revolutionary, but people just couldn’t see it yet. I remember doing a presentation about the benefits of laptops. I said that eventually no one would need a permanent desk of their own and was laughed out of the room. But just look at our agile offices now! I knew the internet wasn’t just a fad and how much it would change our lives.

“The hours were pretty tough too. Sometimes I was doing 17-hour days, seven days per week. I’ve always said that the simpler IT becomes on the surface, the more complex it is for us as an IT team working behind the scenes. All the components have to fit together seamlessly.”

ON HIS GREATEST ACHIEVEMENTS

“I look back and see it all as my greatest achievement. At Marston’s, we’ve created an IT infrastructure that other people would die for! Over the last 12 months, we’ve run two ethical hack sessions and no one’s got in! It takes a huge amount of skill and I’m definitely most proud of my team.

“Working really closely with Microsoft has to be a highlight, too. They see us as being really special and I’m incredibly proud every time I see our logo up on the big screen at their worldwide events. Winning a Microsoft innovation award for the use of CRM is definitely up there. And I’ll never forget when I spoke at the Microsoft conference in Tampa. Apparently I gained lots of new fans because of my British humour. Andy Warhol said that everyone has their five minutes of fame – and this was mine!”

ON HIS ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT

“Marston’s Telecoms launched in 2008. I wanted to improve the relationship we had with landlords and offer them as much as we could so they really felt part of Marston’s.

“The idea came about when I was speaking to one of our tenants and they said that they didn’t even have a connection to the internet. So I asked them if they’d be interested if we offered this at Marston’s. We didn’t use internet in pubs then, but I knew it was coming.

“After the financial crisis, I knew we could save money if we took control of our own telecoms. Plus, if we owned the network, we could also measure things like how long customers were spending in our pubs. It was such a success that we started to sell outside of our pubs, too.

“We’re completely unique in our ownership of telecoms and it’s delivered huge savings to the business!”

ON RETIREMENT

“I’m going to take retirements as it comes. I want to travel and my goal is to do the East Cost of America, right down to Virginia. I’ve also recently started playing the guitar again. I’m really enjoying it, but I’d say that I’m the only person who knows what song I’m playing at the moment!”

WHAT HIS TEAMS HAD TO SAY

Paul Hume, Head of Technology Development: “Mike has an incredible ability to identify new tech years before others – I feel like Mike lives three years ahead of the rest of us! If I can do this half as well as Mike, I’ll be very happy.”

Tony Ford, Telecoms Operations Director: “I feel very privileged to have had Mike as an inspirational friend and mentor. I will miss the many deep and visionary tech discussions that we’ve had over the years, particularly those that would go completely off topic and then appear as a service or product out in the market some time later! We intend to continue to make him proud as we take the business he started to the next step and grow it into the business he always believed it would be.”

 

Mike, you’ll be hugely missed! On behalf of everyone here at Marston’s, thank you for everything you’ve done over the last 34 years. We all wish you the very best in your retirement! 🙂

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