20 years at Amsys – the inside story

To continue the theme started by my colleague Darren who celebrated his 10th year at Amsys. I thought I’d double it and blog about my 20 years at Amsys!
Yes, earlier on this year (in May) I celebrated spending 2 whole decades working for Amsys – spreading the Apple love.
For those that may be interested in my story, which is obviously a long one, I’ll attempt to condense it into just the highlights.

Way back in May 1995

My story starts way back in May 1995, before the words ‘Google it’, ‘blog’, ‘Tweet’, ‘Facebook Timeline’ or ‘tagging’ were a daily event. It was the summer before I’d was meant to take my place at Kings College University of London to study ‘Toxicology and Immunology’. (I had watched so many crime shows that I wanted to be a forensic scientist!).
My mum had suggested I look for a summer job to earn some cash. Even though I already had a part time job at a local bowling alley, it wasn’t really a motivational job, nor paid very well.
So, in exactly the same way that Darren joined the Amsys team, I noticed an advert in the local newspaper advertising for a Junior Computer Engineer role at a local computer maintenance company.
Back then in the early ’90s, Amsys was a specialist computer maintenance company. Not just an Apple specialist, but supporting every manufacture of computers and peripheral you could possibly connect to any PC.
Therefore, with my A level in Computer Science and A Levels in Biology and Chemistry, computing was my other interest – so I applied for the job.
My first interview was with the workshop manager. I was just a young 19 year old – who had never worn a suit and tie before, and it was clearly too big for me! I was totally terrified.
Convinced I had no chance with my nervousness and the awful stuttering of my answers, I was amazed that I somehow got the call that I had a second interview.
For the second interview, Rodney, the MD and owner interviewed me. He was a very intimidating business man, (I now have very high respect for him and no longer find him terrifying, but back then he really did scare me). Rodney grilled me about why I wanted the job and where I thought my life was going. I had no idea what to say, I was 19! I lived at home with mummy and just didn’t know what I wanted to do. Somehow, I saved myself. He read my CV, which mentioned that I played a lot of sports – with a keen interest in football.
As luck would have it, my love for my local football team, Crystal Palace saved me, since Rodney supported the same team as did all his family! The interview overran while we discussed the memorable 1990 FA Cup final of which Palace were robbed in the replay.

My First Day

On my first day, I reported to the workshop manager who allocated me the task of assessing and fixing some Apple LaserWriter II printers they had for repair. He mentored me through the workings and troubleshooting procedures of the printer, directing me through the service manual so I received some training from day one. Straight into it, no rest for a first day!
I don’t have many memories of my first couple of weeks. Apart from one, falling asleep on a paper tray and then having a massive indent on my right cheek for the rest of the day where I had collapsed my head on the paper feeder!
During that first year, I worked in the workshop, learning how to repair all sorts of computer related items. Whether it was a Mac or PC, all makes of printers, scanners, external hard drives, floppy drives (yes those old things), tape drives (yes those old things too), Jaz drive and zip drives. You name it, and I had to work on it.
From 1996 to 1998, I moved on to be a field engineer. Driving a Bedford Rascal van and then a company Peugeot 106 around the Greater London area, repairing anything and everything computer related. Visiting companies and homes and repairing their computer devices whether that be Apple or other makes of computer:
amsys russell badge

What an absolutely awful photo – I’m glad I quickly lost my teenage chubbiness!

In the late ’90s, Amsys became one of the very few computer maintenance companies that could fully service Apple products. Therefore, I started to become one of the Mac specialist engineers. Off I went to get Apple certified and achieved my first Apple hardware certifications, which I still keep up to date to this day.
apple certified service engineer
At the time, Apple had introduced their Power Macintosh range – which was popular in publishing companies. Consequently, I was busy navigating around London’s one way systems – heading to all the major newspaper and magazine publishing companies to assess and fix their Macs. Apple’s laser and inkjet printers and line of PowerBook portables were also getting really popular.
During the late ’90s, Apple started to refurbish returned and defective Macs. I joined a small team of Apple techs that worked in an Apple warehouse – testing and repairing machines ready for re-sale as refurb stock – which we worked 12-hour shifts – around the clock. I headed the 10 pm until 10 am night shift team working through the night reworking Apple products for resale. It was long hours and hard work, but also great fun and a good learning experience.

Apple Executive Relations Manager

It was also mandatory that every junior engineer did a stint in the call control area, answering the phones to customers and logging the calls. I seemed to be the only engineer who didn’t do this badly so that they wouldn’t have to do it for long. I was then promoted to be the Apple Executive Relations manager for Amsys in 1998 and ran a dedicated Amsys team of engineers working directly with Apple Service UK to repair Macs for Apple VIP customers. Whether that be large, important companies, the government or celebrities.
I won’t do that thing people do where they roll off all the celebrities they’ve mixed with and met, but over the next 2 years I did get the opportunity to speak over the phone and even attend onsite to repair the Apple products of some rather big names. We also managed and maintained all Apple’s loan stock devices for the UK during this time. Repairing, configuring, testing and cleaning them and delivering them to any Apple VIP in the UK.
In 1999, I became the overall workshop manager for Amsys. I stayed in-house and managed the engineers, call control and logistics departments. By then, we had ditched other models of computers so we could focus on the repair and support of Apple devices only. It made my role as workshop manager much easier to just deal with one manufacturer.

Amsys = Apple Authorised AppleCare repair centre

In 2000, I had the opportunity to travel Australia with a friend of mine for 3 months. Somehow I got lucky again as the boss allowed me to take the time off work to go. On the condition that I came back and didn’t leave! I spent the early part of 2000 in OZ, travelling around the east coast making lots of friends and having the best experience of my life.
I returned to Amsys to discover that in my absence, big changes had happened: Amsys had signed a contract with Apple to become an Apple Authorised AppleCare repair centre. Which meant anyone who purchased the Apple extended AppleCare warranty could take advantage of a nationwide repair and collection service for their Apple Product.
Consequently, it was pretty busy when I stepped back into my workshop management role. With an extra truckload of Macs a day being delivered into the workshop from anywhere in the UK. Oh, and not to mention the large support contracts we had with our existing customers also requiring their Macs to be looked after.
After another 3 years running the service department and being a training mentor for new engineers, I started to realise that I had learnt all I could about Mac service and wanted a new challenge.
Back then, Amsys didn’t have the recruitment, sales, service desk, training and consultancy departments that we have now. So engineering was really the only employment option.
I plucked up the courage to have a private chat with the boss to see what my options were. As luck would have it, in 2002, Amsys started to deliver a few bespoke training courses to Apple Service centres in the UK and this training was about to become an official Apple certified training department. I had the choice to either move on, or give certified training a go.

Becoming an Apple Certified Trainer

As I had spent the last couple of years delivering internal training to Amsys engineers and found that I quite enjoyed planning, writing and delivering training, I thought I would give it a go!
In 2004, I became a full-time Amsys Trainer. I worked my way through Apple’s hardware and OS certifications and became a fully Apple Certified hardware and software trainer:

By the time I had collected all my certifications, I had realised that I really enjoyed this role. Learning new things all the time, researching, testing, writing course content and delivering the courses.
Then in 2013 I received the ultimate reward from Apple and became one of their Apple Certified Master Trainers:
Today – Amsys is Europe’s largest Apple Authorised Training Centre. Over the last 10 years, I have worked alongside Amsys and Apple delivering Apple hardware, OS X, iOS and Mac App training. I have travelled to many companies across the UK and Ireland, plus some bonus trips into Europe to deliver training abroad.
Darren already mentioned in his blog the infamous company Christmas parties, but I cannot talk about my time at Amsys without also mentioning the fantastic Summer Camps in the South of France and Portugal.

Present day

I am still actively creating and delivering training courses for Amsys and Apple and continue to look at new technologies to learn and master. Who knows what the future will bring? Technology changes on a daily basis, so there’s always new opportunities and things to learn.
There you have it. That’s my story.
There are so many people I have worked with at Amsys, Apple and other companies over my last 20 years, who have made my journey so special and helped me on my way. I have made many very good friends. Some that are still to this day my closest friends and are like family to me.
On a professional note – there are a few people who I must mention by name.
Firstly, the 3 MDs that Amsys have had during my time here. Who have guided me and pushed me to better myself: Rodney Cox, Richard Williams and Alex Hawes.
Our current IT Director Richard Mallion has been a constant mentor in progressing my technical and training abilities.
And lastly to Peter Argyle. Another long-serving Apple tech who took me through my very first Apple training course almost 20 years ago and steered me onto the Apple service path. Then later helped Richard mentor me as an Apple Certified Trainer.
I could list many more people, but this blog is already way longer than I had anticipated when I started. I hope all those that I have worked for and with over this time know how grateful I am for their support and the opportunities they have given me.