A day in the life: Mark Lyes, Account Manager

How did you become an apprentice at Focus 21? What else did you consider doing at the time? Why AV?

At sixteen years old I had my heart set on being an Electrician, and was looking at apprenticeship opportunities with companies who could sponsor me to take the necessary course at Kingston College. Of all places, I heard from my Nan’s neighbour, who worked for Focus 21, that they regularly take on young people. He gave me a man called Nigel Warrilow’s number and I promptly gave him a call – not knowing he was the Financial Director at the time! We chatted for a bit before he invited me in for an interview. The rest, as they say, is history. 

How did your career progress from there?

I spent three and a half years as an AV apprentice, spending four days working at Focus 21 and one day at college. Most of my apprenticeship was spent building AV systems at head office, learning the trade and occasionally working on-site at installations. 

After gaining a wealth of knowledge and experience in the AV sector I decided to stay with Focus 21 once my studies were finished. From there I trained to become an AV installation engineer, specialising in installing equipment throughout the UK, including LFDs, projectors, mounts and everything in between.

After that I became a Service Engineer and spent the next three and a half years working my way up the ranks and responding to service call outs to client sites all across Europe. 

My next role, which I still hold, was that of Account Manager. Here I focus on key accounts in the financial, law and professional service sectors and draw on my experience and skills gained throughout my career to provide advice, system designs and AV, IPTV and video conferencing solutions on design and build projects throughout Europe.

What particular skills did you develop? What qualifications did you gain?

Alongside my apprenticeship I passed my InfoComms CTS qualification, which provided me with a thorough understanding of the industry and Focus 21’s place within it. It was a vital part of my education in AV that really helped my career progression. 

As a Service Engineer I also took several courses with our manufacturing partners, getting invaluable hands on experience with them and their various technologies, and building lasting relationships along the way.

You've done every type of job in the business - how does that help you now?

Having spent over a decade learning about manufacturer’s technologies, the AV industry as a whole, and working on the front line with clients, I’ve gathered tonnes of knowledge on the entire client installation process, from start to finish. This made the move to Account Manager a natural progression for me, allowing me to draw on my years of experience to work across the whole client project. 

What's your favourite thing about working at Focus 21?

Total comradery with everyone who works in the company – I’ve been around so long now I feel like part of the furniture!  It really does feel like a home from home. 

Your favourite project to be involved with so far?

My favourite project to date has to be our installation with London Stock Exchange. The whole project – the supply and integration of Scala servers and 508 Christies Microtiles – took place over eight weeks, from start to finish. 

Despite the small time frame we managed a successful installation within four weeks – just in time to be opened by George Osborne, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time. There’s nothing like a bit of pressure to spur you into action! 

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently working on something exciting with a new client using AV over IP encoders and decoders. It’s a cutting edge project for a US-based financial company looking to open a London office as part of their global expansion. Watch this space!

What would be your advice to an apprentice starting out today?

Make sure you know what you want to achieve in your role; if you don’t have a clear-cut goal you can never measure how far you’ve come.