Recalling the days when offices has just one phone and one computer

UK Power Networks employee Pam Brown celebrating 40 years in the electricity industry with Nirmal Ko

UK Power Networks employee Pam Brown celebrating 40 years in the electricity industry with Nirmal Kotecha, Director of Capital Programme & Procurement for UK Power Networks - Credit: Archant

Electricity worker recounts the technological revolution she has witnessed over four decades working for the same company

A vintage landline phone.

A vintage landline phone. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

In a world in which the average person changes jobs ten to fifteen times during their career, Pam Brown is something of a rarity.

She has managed to stay loyal to the same company, UK Power Networks, for the last 40 years.

The 56 year-old from Hadleigh first joined what was then Eastern Electricity in July 1978, a week after leaving school, in an accounts role.

Over the last 40 years, the UK has undergone a massive technological transformation.

It wasn’t until 1975 that the first microcomputer was introduced into the UK’s business sector.

Three years later, when Mrs Brown began her career with the firm in Ipswich, Ms Brown recalls their Honeywell reel to reel computer system, in which billing information from punch cards was loaded. “The computer system had its own air conditioned room, as it needed to run overnight to complete the task,” she said.

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“My first role was to hand-write forms to generate invoices and I remember we used to get them back in gold bags once they had been checked.

“I also recall getting exactly 54 minutes for lunch!”

At that time, as well as their one computer, which must have seemed very high tech at the time, there was also only one external phone, which was kept on the manager’s desk. “You had to get permission to use it,” she recalled. “I then worked in the Pensions team updating all the records into decimal currency.

“After that I switched from Russell Road to Wherstead Park, where my roles included co-ordinating apprentice and technical training.”

During the Great Storm of 1987, when thousands of trees in Suffolk were decimated, Ms Brown was busy helping to answer customers’ calls - “like everyone else.” “I remember a bank in Clacton calling to say they were off-supply. I called a local engineer who told me to advise about the wood pole which supported their power line and then was lying flat in a field!”

Mrs Brown remembers the gradual introduction of more of the technology that is commonplace today.

“I remember my first mobile phone was a ‘brick on a stick’, and so much technology came in that is taken for granted now.

“I also remember one Christmas Day I had to abandon my family lunch to man the phones during a severe storm.”

During the time Mrs Brown has worked there, the electricity company has changed owners several times; initially, Eastern Electricity managed the electricity cables and lines in East Anglia, then in 1998 it became TXU Energy, which together with London Electricity merged in 1999 to form 24seven Utility Services, which in 2003 rebranded to become EDF Energy Networks. That was until 2010, when they were acquired by the CK Group and renamed UK Power Networks.

In recent years, Mrs Brown has moved to work with the Procurement team in Bury St Edmunds, which is involved in the buying of goods and services for the company.

She believes the reason she has stayed at the firm for so long is that she was able to keep on her toes by switching roles regularly.

“This has given me a lot of variety in my work, and I’ve never looked outside for something else. I’m always keen to learn new things and take great pride in working for the company that keeps the lights on.”

UK Power Networks, which delivers electricity to eight million homes and businesses across East Anglia, London and the South East, invites staff who have given 40 years of continuous service to join a special 40+ Club.

There are currently more than 400 employees in the 40+ Club, and the company was named as a top 30 Best Big Companies to Work in the latest Sunday Times list earlier this year.

Basil Scarsella, chief executive of UK Power Networks, said: “It’s incredibly important to recognise and celebrate the dedication and expertise of our employees, especially those who have served our customers and communities for a long time. As an employer of choice we are always looking for ways to improve and I think some of the best ideas often come from our most experienced staff.”