Name: Shawn Nolan.
Job Title: Chief Technology Officer. Time with G.Network: 3.5 years.
From Special Forces Comms to London’s fibre future - an Interview with G.Network’s CTO, Shawn Nolan.
Discover Shawn’s early career in the Forces, and the challenges he’s faced and overcome building a new fibre network - and why he thinks G.Network is a top choice for military leavers.
What has your career path been? How did you come to join G.Network?
I’d had a few jobs before, but my career really started when I joined the Royal Marines. I was 18 when I signed up, and I served as a signaller for 5 years before spending my remaining 2 as a Special Forces signaller.
No matter where we were or what we were doing, as a signaller it was my job to make sure we always had that line of contact in place. I wasn’t the best physical performer, but I had the tenacity and a real passion for tech, and this helped me to keep pushing forward.
Leaving the Special Forces was a tough transition for me. In the military, you’re given a map and a compass and told to march. But when I left, I no longer had that structured framework to go back on. I suddenly needed to pick a career path to pursue.
“But if there was one thing I knew, it was telecoms, and I’d been in love with tech since my teens.”
I wanted to become an expert in my industry. So I rolled up my sleeves and started the hunt for the opportunity to make that happen.
Since leaving the military, I’ve worked with some fantastic people within some truly brilliant telecoms organisations, working in roles such as a technical architect, network administrator and security consultant.
I developed broad experience in network and telecoms applications and built upon that tenacity and fire I’d discovered within myself in the military. For the last 3.5 years, I’ve utilised my background and skills and given my all to my current position of Chief Technology Officer at G.Network.
So, what attracted you to a start-up role at G.Network?
The business I was working for was great but huge - and as such already had clear processes in place for everything they did.
Although I’d loved having that set framework in the military, at this stage in my career I’d realised I really wanted the chance to take initiative, influence and truly own a position.
So, when the CTO role at G.Network popped up, I was immediately interested.
The opportunity to influence, change and make a real impact in a company where I knew my voice would be heard was too good to pass up on. When I was offered the job, I accepted it on the spot.
Describe your current role. What’s it like?
When I joined G.Network, we were a true startup. I was a CTO with no employees - it was on me to come up with the technical solutions and deliver a technology roadmap for the organisation.
Building a new network across London is a massive challenge, but I rolled my sleeves up, and with support from our founders, quickly developed an understanding of how things should be built.
Today, we’ve hired so many brilliant people that it’s no longer my day-to-day job to be the expert.
As a result, in addition to handling technology and strategy, one of the biggest parts of my role is leadership.
“There’s more to leadership than guiding a team.”
One thing that my position at G.Network has taught me is that there’s more to leadership than guiding a team and making sure everyone’s clear on what they’re doing.
Effective leadership is about giving your experts the autonomy and motivation to deliver - it’s the only way you’ll deliver anything of quality at volume. And when you move on ideas as quickly as we do, consistency and quality are paramount.
What difference does your role make? Who does it impact?
On a high level, me and my team lead the charge on both R&D and technology strategy.
Where I have an impact on a daily basis is by understanding both the business and technical side in great detail and delivering ‘get it right first-time’ solutions. And most of the time, we succeed.
Each initiative we put forward is war-gamed and well thought out, and we go to market very quickly as a result.
Why G.Network? What makes it a great place to work?
Firstly, it’s such a new, fast-growing company relative to other service providers, and that comes with a wealth of opportunity.
We’ve got a really strong Talent team who are focused not only on hiring the best talent in the industry right now but also talent with potential that we can develop. We’re moulding the business around our people, which gives everyone who works for us a platform to get their voice heard.
“We have the opportunity. You have the potential. Let’s put them together and make it work.”
Experience isn’t everything to us - tenacity, attitude and the drive to be successful are also incredibly important.
That’s in part why we’ve created the G.Network Fibre Academy. We’re taking people who have that potential and giving them the opportunity to grow into a role and shine.
What can you expect from a career at G.Network?
At G.Network, we’ve created an environment where people are free to voice their ideas and opinions.
As a result, there’s a huge opportunity for tenacious individuals to stand up and take ownership of initiatives they put forward. If you have an idea and can put a plan to that idea, people will sit up and listen.
“We’re going to throw you in the deep end. How much do you want to stay there?”
I saw that on an old Royal Marines advert, and it’s always stuck with me. Working at G.Network is fast-paced, and the goalposts move often. However, if you’re willing to come in, work hard and take ownership of your role, we’ll give you a strong career path in return.
I’ve seen people climb up through the ranks very quickly because where others have seen problems, they’ve seen opportunity - and they’ve taken that opportunity and run with it.
What makes a career at G.Network a good choice for military leavers?
There are people from the Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy and the British Army at G.Network.
There’s a lot of synergy between us and the military. At the core, we’re an operationally led environment that keeps bureaucracy to a minimum.
‘How can we do it better? How can we do it faster?’
These are all questions we’re constantly asking ourselves and this is a mindset most military leavers will be very accustomed to.
We keep everything we do open and transparent, and that’s an environment that’s always appealed to ex-military because they can come in and crack on with a clear path for personal development.
What advice would you give to someone leaving the military?
Firstly - beware of the gap. Military to civilian life is a significant jump and that all-or-nothing career approach that you had within the military won’t be there anymore.
Civvy street is much more fluid - you have to carve out your career and take 100% ownership of your goals, your achievements and your journey because nobody else is going to do it for you.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start a career in your field?
No matter which career path you take, work harder than anyone else. Be more disciplined. Have a plan and don’t go the extra mile - go to the end and further.
If you keep that mindset of tenacity and ambition, it’ll cascade through everything you do.
It doesn’t matter if you’re splicing fibre or processing invoices, the right mindset will carry you to where you need to go. This isn’t a mindset that many have, but it’s built into you in the military and will help you have a successful and rewarding career.