“If you like DNS, it doesn’t get much better than working at Nominet”

30th April 2020

Karl Dyson

Karl Dyson
Enterprise Architect

I’ve been working at Nominet for five years now. I joined as a Senior DNS Engineer and have worked my way up to my new job of Enterprise Architect. I’ve spent my whole career on the engineering side of technology. My work as an architect basically involves designing the systems and infrastructure that tech needs to operate. As enterprise architect – rather than solutions architect or technical architect – I design the broad strategy. I take the wider view of what the infrastructure will look like and how it serves as a solution to the problem and meets the standards required, and of course meets the needs of the client.

The inspiration for working in a role like this came from my dad, who worked for British Aerospace as a senior draughtsman – he was even part of the team that worked on Concorde. As computers became more widely used, he gradually moved into computer-based technical drawing and got me into it too. At school, I enjoyed studying IT although I do remember my GCSE teacher telling me I ‘clearly didn’t understand the fundamentals of computing and would never make a career out of it’! It’s a good job I didn’t listen.

I almost enrolled on a civil engineering course after A Levels but was tempted at the last minute to take up a fully-funded place on a Electronic Engineering and Computer Technology course. It seemed to offer more variety, including on the job training with a company, and a salary. The opportunity to avoid university debt was seriously attractive, plus it all sounded interesting, so it really wasn’t a difficult decision to make. After I completed the course, my first job was as a network engineer and I’ve done similar work my whole career, working my way up over the years into more senior roles and mentoring teams of like-minded techies.

My job often feels like being paid to do a hobby, to be honest. I never wake up on a Monday morning dreading work as I really enjoy what I do. Networks have always been a fascination for me. The Domain Name System (DNS) was another thing I was pretty obsessed with. It’s like the phone book of the internet and can appear to be relatively simple on the face of it, but then you start digging into it and you realise it’s actually incredibly complex. There’s always more to learn and that’s exciting, plus it means the job is always developing.

Before Nominet I spent over a decade working for a small company that was acquired by the global company Symantec, with around 25,000 staff based all over the world. As you can imagine, there’s little sense of community in a company that size, but at Nominet – with less than 300 of us – it really feels like one big team. The whole company comes together when there’s a deadline. We share goals and work hard to achieve them because we actually want to, not because we feel we have to. And there is a sense that your contribution is valued. It feels like Nominet has an interest in me as an individual, and not just as a bod doing a job.

Nominet’s work at the heart of DNS is what compelled me to join them. There really aren’t many companies where you can have this kind of exposure to and experience running DNS and networks, unless you work for a root server or something like that. Nominet operates critical national infrastructure, running the fourth largest ccTLD registry in the world plus helping to run 80 TLDs, including the DNSSec (DNS security extension) side of things. For someone who loves DNS, Nominet was a serious technical draw and it continues to be so interesting.

The working atmosphere and general mood at Nominet make it a pretty great place to be. I’ve made some good friends over the years and there is always something interesting going on at the office, like the amazing BBQs we have (all year round!), smoothie making on the peloton bike, or random drops of chocolates on your desk from the social committee. What’s also important to me is working for a company that isn’t solely focused on the bottom line. Sure, we have to make money, but what’s great is that we’re a profit with a purpose company so much of that money is ploughed into tech for good initiatives that make a real difference to peoples’ lives. Recently, we helped the Samaritans set up a web chat and we launched a fund called #reset that has been supporting mental health charities to be more digital to improve access to their services. That stuff really matters, and it makes me proud to be playing a small part in it.

When it comes to the skills you need to do a role like mine, attention to detail and an interest in solving problems will serve you well. Of course, an interest in tech is pretty crucial, but more important is an interest in understanding how things work so you can find a way to fix them. Communication skills are key these days too. I might be explaining things to a junior engineer, the CTO or a customer and I need to adapt accordingly, figuring out how much they understand and what they need to know. It’s a skill I’ve learnt over the years to be honest, and you find your own way of doing it. Give me a pen and a whiteboard, and I can explain anything!

There are also good salaries available if you work in tech because digital is so important these days. That said, I’m sure I could earn more if I was willing to commute further afield, but then I’d lose out on the work-life balance I enjoy at Nominet and which is encouraged. The company is really understanding about families, so I can always flex my working hours if I need to pick up my daughter, which is great. The best thing for me is the experience I get at Nominet. Where else could I do this? My work helps to protect governments and supports the UK’s internet infrastructure – and therefore every single one of us that use it everyday. So, if you like DNS, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Find out if there might be a job for you at Nominet by visiting our careers page.

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