Female telecoms engineer to retire after 50 years of connecting people

Alison Houston, 68, joined Openreach as an operator when she was just 17.

Female telecoms engineer to retire after 50 years of connecting people PA Media

The longest-serving Scottish engineer for a telecoms giant is dialling off after 50 years of service.

Alison Houston, who works for Openreach, is to retire on Tuesday, making her the network’s female engineer with the longest total service in the UK.

She is also the only person in the company’s Scottish team of 3,400 to have served five decades with the employer.

Ms Houston, 68, of Kinning Park, Glasgow, began working for the company in`1974 when it was known as the General Post Office (GPO). The company later became known as BT.

Then aged 17, she followed her night operator dad into the business.

She worked in a number of roles as an operator, but later became a telecoms engineer more than 20 years ago.

Reflecting on the last 50 years, Ms Houston said communications have changed beyond recognition form when she began working in the industry.

She said: “When I started out, there were places in the UK you could not dial direct, like the Scottish islands.

“You had to dial 100 for the operator, and I would answer and then contact the operator up north to connect your call.

“Nowadays it’s all changed and you can call the world. My old granny and grandpa were amazed with a cordless phone, never mind a mobile!

“If they could see where we are now they’d think it can’t be real, it’s space age stuff.

“I remember when nobody had even heard of broadband – and a lot of people still don’t realise we connect everything from traffic lights to the lottery machine in your corner shop”.

She added: “In clerical work, nine out of 10 were females, whereas in the engineering side, maybe only one out of 10 are females.

“But I’ve personally found male colleagues are more than willing to help you out or offer advice.

“I’d say to any girl thinking of a career in engineering, if it’s what you want to do, go for it.

“I’ve been thoroughly happy being an engineer and climbing ladders and what have you.

“Ultimately it’s all about getting the customer connected up to whatever service they want. I run the wiring and suddenly they’re connected to the world”.

Ms Houston says she will miss her engineering colleagues, but is looking forward to retirement.

Jenni Macfarlane, Openreach Scotland’s service delivery director, said: “Alison is our longest-serving Scottish employee, a trailblazing female engineer and a stalwart of the GPO, BT and Openreach over the past 50 years. It’s a truly remarkable achievement.

“Her career journey from operator to engineer is inspirational and she’s made a huge contribution to the company and the people and communities she’s served.

“We wish her the long and happy retirement she has more than earned”.

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