Interview with Joyce Allan, 20 August 2021
Level: Category
Sound Archive
Level: Fonds
Level: Series
Communicating Connections
Scope and Content:
Joyce Allan [JA] interviewed by Leona Fensome [LF] about working at the Marconi Company from 1983 to 1989. Recorded remotely via Squadcast.

[00:00:58] A talks about her connection with Marconi. Used to be a primary school teacher but changed career in her mid-20s. Got a degree in Business Administration and Industrial Relations at the University of Strathclyde in 1983, just as IBNPC and desktop computing started to gain traction. Got a job as a Contracts Manager at Marconi Avionics in Basildon, helping to translate the paper systems to IBNPC.

[00:03:02] Talks about her upbringing; an only child from a working class family. Father a bricklayer and mother a fishmonger. Describes doing well in school and becoming a teacher. Started studying Geography before switching to Business. Loved the industrial relations part of the course and took an information technology course in her final year. Comments that Marconi came on the milk round and were looking for people with her skills, particularly women.

[00:07:30] Recalls her interview at Marconi. Mentions that lots of senior people were ex-forces. Describes starting at Marconi Avionics and transferring contracts management from paper onto computer. Mentions work with the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

[00:10:00] Explains that she then got a job as an Information Centre Manager at Marconi Communications in Chelmsford, which involved developing desktop computing across the company and introducing people to computers. Recalls writing an all-company guide, ‘An Introduction to Computers for New Users’. Mentions that the role was based at New Street and involved programmes like Clipper and dBase.

[00:14:42] Comments that Marconi was keen to sponsor people to develop their skills. Allowed to compete for a place on the Esso Management Development Course for women and successfully applied for a place on the Duke of Edinburgh’s Commonwealth Study Tour in 1989; did a tour of north east and north west England. Recalls Marconi feeling inclusive, with no glass ceiling.

[00:20:00] Talks about good managers at Marconi. LF asks if she was a good manager. JA comments that two of her employees followed her when she left Marconi to work at Corporate Computers in Chelmsford. Gives examples of managers and colleagues being good to work with, including when her mother passed away and she was away on holiday.

[00:24:40] Describes rolling out PCs to everyone in the company; an exciting project.

[00:25:34] Talks about her first day at Marconi Avionics [in June 1983]: recalls the large, open plan office; manager Don McCall being very inclusive; a nice place to work.

[00:29:27] Describes the accommodation she was placed in; one room and a bathroom. Subsequently got a flat in Basildon; local authority housing, which she thinks Marconi employees had priority access to.

[00:30:53] LF asks why JA felt there was no glass ceiling. JA explains that it felt like women were ‘getting somewhere’ in terms of equality in the 1980s and 1990s. Comments that she worked for herself for the final ten years of her career; last job in the Treasury. Says that it felt like there were less opportunities for women at the end of her career than at the beginning. Talks about Marconi being inclusive; mentions that there were ‘transexuals’ and disabled people working there.

[00:34:50] Outlines her progression in Marconi: from 1983 to 1985, Contracts Manager at Marconi Avionics; from 1985 to 1986, a Business Systems Analyst in another department; then Information Centre Manager at Marconi Communications. Recalls one sexist comment and standing up for herself.

[00:43:12] Talks about being a member of the Marconi Sailing Club and the social aspect of Marconi. Used to sail every Sunday up to 1996.

[00:48:14] Discusses Marconi losing work and explains that clients would pay for the development of a project, not one they already had. Mentions changes in management style, particularly within the GEC group.

[00:59:00] Recalls going on an MoD contract management course at Marconi College. Discuss courses and using dBase and RAMIS (Random Access Management Information System).

[01:04:00] LF asks for clarification and JA explains how desktops, PCs and main frames work.

[01:10:00] Talks about the Oracle Case Method and different project management styles within her line of work.

[01:13:50] LF asks about the Duke of Edinburgh course JA went on in 1989. JA describes the Duke of Edinburgh Commonwealth Study Conference, a series of lectures and events for women working in engineering. Comments on the competitiveness of the programme and that she gained confidence from it.

[01:23:00] Talks about courses she went on, including project management courses run by Prism and Plessey. Mentions an IBM Systems Centre course in 1992, when they were starting to link computers together instead of the main frames. Recalls different technology coming out, including ARPANET, Lotus Notes, and IBM.

[01:30:00] LF asks about standout moments. JA recalls a bat coming into the Chelmsford office and a time she got shingles.

[01:35:00] LF comments that JA remembers a lot of names and asks what it was about Marconi that forged those bonds. JA notes that it was a good place to work. Discuss her salary in different roles.

[01:36:55] JA describes moving to Plessey Avionics in Havant in September 1989 to take over as the BOSS project manager. Comments that she was ready for a change and that change in management pushed her to leave. Head-hunted to run the software development department at Corporate Computers after a year at Plessey.

[01:42:00] LF asks about stressful times. JA comments that running personnel could be difficult and that one of her colleagues died. Discuss the emotional side of work.

[01:45:00] Explains that she was made redundant from Corporate Computers in 1992, as they sold off the software development department. Comments that many colleagues from Marconi keep in touch. Then worked as a bursar at King George School between 1992 and 1997 before going back into computing, working as a Business Consultancy Manager for the London Borough of Lewisham from 1997 to 1999.

[01:52:04] LF asks JA about the appeal of sharing knowledge. JA comments that she likes analysing how to improve things and problem-solving.

[01:58:16] JF comments that she liked working for herself, and liked Marconi.
Dates of Creation:
20 August 2021
2 hours 1 minute 23 seconds
Creator Name:
Leona Fensome, interviewer
Archivist Note:
Custodial History:
Recorded for the Communicating Connections project, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF).
Copyright transferred to ESVA
Physical Characteristics:
1 MP3 file
Related Unit of Description:
For a transcript of this recording, see SA 13/8/18/3
Dates of Description:
6 June 2022
Not Available:
Essex Sound and Video Archive: use digital copy available on Soundcloud