One of Radley’s longest serving staff members, IT Systems Manager Jon Buzzard started here in 1981 when he joined the Physics department. We asked Jon to take us back 40 years, to the start of his career.

I decided to stay on at school for the Sixth Form because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, other than knowing I wanted a career in science or engineering. The Head of Sixth Form told me about a job vacancy for a Physics Technician at Radley College. I was interviewed by Richard de Silva, who was Head of Physics and David Hardy, who was Head of Science at the time. I wore a suit for the one and only time in my life and I later heard from David Hardy that part of the reason I was offered the job was because of my smart appearance, so it was worth it!

I started here in 1981 as a Physics Technician working with Len Herbert. In 1986 he died of a sudden heart attack, so I then took over as Head Physics Technician. I made a lot of the equipment for the department, and I was quite surprised when I went in there recently to see that they were still using the equipment I made, including electronic circuits, the ‘monkey and hunter gun’ and gas tubes. Len was an ex-engineer so he taught me a lot.

When did you make the move into the brave new world of IT and computers?
In 1986 the College had just started using computers – there were five computers here when I joined in 1981, but no one knew how to use them! We installed a BBC ‘B’ network. It was unusual back then for schools to network computers together and I was involved in the project and then began fixing computer hardware, picking it up as I went along. I moved full-time from Physics to Computing in 1989. I was a one-man IT department back then, installing and networking the hardware and fixing issues. The College sponsored me to do an Open University degree in Information Technology and Computing in the early 90s – it took me eight years to complete, studying around working full time.

When did IT start to branch out further into the College?
Some teaching of coding had begun in about 1989 and one of the boys produced all the hardware and wrote the code for our Bulletin Board system which worked like Teletext and was available in all the main buildings, but not the Socials.

What have you particularly enjoyed over the years?
I loved my role as Physics Technician, especially making things – I’m a practical person, so outside work I’ve built an extension to my house, as well as motorbikes and trikes.

And which aspects are you most proud of?
As a department we have installed CCTV, built our server rooms and installed access control for all the College buildings – over the years we have done most of the design of systems and networking ourselves, meaning we could tailor things to the specific needs of the College. I’m proud to say that, for the most part, our systems have been very reliable!

What’s been your biggest challenge?
The change of e-mail system to Office 365 in 2014 was a huge challenge but had a successful outcome. The project took a year to plan and six months to deliver.

How did the Covid-19 pandemic affect your department?
We’d been trying to get buy-in for Teams for two years before Covid, so the implications were a huge bonus.

What’s changed over the years?
As a department we’re always learning and moving forwards, which we all enjoy. I love problem solving and I hope that as a team we are able to advise staff and boys, and help them to help themselves as much as they can. We are lucky to be one of the few operational departments that interacts with all the other departments and all members of staff and boys through IT inductions, Helpdesk and managing different department’s IT needs.

How would you describe working at Radley College?
I have a great team around me and we get on really well. We all get stuck in and we work well together. I love the people and the place. I don’t mind working long hours and being on-call most of the time, but I love getting to pursue other hobbies during the holidays.