Our ‘Day in the Life of’ series will focus on a new team member every month. They’ll discuss their duties, what it’s like to work here, how many teas they drink, and everything else in-between. We hope you enjoy learning more about the people behind the software – one delightful blog at a time! This time we sat down with Mike Fairbrother, Infrastructure Support Manager for 365 | Flexiroute – the well-known transport management specialists recently acquired by 365 Response. This brought together the two leading providers of Home to School Transport in the UK and a combined fifty years of experience across the Group.
If you were to ask Mike to describe his role, he’d tell you that he “oversees the support and infrastructure of Flexiroute and its systems.” This is a very small overview because we asked him for one, but we didn’t ask him to sell himself short, so we’re going to tweak this response ever so slightly:
Mike “provides strength and support to the Flexiroute team and its systems, as well as friends, family, and strangers alike, because that’s just the kind of guy he is.” Mike’s only been part of the 365 Response Group for a short time, but already he’s introduced ‘Wellbeing Wednesdays’ for the entire Group, spreading a little more kindness just because he can. We should all probably try to be a little more like Mike. If you think so too, then you can read more about what makes Mike so amazing below – enjoy!
What experiences led you to this role?
“I fell in love with software development when I was about 13 or 14 years old. My uncle worked in IT, and I would go visit him in Birmingham during the summer and help out where I could. I was young so I couldn’t do much, but I developed this huge interest in it. It was fun watching them write lines of code to create something entirely different on another screen.”
At just 14 years old, Mike sold his very first piece of software for £50. It was a maths game for a local primary school, and it would spin and present a question to a child, displaying a countdown ticking along for encouragement. His very first software win, although he seemed a little less sentimental about it…
“Looking back, it definitely wasn’t worth the money they paid for it!”
Since then, Mike’s professional background has primarily been in IT. He’s spent years dedicating time to his craft and even works as a freelance developer when he can. The only thing to come close to his love of IT was his passion for education. For 14 years, Mike split his time between 2 demanding public sector roles. He worked as an Assistant Network Manager for a secondary school in Teesside and as a fully qualified School Business Manager as well, overseeing all things IT, HR, and Finance, whilst acting as Line Manager for all support staff within the school.
“I loved working in education, but eventually I decided that I wanted to go back to IT as that’s where my heart is. My previous experiences have been integral to my work here at Flexiroute. Knowing what changes parents and service users wanted to see in their Home to School Transport for example, I’d hear it all first-hand. Not everyone understands how Local Authorities work, the resources they have or their complex needs, so my experiences have been very useful here.”
Flexiroute’s transport solutions are used across the UK, Europe, and the USA by Passenger Transport Executives, Local Authorities, Health Trusts and Community Transport organisations navigating the transport needs of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), the elderly, those who are medically unwell and people with disabilities.
As you now know, Mike and IT have a long history, which is just one of the many reasons why customers have learnt to trust that Flexiroute’s infrastructure and support is top of the line. Mike’s vast experience is necessary, as their software helps customers plan complex passenger routes, schedule their journeys, and track their fleet, all on their easy-to-use web-based platform.
“I joined the company because it felt like something different and interesting. Working on the transport management side of things was totally new for me, but I had experience of working with Local Authorities from before, and I soon realised I was still interacting with these organisations in the exact same way, by providing them with more efficient and cost-effective solutions.”
Following their recent acquisition, the Flexiroute team have been working hard to ensure a smooth transition for all. Existing Flexiroute customers continue to use their software as normal, with the same great level of customer service and support, with new and existing customers benefitting from an expanded team and greater investment in resources.
It was clear from initial discussions that 365 | Flexiroute could create lasting change within the market. When we asked Geraldine and Lawrence (Flexiroute Founders) why they agreed to join the 365 Response Group of Companies, they shared that joining 365 Response allowed them to share their knowledge and resources whilst driving further improvements for their beloved customers and staff:
“We are clearly a good fit, with a very similar ethos and we wanted to have that long-term commitment for our staff and our customers. We consider our team a family so that was of the greatest importance to us. We were keen to ensure our legacy, our customers, and our staff are well looked after as we get older. We wanted to work with people who would care about our clients as much as we do, and we found that in Brendan and Sarah.”
Flexibility for 365 | Flexiroute Customers
Mike’s role has developed significantly since he first joined the business. Initially he was offering help desk support, but quickly established his position and progressed into the role of Infrastructure Support Manager. He maintained responsibility for the helpdesk, but also began rebuilding the infrastructure of Flexiroute from the ground up. As a result, their systems are now much more flexible and efficient, and he saved the business a lot of time and money in the process!
Clunky, physical hardware was removed from the office, along with the old servers housed in data centres that were no longer running at peak performance. He introduced Microsoft Azure, the same software used by 365 Response and the 365 Transport Management System, virtualising the servers instead. With all data now stored securely and the Microsoft 365 package activated, Mike was able to help the team establish more suitable backups, better security, and peace of mind for both the team and their customers.
In 2021, Mike worked on a total of 794 support tickets covering a range of everyday queries from their customers. Tweaks, tips, updates, you get the gist. A large part of Mike’s role includes ensuring customers have a positive user experience and that their feedback is listened to and considered. Being the customer’s voice in the room and pushing forward development changes, updates or features, such as intelligent route-mapping to help produce the quickest and most cost-effective route. Dedication to the user experience is important to all of us within 365 | Flexiroute, and feedback frequently helps advise many of the features and benefits of our diverse transport management systems:
- Databases are replicated in real-time, no longer reliant on one server housed on a local PC
- Easier mobilisation processes as no on-site visits are required to install software, also eliminating individual PC issues and their associated costs
- Technical and operational support whenever you need it – the 365 | Flexiroute team are always on hand to train your team and share the tips and tricks we know will make your lives easier.
Mike Meets Life: Mental Health Advocate & Charity Founder
Mike Meets Life is one man’s desire to help, motivate and inspire others to be the best version of themselves. To beat the stigma around mental illness, to show the world that it’s okay to not be okay but that you can get better. It is one person, telling the world that nobody is alone and that there are people who can help.
Around 8 years ago Mike started a new online community and website called MikeMeetsLife, a safe space to interact with people, provide health and wellbeing resources, share messages of support and kindness, and advice on how to take care of both your mental and physical needs. It was this passion for mental health advocacy that inspired Mike to become a qualified counsellor and practitioner in 2010, helping individuals learn the skills to make positive changes to their behaviour.
“Ever since I was a kid I’ve always wanted to give back and share that love and support. Giving always results in that great feeling that you’ve contributed to something bigger. Every Christmas I wanted to be like The Giving Tree. I’d arrange foodbank donations and get the school involved each year, or I’d convince everyone to start another shoebox appeal for children in different countries. Anything charitable, I would always try to get involved.”
In addition to his mental health advocacy, Mike is also the Founder of the charity Teesside at Christmas. In 2020, Mike set up a community group on Facebook with a clear mission to raise funds and create boxes filled with gifts, pyjamas and other items of clothing and necessities for Eva’s House, a local women’s refuge in Redcar.
“I set the appeal at the end of November. I thought that if I only received 30 boxes then that’d be amazing, but it blew it up…”
Teesside at Christmas, a charity in its infancy, received 357 boxes filled with gifts, clothing and other necessities, greatly exceeding the necessary amount for the women’s refuge. Keen to spread good fortune, Mike reached out to different charities in the area to distribute the additional boxes throughout the community.
2021 showed even greater levels of success for Mike’s newly formed charity, with an astonishing 681 boxes delivered to the community!
At 365 Response, our core values remind us to “care about what you say and do” and “do something good every day.” The Fatchett’s encourage us to freely access the company’s Employee Assistance Programme and mental wellbeing resources, and they frequently highlight the joy charity work and spreading kindness can bring. That’s why we’ve pledged to continue contributing towards lasting change within our communities both in and outside of work, working with the British Heart Foundation throughout 2022 to do exactly that.
Logging Off from 365 | Flexiroute
A hero of the ages, Mike’s an accomplished software developer and IT guru who uses his free time to perform community outreach, host charity events and fundraisers, provide therapy services to friends, all whilst continuing to establish himself as a true mental health advocate. (Yeah, he makes us want to step up, too). But, with a schedule this busy and impressive we just couldn’t help but wonder… How would Mike Meet Rest?
“I try to spend as much time as I can supporting others, so even if I log off from work, I’m still logged into Mike Meets Life, planning content and resources. When I do find time to relax I might just stick some TV on. I’ve always liked true crime shows – Making a Murderer was a great one. Photography is another passion of mine, and I’m also an avid cook. I love Italian food and I make an incredible lasagne; veggie options are available.”
You can find out more about the group by keeping up with our regular ‘Day in the Life of’ series, like this one here on Mollie Bradshaw, Specialist Service Coordinator for our NHS England team.