A NORTH Yorkshire woman is the force behind the broadband revolution, leading the installation of fibre broadband into two-thirds of UK premises by the end of 2014.
Liv Garfield, who lives in Harrogate, was appointed chief executive of BT Open Reach a year ago when the infrastructure provider announced its ambitious plans to step up the change to fibre broadband.
Liv, who went to Belmont Birklands School in Birstwith, near Harrogate, and then Bootham School in York, is one of BT’s youngest directors at 36, becoming chief executive of OpenReach in 2011 after championing fibre within BT.
She said: “Fibre is my absolute baby. I came up with the idea that we should do it and took it to the board.
“Now I have the responsibility for actually making it happen. It’s just brilliant to be able to take it from an idea to the physical engineering of it.”
Liv, who has worked for BT for nine years, starting off in sales, then service and most recently overseeing the group’s fibre broadband strategy as BT group director of strategy and regulatory affairs, came back from maternity leave after having her second child.
She had a new boss, Ian Livingston, who was made chief executive in 2008 after a career of high-profile appointments with the likes of Dixons, PC World and Freeserve.
Liv said: “He said go away and come back with a couple of good ideas for a transformation programme that isn’t about today or tomorrow but that’s about the future.”
Liv went back with fibre, and presented the case to the board.
“It’s a leap of faith,” she said. And she was unable to provide much information in terms of a business case, other than a strong belief.
“If we don’t do it, in four years time we will wake up regretting we didn’t and that we missed four years of the journey,” she said. “Data usage is going to keep doubling.
“It’s happening every year and if that’s true we're going to get to the point where we need fibre, and you can’t do it overnight.
“We decided we were going to do it at some stage, and we decided that if in a recession we could do it quicker and we could employ more people, then now’s the time the economy needs our help.”
The business has employed 1,000 more engineers to lay the fibre, including many former service personnel, and has since increased its ambitions from 40 per cent of the UK by 2016, to two-thirds of UK premises by the end of 2014.
What job would you like to have other than your own and why?
Manager of Everton Football Club. My grandad was groundsman at Goodison Park and we went to all the home matches.
My two boys – Iestyn, aged two, and Arthur, four.
Once I bought a sports car before I found out I was pregnant. I couldn’t get into it.
What makes you most angry?
I don’t like people who are late. I’m very timely. Or people who faff, I’m quite decisive.
What do you need to make life complete?
Everton to win the FA cup.
Why do you make a difference?
At home I’m very warm and loving and make a difference with the kids, and job-wise, I’m going to fibre the UK. That will be an absolute life changer for this country.
She did what she promised and she cheered everyone up along the way.