John’s journey to CCDE.

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Written by Will Stone
Will Stone
Will Stone

The Gekko team is made up of talented and skilled people – all focused on delivering great customer service and innovation for our clients. We caught up with John Donlon, co-founder, Gekko Director and a leading network architect to learn about his journey.

John’s journey to being a leading network architect didn’t start the traditional way. A Bolton-fan (for his sins), John studied Geology at The University of Manchester where he actually spent a lot of time running club nights and DJing. When the late nights and age caught up with him, he realised he needed to develop a career which was going to have fulfilment and longevity. After attending an IT course run by Microsoft he realised that IT and computing was something he had real passion for. John served his time working up through various roles with Balfour Beatty – starting in Desktop Support before heading out as a Field Support Manager. It was there that he discovered an interest (and some may say talent) for networks.


His real test came when he joined The Accident Group, made famous by sacking all its 2,400 staff by text message in 2003. As John says, “I was really chucked in at the deep end when I joined The Accident Group. But I learnt a great deal and it was my first real exposure to CISCO. I realised that networks touch every part of a business. They’re often just seen as ‘the plumbing of the business’ – unseen but necessary.

After the shock of instant unemployment, John worked as an IT contractor across a number of companies including Littlewoods and BT. At BT he learnt a great deal from some highly skilled colleagues. With an organisation as large as BT, there were some significant projects and he began to get more involved with Data Centre design. These were early cloud designs. John explains:

“BT was a well drilled organisation and I guess you could call it my second apprenticeship as I was exposed to good processes and discipline. It was definitely a good grounding.”

As with many IT organisations, the 2008 crash created ripples across BT as many roles were outsourced. Out of work, John realised he need to update his certifications but with a lot of people out of work it was a difficult time. He eventually found a role at Barclays and then found a full-time role at the Co-operative Bank in charge of the main networks. He comments: “I was there at the ‘crest of a wave’ in some respects. The Co-op had just merged with Brittania Building Society and I was involved in the migration and implementation of a new banking platform. With his certifications updated he began to look at network design in more detail – taking courses and paying for his own training. It was at this point he knew he had to achieve the prestigious CCDE – a coveted qualification from CISCO.  Taking holiday John headed off to Chicago where over a gruelling 5 days he studied hard before taking an eight hour practical exam. He was only one of two who passed the course. CCDE status is held in high regard with approximately 200 people qualified worldwide.


Back at the Co-op, he started to apply his newly gained skills and designed a brand new network which would have been the backbone for Project Verdi – the planned merger of the Co-op with Lloyds Bank. Due to huge infrastructure (circa £500m) costs the project was abandoned.

It was during this time that John met Kristian. They both discussed how they envisaged a business to be and with Phil Griffiths brought on board, Gekko was born. John adds: “Our vision was to bring the professional skills and knowledge of enterprise to the SMB sector. We want to become a trusted advisor and help with the skills gap that SMBs can have due to size of business.”

John adds that Gekko is pragmatic and platform/tech agnostic in many ways:

“We don’t get distracted by hype of the new but focus on the best option for our clients. We see ourselves as a business analyst rather than just the ‘IT Guy’.

The future is looking good. We’re working on some exciting projects and our vision is being recognised by those we work and partner with. With strong results expected this year, we’re all excited by the future for Gekko.”

Would you like to have a chat with John to explore the different options that could benefit your organisation? Get in touch today using the form below:

Thanks for reading and to find out more about the range of skills Gekko has to offer visit this link.

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About Will Stone

Will StoneWill Stone is a brand communications specialist. With a journalism background, including spells as a managing editor for a global trade magazine, he works with entrepreneurial companies looking to share their success stories. Following his graduation in journalism with history, he worked in PR agencies, in-house in the public sector and until recently was Head of Communications for global forestry business UPM. He specialises in brand creation and content marketing.

2 thoughts on “John’s journey to CCDE

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