IT manager reveals thrilling double life at heart of UK’s COVID response

In a career double-act worthy of Clark Kent, a Liverpool IT manager has unveiled his unknown role at the heart of the UK’s COVID response.

By day, mild-mannered Andy Tang, from Croxteth, is Digital Technology Maintenance Delivery Lead for water company United Utilities. But when he’s not at work, he’s an Army major.

And he recently got back to his desk after helping lead one of the UK’s greatest peacetime logistical challenges – the mammoth distribution of PPE and COVID-testing at the height of the pandemic.

Andy, 42, an Army reservist, working in the 156 Regiment Royal Logistics Corps in Liverpool, was about to start a 12-month career break to help the global coalition in the Middle East when COVID-19 changed all his plans.

The tour was indefinitely delayed but he soon found his civvy street project management skills in high demand.

“My first task was to organise army volunteer support for the two big PPE distribution points in Merseyside. This was a huge logistical exercise built from scratch to massively increase output. There were constant requests from the NHS across the country and in just three weeks the regiment shipped 150 million items of PPE, not just face masks, but also gloves, aprons and other equipment.

“After that I was drafted into support COVID mobile testing as Chief of Staff for COVID Support Force 9 covering the East of England. We deployed testing teams to wherever public health teams needed it and at the peak I was overseeing 500 plus soldiers, reservists and RAF personnel.

“It was an amazing thing to be part of and I’m really proud of what we achieved. While I was in that role, Leicester went into a local lockdown and we sent a surge team in. It was really challenging and rewarding.”

Now that Andy’s back at his desk job, he’s grateful for the support he received from United Utilities, which holds an MOD Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) Gold Award for the support it gives military personnel and veterans.

Engineer Rich Waggitt, a former Wing Commander who runs United Utilities’ Armed Forces Network for former and serving military personnel, said the firm valued their skills and actively recruited them.
“There are lots of transferable skills which we find really useful. Military personnel tend to have good discipline, they prepare and they follow things through. We help people who are settling back into working life from a military role by helping them through the recruitment process and fast-tracking them. United Utilities signed the Military Covenant in 2013 and we are in the process of re-accreditation for our Gold Award for employee recognition,” he said.

Other support the company gives serving staff includes paid time off for military exercises and training.

For Andy, being a reservist and an employee helps him in both roles. He has carried out tours in Iraq, Bosnia and Iran while working for the water firm as an IT expert.

“I am lucky that United Utilities is very, very forces friendly, but I think the relationship goes both ways and one role enhances the other. The leadership and working under pressure that I learn in the Army benefits my work at United Utilities. The management skills and project management technical skills I learn at work benefits my Army work. They’re mutually supportive.

“It’s all about personal growth. I can see that in myself. When I first joined the Army at 21, I was a shrinking violet. I never spoke up or changed the status quo. I’ve developed this in the Army and have definitely grown in confidence and it’s a tremendous source of personal pride in being able to give something back to the community and society where I live,” he said.