Work Experience Account (Pt. 1) - Kybernet

 7 min read

 September 19, 2022

I've had the pleasure of doing work experience at 3 distinct companies in the past year - all in the field of technology/engineering. They were awesome week-long events, and I learned so much and had tonnes of fun at all of them. This series of posts will give an overview of what I did at each company, as well as some key information and takeaways from my time.

As my documenting improved over time, and I remember the most recent experiences better, the amount of stuff I write about each placement will vary. But I'd easily recommend all 3 as epic places to go to!

But today, we're talking about Kybernet.

Who on Earth Are They?

First off, their eBay store is comically large. 44k orders and a 100% positive customer rating. I'm pretty sure they make most of their money off eBay! Anyway, Kybernet is a local tech store in King's Lynn, who mainly focus on repairing all sorts of broken gadgets. They also build computers and buy used laptops to sell the parts. They do what you'd expect your local tech to do, I guess. They are quite a small business, with a small shop and no official work experience programme.

So then How did I even get Work Experience?

Well, I took the initiative to email the owner, asking for a few days of experience and providing a short cover letter as well. I think this way of getting work experience is extremely underrated, and very useful. Typically, students try to find the biggest companies they can, and go through the whole long application procedure. Not only is this way easier, but a small local business can still provide so much value, value that just can't be found at a larger corporation.

Sometimes, you just have to try and get in contact with someone.

I had actually gone to Kybernet a few times before myself for tech support, so I was comfortable applying there (don't apply before you are comfortable!). They had helped diagnose when I had both a dead CPU and motherboard in my desktop, as well diagnose and advise us on what to do when my Dell XPS 13 bricked. I'm also pretty sure my dad went there once with issues on his own laptop! So yeah, I had met the owner, Tom, several times and he was a really nice guy.

Tom trying to fix my XPS 13, but it just wasn't working! Man, I sure loved that computer for the 2 sweet months I had it...

Anyway, a week later, we scheduled it for October half term, 2021.

Tom is Polish, and he had a couple of employees (one full time, one part time) both of whom were also European. His employees were quite young, but very knowledgeable and even bought me some lunch the first day.

Speaking of the First Day...

On the first day, I mainly helped with some eBay stuff. Their eBay store largely sells specific laptop components, such as screens, speakers, hinges, etcetera - but to get these parts, they need to first take apart laptops. So I took one from a massive stack of old laptops and got to work. They taught me what to do, and I had to first boot the laptop onto a live iso of Ubuntu and test what works - we can't sell speakers if nothing comes out of them.

I would also have to take a photo of a few things, such as the system information and proof that the laptop boots. Then, the process of disassembly would begin. I took apart lots of laptops over the week, and it was good fun, learning loads of tricks along the way and I managed to eventually become quite fast! It was interesting to see how the same type of component varied across manufacturers and models, yet there were always some clear patterns. It really forced me to think about how these things are designed and put together. I'll never look at laptops the same way again.

The first laptop (of many!) I disassembled at Kybernet

General Comments

I also had to fulfil eBay orders during my time there, printing off the order, finding the part in the storage facility, cleaning it properly with alcohol and an air duster (the CompuCleaner is great), and then packing it up with the invoice, ready to be shipped later that day. And my oh my, did they get a tonne of eBay orders every day.

I remember Monday, and since they don't work much on the weekend, there was a big backlog of orders on the first day! It was all hands on deck to get them out and posted by noon, as Kybernet have a pretty good shipping time policy to uphold.

Unfortunately, there weren't too many in-store customers during my week, but a couple of people did come in. One person had a hacked laptop (the classic Chrome notification scam), so under the guidance of Tom, I had to scan and manually check the file system to find anything suspicious, delete it, and then factory reset the computer after backing up everything and then restoring it. And add an anti-virus, as this laptop was for an elderly person.

There were some other issues such as a bad eBay buyer, so I could see how Tom would have to handle the situation and talk to eBay support for a long time to get it settled. And they also wanted to redesign some social media banners, so I overlooked the process they took in doing so and grasped a bit of Photoshop along the way.

I organised and cleaned up the electronic inventory - handling all sorts of components dating up to 2 decades old. I still remember a DDR1 RAM stick, and laughing when I read off the capacity in megabytes. There was a treasure trove, a tinkerer's dream in that shop. I probably spent more time just looking for and admiring random computer parts than actually doing any work! Oh was I tempted to just steal a box full of stuff.

Tom's baby would also come in just before lunch every day, and it was heart-warming to see how he would both care for her (he yelled at us for making too much noise when she was sleeping!) and still do all the work. That level of dedication can really only be seen in a shop like this, and it's admirable.

Oh, and most importantly, I rewarded myself to a lovely milkshake on the last day :)

Reflecting Back

Overall, I learned a lot from the week, and got an awesome insight into a small business. I saw first hand how they handle all sorts of issues and admin, and I learned how to communicate with non-technical customers which is perhaps the most important skill to have in a client-facing role.

I understood the management of an e-commerce business, and learned the values of providing consistent service in order to get repeat customers. I also loved sitting at the back of the tech shop, with all sorts of tools at my disposal.

In the shoes of a repair shop, it really struck me how laptops and technology has evolved over time, and become less and less repairable. The oldest laptops, quite interestingly, were the easiest to take apart, whilst the newer ones were significantly harder. In fact, I think it was a Vivobook where they had a really unfriendly repair design and it was such an immense hassle to take apart!

I could then truly understand the whole situation with Right to Repair, and why Louis Rossmann cares so much - his work is no joke.

I also saw the collaborative nature and closeness between employees in a small business, and it was such a nice environment to be in - Tom shouting across the shop to his young employee, firing ideas here and there. Everyone was so chill and comfortable chatting with each other, and we even played some Call of Duty Warzone together when we got sick of work on the final day and just wanted to put our feet up to relax! I obviously won, btw...

Overall, it was just a really cool place to be in and I think that's the bonus of a local tech shop - you are surrounded by things that ignite your passion, no matter your pay check, you love it.

A huge thank you to Tom and everyone at Kybernet for being so welcoming and teaching me so much, providing me with invaluable skills - both technical and life. At least now I know what being a tech repair guy is all about!


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