the computer whizz-kid who hacked off school

Have your say

A quarter of a century ago, owning a home computer was a big deal. Especially if you were only eight.

Andrew Seaton thought his Amstrad CPC464 was the most awesome present he had ever been given. He was a lucky lad, but this was far from a case of over-indulgence by doting parents.

Andrew Seaton, award-winning director of Resolve I.T. Solutions, Little London Road, Sheffield

Andrew Seaton, award-winning director of Resolve I.T. Solutions, Little London Road, Sheffield

Andrew’s computer was ‘prescribed’ by educational specialists.

He had been falling behind in lessons and his primary school thought he might be dyslexic.

So he had all the tests, and the results were startling.

Andrew didn’t have dyslexia; the specialists told his parents his problem wasn’t exactly a problem - his brain worked like super-fast broadband. It was far too swift for the verbal communication skills of an eight-year-old boy to keep up with.

The solution? One of those new-fangled computers might ‘slow him down.’

Instead, that cranky, tape-drive Amstrad enabled Andrew’s brain to grow ever-faster - and set him on the path to becoming the entrepeneurial success story he is today.

Andrew has a clutch of top regional awards and three businesses to his name. His main company, Resolve I.T. Solutions, based on Little London Road, has a team of 26 and hit a £1.2million turnover last year. It provides SMEs, charities and schools with I.T. installation, consultation and support.

It’s all down to that early introduction to computers, which enabled the Millhouses lad to realise he had a natural understanding of technology.

When he got to Silverdale Secondary School, the computer geek in him thrived. But the opening of the school’s flash new I.T. suite was very nearly his downfall.

“The school was very proud of it. The I.T. teacher told us the network we had been upgraded to was so brilliant no-one could ever hack into it. I saw that as one big challenge,” says Andrew, with the sheepish grin of a 33-year-old who can’t quite believe the naivety of his 13-year-old self. “I played around, managed to hack into the system and found a spreadsheet with all the teachers’ system passwords on it...”

He printed it off, posted it on the school noticeboard and, understandably, there was uproar.

The only four pupils in the entire school deemed computer-literate enough to have done such a blatant act of sabotage were hauled before the I.T. Teacher.

Andrew, who hadn’t thought he was being anything other than mischievous, eventually swallowed his fear and confessed. The school threatened to expel him but his parents not only pleased for leniency, they pointed out to the school that clearly it had a boy with a talent which needed nurturing.

Though, after a ban, he was eventually allowed back into the I.T. suite, Andrew never got any advanced tuition; he had to wait to develop his skills and his thirst for technical knowledge at High Storrs sixth form

It’s a factor which now motivates his desire to encourage new young techy talent. He regularly talks in schools - including Silverdale - about business and I.T. and keeps an eye out for particularly gifted computer studies students - and in the last four years has set on five apprentices under 18 and been voted a City And Guilds’ Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers in the UK.

Andrew started his business within months of finishing his I.T. degree at Sheffield Hallam University. The 23-year-old, applying for jobs that didn’t stimulate him and living back home with mum and dad, thought he had nothing to lose by giving self-employment a shot.

He had just a secondhand laptop and a car, but he also had what he figured was his most powerful tool - a combination of technical skills and the ability to explain processes in a simplified way. “Most people have one or the other, but rarely both,” he says. “I discovered that at university.”

He contacted the two primary schools he had done work experience with during his university sandwich year and landed two afternoons of systems repair work a week. Teachers began asking him to fix their home computers and more work came in through recommendation – and from the flyers he walked the streets to post through letter boxes.

Within three years he needed to set on an employee and, as the business grew, he turned to self-help books and business courses to learn how to run a business.

He now has three - Resolve IT’s offshoot Rebound Design, which creates websites, and Twinkle, an online resource for primary school teachers across the UK and run by his younger brother Jonathan.

Does his brain still run too fast? “Yes, and it’s both an asset and a liability to the business,” he grins. “It enables me to come up with solutions and new ideas very quickly, but when I’m passionate or nervous about something, I start to speak so fast people can’t understand me.

“I also have a short-term attention span and often finish people’s sentences for them. It’s a really bad thing to do and I’m trying to stop,” he admits.

He must be doing something right. That man who believes finding the right people to work for him and encouraging them to de-mystify I.T. when dealing with clients is most crucial of all, was last month named Yorkshire’s Young Director of the year by the IOD.

At 33, though, he says he’s now facing his toughest ever challenge; wife Rachael gave birth to their son Joshua four months ago. “Running businesses when you’re low on sleep is so hard,” he says. “And the responsibility of being a parent is massive. I hope I’m up to the job.”