Masters Computer Science at The University of Birmingham

My name is Brian Downer. I’m the Director
of my own limited company, DWNR and Co, and I’m based in London, England. So my career path after graduating was quite
an interesting one. I was fortunate enough to get recruited by Accenture as soon as I
finished my MSc in Computer Science, and that involved in the early years travelling all
over the world. I was lucky enough to go and do some training in Chicago. I then went and
did a project in Washington DC. I spent some time in Brussels in Amsterdam and also in
Milton Keynes. So you can imagine it’s very varied the type of projects that you can get
involved in if you have the right skillset within Accenture. In addition to that I after
a period of about four years I decided to work as an independent consultant, so I set
up my own limited company and did very similar types of projects but directly with end-users,
and I’ve been doing that ever since for the last ten years. I did an MSc in Computer science within the
Department of Computer Science at the University of Birmingham. My course had a number of different elements
to it. It was a mix of some theory, so looking at historical elements like Alan Turing and
artificial intelligence, but also looking at some very practical current day aspects
such as database analysis and normalising databases, so that was quite big element.
Another aspect was on a week by week basis we were set tasks that we had to use our newly
acquired Java skills, our programming skills, in order to build a mini application, and
after exams in the spring of the following year we had what I find was the most exciting
part of the course which was the project. So that’s really where you get to grips
with software development and writing Java and it’s almost like if you spend enough
time focusing on it, it really becomes almost second nature, and when that click happens
it’s awesome. I enjoyed all my time at the MSc and came out with a distinction at the
end of it so I was very pleased. There’s a number of things that attracted
me to the University of Birmingham. Well for starters I did my undergraduate degree there,
so it was a natural choice to return to Birmingham to do my MSc. It meant that I could get up
to speed very quickly without the normal distractions that you would have when you’re going to a
new city to study. The University has an excellent reputation, both globally as a university
and within the specific Department of Computer Science. So it was a no-brainer for me as
far as selecting Birmingham to do my MSc in Computer Science. As opposed to an academic year it’s a calendar
year, and you really don’t have much time to, you know, get to grips with what many
people take, you know, two or three years to come to grips with, but if you apply yourself
everything is possible. I think the course gave me excellent preparation
in the sense that some of the skills that I learnt and developed on that course such
as requirements analysis, software development, and elements of project management, have all
been things that I’ve carried over into my professional career, and it’s almost uncanny
that the basic fundaments that I learnt at Birmingham University are still in use today.
Things have got a little bit more agile and iterative but Java is still used and it’s
really, you know, one of the I think key things that comes as part of a role within computer
science within IT that requirements analysis, business analysis, and software development
come as part and parcel of that. One of my first excursions or trips was to
the careers lab the careers centre at Birmingham University. I visited there in
the first, you know, week or two of my time on the MSc because I really knew that in order
to leverage my year I had to be very focused and try and seek out the potential career
and employment opportunities that would follow on from my MSc. I managed to connect with
someone in the career centre who gave me some advice and direction, and as a result of that
and my own endeavours I managed to get several offers from a variety of different consulting
firms and banks. My top tip for anyone applying for this course
would be I would say make sure that you’re aligning the selection of the course with
your strengths, I think that’s very, very important. I’d also say, you know,
have a think about where you want the course to take you in the medium to long term, don’t
just do it for the sake of doing it. Have a reason, have a purpose, and make sure it’s
properly aligned to your skillset. Well the thing that I enjoyed most about my
time at Birmingham was two things actually. Firstly, I think it’s the people that you
meet there. I’m still in touch even to this day; as recently as last weekend I met up
with a friend that I met during my time at Birmingham, we’re still very close. And in
addition to that I would also say Birmingham University track and field athletics team
was a massive benefit for me. There’s a four yearly exchange trip that they do with some
universities in the USA – Harvard and Yale and Penn and Cornell. Every two years
we host them and every two years we go and visit the States, and I was lucky enough to
get on one of those trips. And once again I’ve managed to keep some ties and contacts
with some of the people that I met there.

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