After graduating in 1997 with a 1st class joint honours degree in Computer Science and Electronic Engineering I joined the Software Development team of VLSI Vision Ltd, the company where I had worked as part of my final year project. I stayed with the company for about 3 years, working on a range of projects from evaluating new sensors to developing drivers for webcams and by the time I left I was leading the driver development team.
After the company got taken over the focus had changed so I started looking for a new challenge and a broader outlook. I found this at technology consultancy Scientific Generics in Cambridge where I was able to work on a huge range of projects, from technologies I knew well like USB through to novel security tagging solutions, endoscopy and mobile payment systems. I enjoyed the very innovative environment and the variety of the work, which gave me experience of different industries. I also got involved in project management and strategic consulting projects for some giants of the telecoms industry.
In 2004 I returned to Edinburgh with my wife-to-be and started working at CHIL in Dunfermline. Here I was fortunate enough to carry on doing one of the things I had most enjoyed in my previous jobs, working with start up companies bringing new technologies to market. CHIL was in the process of commercialising a revolutionary bulk data processing platform and my role involved developing the customer application and readying the underlying platform for its first major deployment as part of a major project for a mobile telecommunications firm. As the company grew I took on the role of CTO to free the time of the founder for sales and company management functions while I looked after the technology side of the business.
Up until this point my career was underpinned by my undergraduate degree, but I had little formal training in management or business. I had been considering doing a MBA, but the cost and commitment combined with the experience I was gaining in industry always put me off. In 2008 I heard that the Saltire Foundation were offering a new fellowship programme, combining time at one of the world's top business schools for entrepreneurial education with placements in global and local companies. This combination of the academic and practical greatly appealed to me so I applied and was accepted. It was an outstanding year, starting with 4 months at Babson College in Boston, the world’s top business school for entrepreneurial education. That was followed by 4 months in Silicon Valley making contacts and gaining experience working in a senior marketing role for Sun Microsystems, and another 4 months back in Scotland working for a startup company. Perhaps even more important than the education and experience were the connections I made in Scotland and overseas.
My passion is making technology useful in the real world, and making money in the process. The combination of my undergraduate degree from The University of Edinburgh and the Saltire Fellowship has got me to the point where I now spend my days immersed in the exciting in the world of technology start-up companies!
I’m currently involved in a variety of things so my days are pretty varied. I am consulting for a really exciting technology company called ATEEDA, helping develop marketing materials, manage sales campaigns and bringing together various different strands of technology development. Today I’m not at their office but I have been working on a presentation for their investors. I am also working on developing some of my own product ideas but I need some help with research so I had a telephone conference call with Interface, an organisation that helps companies access expertise in Universities. This afternoon I’ll be starting to write a patent application related to one of these products, but I also have to arrange meetings with some new contacts in the medical device sector I was referred to last week.
I have been helping a social media company with business development as they try to raise funds - if they get the funds I may go and work for them full-time. There are a few other companies I’ve been talking to about consultancy work which may start shortly, and through connections made on my Saltire Fellowship year I have been involved in some really interesting events like judging the Alba Innovation Prize business plan competition. I have also got involved with social enterprise charity Forth Sector as a Trustee and Director.
I have very little free time, but I love what I’m doing.
While I was working in consulting, various staffing issues within the company lead to me being asked to take the lead role in a strategic consulting project for a major European telecommunications company. This was new for me and I was really thrown in at the deep end. I found it extremely challenging and very difficult to measure progress and performance on the project compared with the more technically oriented project work I had lead before where the milestones were well defined. I was learning on the job, and I constantly felt one step behind.
The customer later came back to us to explore a second phase of work. By this time the staffing pressures had eased, so a more experienced consultant was appointed to lead the project. However, the customer refused to commission the work unless I continued to manage the project as they were delighted with the work we had done and the relationship we had established.
I don't know if that is my biggest achievement, but that meeting certainly gave me my biggest sense of achievement!
Never be afraid to try new things. Never be afraid to ask for help.
I really enjoyed my time at Edinburgh, but the day that really sticks in my memory is the day I graduated. I took my parents to the departmental receptions and showed them some of the places I had worked before going to graduation. It felt great to be able to share that with my parents, especially since they had been so fantastic in supporting me through the whole experience financially and otherwise.
Outside of my course, I volunteered in Teviot Row Union, and while it's almost impossible to pick out a single memory, I learned a lot from the experience and made friends that I still see today including my wife Ruth!
First published February 2010
This article was published on Apr 1, 2013