Alan: volunteering in the community
Alan Brown (Chemical Engineering 1970) has gone from IT professional to charity volunteer, serving his local community and its transport needs. He tells us about his time as a student, his career and what he gains from being a volunteer.
I was very flattered to be nominated for the Being Edinburgh award. I enjoyed my time at the University of Edinburgh, and I met my wife there. I hope that sharing my experience will help to inform current students and other graduates.
I studied Chemical Engineering from 1966 to 1970.
I chose Edinburgh mainly because I liked the city, having cycled there once from Dumfries with a pal for the day. I chose Chemical Engineering on the basis of a one page glossy brochure which showed a man in a white helmet walking round a refinery (this was in the days of Harold Wilson’s speech on the “White heat of Technology”).
I was lucky to start work when the economy was booming. I joined the Mobil Oil Company after University as a Technical Computer Analyst / Programmer working mainly on refinery computer systems.
I then joined the Scientific Civil Service at the National Engineering Laboratory at East Kilbride.
The lure of money attracted me back into the Oil Industry where I managed a computer system for Well Log Analysis. From there I went into Electricity generation where I was responsible for administrative computer systems in a nuclear power station. My favourite career memory is mounting a reel of magnetic tape flown by helicopter from a rig in the North sea on to a tape drive linked to our Petrophysics Mini-computer, ran an analysis of the raw permeability, porosity and nuclear magnetic resonance data and confirmed with an experienced Well Log analyst that we had found 60 million barrels of oil in the North Sea.
With the oil industry experience, I was then able to create my own software company and my first contract was on behalf of the European Union, going to a Russian nuclear power station and assisting with introducing plant maintenance assurance after the Chernobyl nuclear accident.
I worked as an independent I.T. contractor for many different organisations until retirement.
I now volunteer with the charity Aviemore Community Transport, mainly supporting its IT systems. The charity supports the transport needs of the local community in an area that's underserved by public transport. I have developed a vehicle booking system and databases for health connections and befriending projects.
I also drive a mini-bus once a week for a “Walking for Health” group and occasionally chauffeur clients to hospital appointments etc. I enjoy being creative by developing computer applications. And being retired, I also enjoy the social aspect of working with and helping the people in my community and from the transport company. Indeed, I have met and learned a great deal from a variety of interesting people.
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