Robin Carmichael has benefitted from his Edinburgh degree, but it was through the University Orchestra that he developed his social skills and met his wife.
|Name||Robin James Simpson Carmichael|
|Degree Course||B. Sc. (Hons) Mathematics|
|Year of Graduation||1977|
Your time at the University
My family lived in Edinburgh, but my choice of Edinburgh University was also based upon the course content. My interest was in a pure mathematics degree and I focused on pure topics rather than applied where possible.
I played French Horn in both the University orchestra and the philharmonic (equivalent to today’s Symphony and Sinfonia groups) while there, with the philharmonic being primarily for fun as opposed to the more serious music making with the orchestra. There were lots of opportunities for music making around these groups and I also played some wind quintets at the Music Society concerts.
While I was at Edinburgh, the maths department moved around from Minto House firstly to the Maltings (both in Chambers St) and then out to Kings Buildings, so there wasn’t a single home base, except for working in the library - which involved many trips to the basement coffee shop for doughnuts!
As maths was a fairly large class, it was only in 4th year that we really socialised as a group, with our staff hosting a party first which we then reciprocated. In our day, there was also the annual Charity Rag weekend which most people took part in and I remember a particularly silly day coach trip to North Berwick dressed in pyjamas to sell rag magazines and encourage the locals to give to charity.
I had many friends across different disciplines and university was the time I really came out of my shell and matured as an individual while also studying a subject I really enjoyed. The final bonus of my university life was meeting my wife to be through the orchestra, and we remain happily married to this day.
Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University
In my day, the careers service organised the “milk round” where large organisations visited and conducted interviews for entry into their graduate programmes.
Despite not really knowing what I wanted to do after University, I had 3 interviews in that week, and also took the exam for entry to GCHQ. I managed to get 3 follow up interviews and job offers from this process and ended up joining British Steel in their Head Office Management Services division (IT today).
Although this worked well for me, I had actually applied to a different group there and this didn’t come out until half way through my second interview! Luckily both the interviewer and myself thought it was worth continuing with the interview.
I would also say that being able to take part in great music making was also a significant advantage of Edinburgh.
From a great 7 years training in IT (still pretty early days for the industry in 1977) with BSC, I moved down to London and joined a software company who I knew from BSC contacts. I have spent the remainder of my working life in various software companies, finishing at IBM, the biggest of them all.
In my career, I have travelled around the world, set up new companies in Europe and worked with most of the major global companies. My final role with IBM, prior to retiring in 2014, involved working with CIOs from major companies helping them develop IT strategies for their organisations.
Having a degree from Edinburgh has always stood me in good stead, although I have hardly ever used any of the Mathematics that I studied. The social skills that university brought out of me, the analytic skills that my course required have been significant in my developing a successful career.
I would also say that being able to take part in great music making was also a significant advantage of Edinburgh. Since leaving university I have continued to play my horn, and have also sung in various choirs including singing around the world with the London Symphony Chorus. Having a strong interest outside work has contributed to maintaining a healthy balance in my life and a connection with other people.
Enjoy your subject of study, but make sure you take advantage of the other opportunities outside of work that the University offers.
You will never again in your life have the chance to associate with so many people of like minds and interests where you can focus on doing things that you enjoy. Make the most of your experience - it will repay you in later life.