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Account Director
What do you do for a living?
Key Account Director, Oracle Corporation UK LTD. It is very difficult to describe what I do – a combination of Sales, People & Customer Management
How did you get interested in what you do?
What advice was available to you when you chose this career direction? I don’t really know, very little of my career has been planned except that at university I decided that it would be a good place to be. I tend to know what I don’t want to do more than what I want to do…
What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?
2 Degrees. 1. LLB in Scots Law plus a Diploma In Legal Practice. 2. MBA
Both at Edinburgh University. Worked in several IT companies before Oracle where I have been for 13 years.
Talk us through a day in your life
No single day is the same. and rarely does a day end up as it was planned. Telephone calls, customer meetings, internal meetings, travel, occasional time for online admin/email and time to think & plan. Managing a team and customers.
Was this your planned career when you were 18?
At 18 I planned to study Law then join the Police Force!
What did your parents want you to do?
They wanted to support me in whatever I chose to do so I don’t know if they had any preferences.
What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
Think ahead rather more than I have but also be prepared to be flexible and change direction when you choose or when you have to.
What other career directions could you go in? Where else might you work within your field other than the job you have chosen?
Sales or Management
Training or Coaching

Accountancy Director
What do you do for a living?
Director with KPMG, a professional accounting firm. Head of Internal Audit Services Scotland

How did you get interested in what you do?
Enjoyed accounting and management information studies at School.

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?
University then Professional Qualification (Chartered Accountant)

Talk us through a day in your life
Discussion with my team who manage client relationships. Meeting with clients to discuss their requirements and provide feedback on our work Review our work – review files.

Was this your planned career when you were 18?
To be an accountant and work around the world.

What did your parents want you to do?
Be a lawyer.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
To be analytical about what you enjoy and to see all jobs as a way of developing your personal “tool kit” for the future.

What other career directions could you go in?
Law

Architect
What do you do for a living?

I am an architect, and work as Consultancy Manager for Highland Council. The team are about 45 strong and work on new schools, housing, offices, and other buildings.

How did you get interested in what you do? What advice was available to you when you chose this career direction?

When I was at High School I had no idea that you could be an architect, or even what they did. No quality advice available from the school I attended.

My big brother is an engineer, and I had planned to follow in his footsteps as he was successful (he had a car), but he suggested that I put architect on my UCCA form as a rogue last option, advising that they make all the money and take all the credit. Not entirely true and there are far easier ways to make a stack. At university open day I was charmed by the students and their enthusiasm for the subject so decided to give it a go.

What subjects did you choose at high school – were they the right choices for your future career?

English , Maths, Physics, Chemistry, French at Higher, Geography and Arithmetic at standard. Back in my day good grades in these ‘difficult’ subjects showed you were clever enough for further education, but the subjects were not so relevant.

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today? (talk perhaps about education/choices/university, college, training or apprenticeships/ CPD or professional exams/job progression)

Four year Bachelor of Science degree in Architectural Study, one year Bachelor of Architecture, two years of work maintaining a logbook to allow sitting professional exams to become a chartered architect.

Even after seven year so of training I was still a novice, and worked as part of teams on larger projects until I was able and confident to lead a big project on my own. As my career progressed, I took on more responsibility, leading teams on multiple projects, and I now lead multiple teams. I have been lucky as I have been able to work abroad during my career, mainly due to membership of Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) which is very useful.

Talk me through a day in your life… what sorts of things would it involve?

Today!! Check emails to see what has been going on in the last few days, respond to challenges arising.

Reviewed designs for a new Gaelic Primary School in Fort William with the project architect, and sketched out development options. The design is coming along well with a very strong central idea which we and our client really like, but we need to be careful with costs.

Reviewed engineer drawings for a Museum Store building to be sure the project is properly coordinated.

Met with management team to discuss content for a forthcoming Team Day which will be an opportunity for all of our staff, who are spread out over a wide geography, to meet and celebrate the work we are doing.

Met with IT team to discuss progress on installation and configuration of major contracts database upgrade.

Was it your planned career when you were 18?

I had no grand plan when I was at school. At 18 I was already at University and had the architecture bug. I had no plan or idea then how life may unfold.

What did your mum and dad want you to do?

Their big idea was stick in at school, get good grades, and go to university and things would take care of themselves after that. In a sense they were absolutely right, but I have no doubt that I was extremely lucky. With no planning and little careers advice I could easily have ended up on the wrong course pursuing the wrong career… I would not have been a terrific accountant.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?

Architecture is a very satisfying career. I can point at school buildings and take satisfaction that my designs have resulted in a better learning environment for coming generations of kids.

The profession is going down a route where design and technical architects are being trained, which is an acknowledgement of how the profession actually operates now. If you are artistic, the design route will allow you to explore your creativity, if you are interested in how projects are run, how contracts work, and how teams work together to develop and construct designs, you may enjoy the technical side. Both are equally valued.

It is hard work, and you need to be hooked to get the most out of it, and out of yourself. Not really a hobby career!

What other directions could you go in /work in within your field other than the job you have chosen?

The training offers a broad educational base, with Art and Design complemented by History, Environmental Study, Construction Science, Sociology, Computer Aided Design, etc…

There are potential avenues into development, planning, contract law, product research, politics, Interior Design, Theatre Design, among others.

Is there anything else you can tell us about your career?

I was asked to read two books before my course started.

History of Western Architecture by Furneaux Jordan

Modern Architecture, A Critical History by Frampton (Both Thames and Hudson if you are interested). .

The first was dull but gave a good idea of historical development. The second was about the modern era, totally compelling but hard to understand. I turned up on day one terrified.

There are cool style magazines and books on modern houses in the big bookshops.

Better to start reading early to see if the subject rocks your boat.

Artist
What do you do for a living?
Freelance fine artist 

How did you get interested in what you do? What advice was available to you when you chose this career direction?
I wanted to do art when I was 14/15, my teacher thought i had a ‘flair’ for art, but my Dad told me I should do “sensible” subjects. So I didn’t do art, I took history (which I hated and failed).  So I think its worth taking subjects you love the most – you’ll want to work harder at them.  I didn’t have any career’s advice at all.

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today? (talk perhaps about education/choices/university, college, training or apprenticeships/ CPD or professional exams/job progression)
I studied up to A levels at high school and I ended up studying banking at Bangor university, North Wales.  I then went on to be a economics researcher for 10 years.  It wasn’t what I really wanted to do so when I was 30yrs old I decided I would try art.  

I went to several evening classes at Edinburgh College of Art, and there I got advice about how to get into Art College. I spent a year at Leith School of Art doing a foundation in Art and Design, and getting a portfolio together to apply to Art College.  I got into Edinburgh College of Art and studied Drawing and Painting for 4 years.  It was there that I found out I was dyslexic and got a lot of help with the writing side of things.  After gaining my BA(Hons) Drawing and Painting, I gained a scholarship to do a Masters in Fine Art at ECA. Since then I have worked as a freelance fine artist doing a variety of things – including working with school groups, working with community groups, selling my paintings in galleries, producing commissions, and having a residency in a beach hut!!

Talk me through a day in your life… what sorts of things would it involve?
My job is extremely varied and does not have a typical day.  However it could include any of the following:

I have to spend time researching galleries to work out who might want to sell my work, and visit galleries ot check them out.  

I spend a lot of time watching my subject, drawing and making notes.  

I prepare canvas’ or make frames. 

I apply for grants/residencies to help fund some of my work.  

I spend time preparing for workshops in schools.

I spend time taking photos of my work and sending them off to galleries or competitions.

I spend time in the school working with the teachers, parents, children.

I do some printmaking sometimes.

I make handmade books.

I cut out lots of bits of paper for books.

I sharpen pencils, clean brushes, wash rags.

But my favourite bit is when I get to do painting.

Was it your planned career when you were 18?
To work in London in a bank and earn lots of money.

What did your mum and dad want you to do?
Exactly that.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
Find an artist and speak to them.  Spend  ALOT of time drawing and doing art.  Find opportunities to volunteer at crafty/arty events.  Visit arty events – go to fashion shows, art galleries, ceramics exhibitions. 

What other directions could you go in /work in within your field other than the job you have chosen?
I could train to be a teacher. Many people from my course have ended up as art teachers.  Some are curators at galleries.  Some run community art projects. Some work in art college.  Some have taken Masters in other areas of art – some are in IT, some in museums.

Astronomer
What do you do for a living? 
Build instruments (cameras and spectrometers) which take astronomy pictures, using the telescopes at the worlds major observatories, both on mountaintop sites and in space.

 

How did you get interested in what you do? What advice was available to you when you chose this career direction?
If I were being sentimental I would say it was by reading ‘Dr H C King’s Book of Astronomy’ when I was about 9. The truth is that I was interested in learning about how the physical world works, from atoms to stars, from the same sort of age. 

 

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?
School in central London, which meant O-levels and A-levels when I was young. I scraped though my non-science O-levels (French, History, Geography), but did pretty well on the 4-5 sciences (Physics, Maths and Chemistry etc) and I followed these through to A-level where I got A, B, and C (pass) grades in each. I was, and still am, attracted to the analysis and understanding of phenomena by mathematics. It was at university that it really took off. I spent the first year (3 years Physics at Machester in 1980) seeing a lot of bands, going to a lot of parties, and doing very little work. I really got excited by the understanding physics gives you about the real world in years 2 and 3 and it was in year 3 that my knowledge of how everything works peaked; this was a great experience. I have been specialising ever since, so after a few months particle physics at CERN, I chose astronomy because it involved more travel to more exotic parts of the world (Australia, Hawaii and the south-west USA).

 

Talk me through a day in your life… what sorts of things would it involve?
Staring at a screen. Writing computer programmes and using software tools to answer physics problems – will my camera be sensitive enough to detect an exo-planet? Can the telescope point accurately enough, if not, can we get around the limitation some other way? Writing reports and making powerpoint shows then discussing them at meetings to plan and review the design, build, test and operation of astronomical instruments. Then I travel around Europe and the US doing the same thing. Only about 10 % of my time is actually spent in labs, clean rooms or engineering hangars running tests on real hardware and working with technicians to fix problems, but this happens in intensive ‘campaigns’ where I may be on call ~ 24 hours a day (May to August 2011 and all of October 2013, say). I also supervise one or two secondary school and undergraduate students for a few weeks each year and give a handful of public lectures.  

 

Was it your planned career when you were 18?
Yes. 

 

What did your mum and dad want you to do?
Something that interested me.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
Enthusiasm and curiosity are more important than brains.  If you have both of these you will find it relatively easy to learn the mathematical language you need to build or discover something truly new.  Assertiveness is no substitute for enthusiasm, curiosity or brains but it will help you manage other people’s work if that is what you are really interested in. 

 

What other directions could you go in /work in within your field other than the job you have chosen?
I am quite late in my career now. 20 years ago I could have moved into R+D in medical, defence or any other high tech field, but at this stage it is more a case of moving to another institute to do the same thing; so I could work for ESA (European Space Agency) in The Netherlands, or for NASA in the US, or ESO (the European Southern Observatory) in Germany or Chile. In all cases, I could earn a lot more money (ESO and ESA offer tax free salaries).  However, I have much more autonomy working at the observatory in Edinburgh than I would have elsewhere. I have always regarded my career as fun and I want to carry on that way. My underlying scientific interest is in the detection of extra-terrestrial life and the observatory has allowed me to choose projects which fit in with that goal. 

The main role of big science lies in being the inspiration of young scientists and engineers. 

I supervise S5/6 students as part of the ‘Nuffield Bursary’ scheme. I have a student in place this year from Dunbar, but I would be happy to take students from Peebles if there is any interest. The project topic for my current student will be to evaluate the detectability of transiting exo-planets using the James Webb Space Telescope.