Early Life & Background

 

There was little indication in my early life that my career would take the path it has done. I was born in Beverley, Yorkshire in 1968. My father combined careers as a manager with that of a university lecturer while my mother pursued a career in personnel after raising our family. My school record was disappointingly average and I left at 16 with just ‘o’ levels and a few CSE’s.  With no clear idea what I wanted to do, other than an inclination to practical, hands on work, I entered a Youth Training Scheme working at a small electrical firm in Shrewsbury that repaired TV’s and installed radio and TV aerials.

While there I completed my City & Guilds and effectively completed an electrical apprenticeship. It was now that the factors that were to form my later career began to converge. While recovering from an appendix operation I was given a Sinclair ZX81 computer and found that computing came naturally and wanted to know more, writing pieces for Hobby magazines and creating projects with mixed results. It was the era of the famous Fiat Strada adverts, ‘Handbuilt by robots’. The final part of the trigger mechanism was meeting a guy who was working in Industrial automation. He made it clear to me that if I was really interested in this field I needed to do what he had done – go to University and get a good degree.

This was the spur needed to persuade me back to college at Shrewsbury Tech and get ‘A’ levels in Pure Maths, Applied Maths and Physics. Armed with these results I enrolled at Southbank Polytechnic. At the time this was the only ‘Poly’ recognised by the Institute of Engineers. My degree course was Electrical and Electronic engineering.  After an unsatisfactory first year, where the experience was a little too close to my school memories for comfort I was fortunate to scrape into the second year. The shock was sufficient to regain my focus, up my game and find my next career sign post.

At this time Southbank Poly had a partnership with a Polytechnic in Bremen through which one could get funded placements with German engineering companies while learning German. This was an opportunity to progress away from the daily strictures of the Poly and I leapt at the opportunity. At first this seemed a poor choice as although attached to Krupp in the Mercedes plant in Bremen one could only watch and not get hands on. Fortunately a chance encounter led to weekend and spare time work wiring control panels from designs for a small German company. They had a contract to supply conveyors for a large automated warehouse for Wurth in northern Italy. I was invited to help with the installation and commissioning in Italy and spent the next 6 months on this project and the experience confirmed my interest in the design and programming of this type of process.

Returning to Southbank, I completed my final year winning a 2:1 and missing a first by a whisker. My final year project was to make a Power Inverter that I created in its entirety from design, documentation and PCB’s to assembly of a working prototype.

I was now ready for the world of work and the only one out of a course of 60 who went into manufacturing.

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