Brian Downer


Subject Computer Science
Course MSc Computer Science
Country United Kingdom
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Hello Mr Dower. Hope you are good. I ahve done bachelors in software engineering from Pakistan and recently moved to UK with my wife. I am applyiing for Master in Human computer interaction. i want to work as well to support my family but i dont have any work experience in UK. I have applied through loads of websited but no luck so far. will you be able to advise me where to start ot where to lookor what is the best chance for me?? Regards

Hello. I would just find a job to pay your bills… even if it’s in your local supermarket. This should be your priority.

If you have any time spare after your day job, your masters, your homework assignments, sleeping etc go build something with the software engineering skills you already have. It could be an app, a database driven web site… go build something.

In cases like this, when you are knocking on doors and no doors are opening, it is simply the market telling you what you have to offer is not attractive enough. So go and build something in your own time that you could show to some of the people you are trying to attract the attention of.

Think of them as being like big Pussy Cats. You have to find some cheese to get their attention:-)

Oh… and if what you create is good enough, you won’t have to stretch your hand out to employers. It will generate income for you and your wife.

Good luck!

Hi Brian, I did the same first degree as you – German and Business. Did you find your first degree helped you while studying Computer Science, and has it influenced your career?

Hi Simon,

Both sides of My first degree helped with my computer science masters.

The most obvious parallels … learning to read, write and finally speak a foreign language is similar to learning to program. I think it’s faster and easier to learn to program than to learn a foreign language though.

Sounds obvious but the more you push yourself to sit down and write working programs, the better you’ll get. If you stick  at it long enough, you may even start dreaming in code. Sounds strange huh? But true. This usually happens to students during their summer software project … maybe a bit earlier if you really wrap your arms around coding and embrace the weekly projects that you work on.

The business part of my first degree, came in handy too… not so much during my MSc but perhaps after I finished in terms getting into consulting for a while and then starting to run my own businesses.

I use my foreign language skills, a bit of programming (more python than Java nowadays) and lots of business skills in running a digital marketing agency today. So Bham Uni helped set me on the right track 😉

Hi Brian! On reading some of the modules on the msc computer science course I noticed that some note pre-requistes. Does that mean in order to take these modules you have to sit the pre-requistes before taking these modules? nderstand

Hi Vivienne,

 

If a prerequisite is mentioned, you’ll either to complete that as part of a previous degree or have that under  you belt from a previous semester. Without knowing which module you’re referring to, it’s hard to give you a definitive answer. It’s been a few years since I completed the MSc so it’s probably best to check with Professor Reddy’s support / admin team who will be able to give you a more precise / up to date answer.

 

Good luck!

Hi sir,im shivani .im from india pursuing BCA(bachelor of computer application) and i want to do my further study related to computer field . i hope you can help me to figure it out and about this course. Thankyou sir . ill ne glad if you can help me with this

It’s a great course that will enrich your study, strengthen you technically and broaden your career horizons.

Hi Brian, I have been wondering if international students get scholarships for Msc. or PhD in engineering.

Best to check with the comsci department on this.

Hi Brian, I was wondering, roughly how many students are generally in the course cohort? Additionally, are the modules specific to the MSc Computer Science course, or are there students from other computer science degree programmes taking the same modules?

Hi .There were about 150 in my cohort. Some of the classes I attended were also attended students studying other computer science degrees.

Hi Brian, How are the engineering facilities and the labs and are there any placement year?

When I was at Brum, the labs were pretty good. It’s been a while though, so I’m sure more recent students will be able to give you more relevant insights. The computers were fast. The labs were open 24/7. For the MSc conversion (the course I attended) there is no placement. I paid a visit to the careers centre within the first few weeks of arriving on campus and made sure I knew about all the juicy graduate schemes that required students with a computer science background. I applied and was really surprised by the interest that was shown in comparison to when I was applying as a BA student.

Hi, I know everyone says the MSc Computer Science course is for beginners but I am still a little worried as I have no experience at all of coding/databases/software/Java. Is this okay?? Thanks, Carly

The MSc takes people with no previous coding background Carly so you will  be OK. I do recommend using a combination of online tutorials as well as good old fashioned text books – especially for learning to code.

Sometimes having a text book makes it easier to start from Chapter 1, jump ahead to get a flavour of what’s yet to come but then carry on where you left off at Chapter 2.

Buddy up with someone on your course so you can help each other out. Attend the labs and ask for help from the tutors – I recall them being very willing to break things down in simple terms that were easy to understand.

Coding is like driving a car though. No matter how many books you read on cars, you never really learn until you get behind the wheel and start to drive. Good luck and have fun!

Hi Brian, aside from Java programming, are there any other areas that you would suggest students learning ahead of the course start date? Did you find that the course was mathematically intensive? Many thanks

Funnily enough, one of the most valuable skills I can think of is the ability to follow the instructions you see in the various tutorials you’ll encounter. If you still have time, perhaps try working your way through some online tutorials so you can start getting the hang of what’s to come.

Also, knowing where to go online to seek help when you hit a roadblock is super valuable. Almost without exception, someone somewhere else on the planet will have experienced the same programming problem or error you encounter so try and see if the answers to their questions also provide a solution for you.

A good head for numbers is useful. Although, you do not need to be a mathematician to succeed on the MSc. I took maths to GCSE level and did not struggle with the math required on the MSc. What is helpful is the ability to think logically / laterally. The ability to break down human problems into logical blocks so you can convert each block into lines of code will carry you a long way.

Is there an option for taking a placement or studying abroad for the CS conversion programme? I know it’s available on the Dubai campus but for funding reasons I wouldn’t be able to go. Also, is this degree recognised by institutions and industry abroad?

Hi. The course is recognized widely by industry and employers. Birmingham Uni has one of the best reputations for the MSc Computer Science program in the country / world.

I would check direct with CS admissions but in my day there was no placement or studying abroad option. You have  so much new stuff to learn, adding extra complexity would realistically require the lengthening of the course.

Primary objective for the MSc is to pick up speed and get to grips with computer science fundamentals. Note that the course is a calendar year (12 months) rather than a shorter academic year (Sept – June). You’ll need every single waking hour to get confident with the new tech.

Brian

 

Hey Brian, I’m a second year student studying classics. At school I enjoyed maths and science but was not academically mature enough to pursue them further and this is probably my biggest regret. Granted that I am now capable and willing, is the conversion Msc a good springboard for entering the industry of not just computer science but engineering and design also?

Hi,

I’m not sure how they teach classics nowadays but I’m assuming you spend some of your time reading Latin and Greek. If that’s the case, then you may have an advantage on your side:-)

If you have an aptitude for languages, learning how to program is not a million miles away (grammar, rules, punctuation, syntax, nouns, objects, verbs, methods etc).

Push yourself to learn as much as possible in the year and visit the careers center early to start lining up opportunities.

The MSc conversion is a great access route into working in technology.

The story of you taking your MSc in order to apply your skills as a software engineer makes sense.

To take the course to pursue engineering or design will take a bit more explaining to a prospective employer.

Carpe Diem!

What do you think is the most important thing to highlight in your personal statement? How can I make myself standout?

Dig deep to find something remarkable you have done… especially good if it has some relevant technical aspect or has positively impacted the lives of others.

How heavy is the workload and do you think it’s better to live on campus for this MSc or does it make no difference?

The workload is heavy yes. You have a lot to learn in a short space of time so clear your social diary:-). Most MSc students do not live on campus. That’s usually for freshers who really want to lap up the experience of being in a university environment – making friends, partying etc. However, I would recommend being close to campus – ideally walking distance if not a short ride on public transport. This way, you be able to make the most of the labs, teaching facilities and working with your MSc colleagues.

Hi Brian, how well do you feel the conversion MSc would prepare a student for a career in cyber security, and which careers within the information security field are open to graduates of the MSc Computer Science (Conversion) at Birmingham?

Hi. The MSc focuses on equipping you with software development skills. Lab time, weekly exercises and software projects aim to get you up to speed with writing software programs to solve problems. The MSc will get you familiar with coding and databases. It will help you to abstract problems and start thinking of problems in terms of coding solutions.

One or two members of my cohort went on to careers in cyber security. However, if cyber security is the path you have your heart set on, there may be more relevant / direct ways of getting there. That being said, cyber security is a major topic of concern for every CEO. I would imagine a recruiter looking to hire a cyber security graduate would shortlist a candidate with a computer science degree over one with no computer science degree (all other things being equal that is).

In your MSc, how much coding was involved and how difficult was it? I understand that you have to code for your final project but if someone does not have the best coding skills in the world but is still able to code and has an interest in the subject, do you think they will be able to hack the course? Thanks

Coding exercises are set for the group from the first few weeks of the course. The exercises get progressively more complicated. I recommend you get a good coding textbook to support any material you access online. I also recommend attending the workshops where postgraduate comsci tutors can provide you with additional help. Form a few alliances with other students so you can help each other out. The quicker you can get your head around the coding basics the easier things will be for you later on.

What was your motivation for undertaking postgraduate study?

I thought an MSc in computer science would give me a competitive advantage in my career and would form a good foundation for understanding how to build great software.  I also thought that in comparison to an MBA, an MSc in computer science represented better value, the opportunity to acquire practical skills that were in high demand and also meant a shorter timeframe before returning to the business world.

Why did you choose the University of Birmingham?

I did my undergraduate degree in German and Business Studies at Birmingham so I knew I wouldn’t waste any time getting up to speed in a familiar environment. As well as this, I was also encouraged by the fact that the university ranks as one of the best places to study computer science in the country.

What was the highlight of your time at Birmingham?

After my final exams, I really enjoyed spending the summer working on my end of year software project. It was a lot of fun creating a significant application from scratch and getting to grips with the Java programming language.

Did you join any clubs or societies, go on any research trips or do any volunteering?

The university has a great sporting pedigree and top facilities. I was a member of the track and field team.

What advice would you give to current students studying on the course?

Make an early trip to the careers lab to line up opportunities for when your MSc completes. Invest in “how to code” text books – the good ones will become your best friends. Reach out to buddies or tutors if there’s technical stuff you don’t understand. Choose an end of year project you are really passionate about – that way you’ll keep coding even when you’re tired. Most importantly have fun and make the most of your year as it will be over before you know it.

How has your career developed since graduating from the University of Birmingham?

I had several job offers confirmed before my MSc completed. I accepted the offer from Accenture as I saw it as a great place to build broad experience early in my career. After several years travelling the world working for Accenture, I set up my own consulting business and have spent my career since then working with financial services companies and startups.

How did your degree prepare you for what you are doing now?

The skills from my MSc, which I’ve found most useful in my career in technology consulting, have been software programming, requirements gathering and working with stakeholders.

How did you grow as a person by studying at University? Did it change your life in any way?

My MSc helped build my confidence of databases and programming. It also reinforced my belief that if you put your mind to something and commit, all things are possible.