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June 2012: Alistair Hindmarsh
1989 Geography and Geology
What I am doing now:
I am a Senior Consultant for a Sage Business Partner which when translated actually means implementing accounting and business software systems for various clients. Clients have included companies like Virgin Racing and even an “adult” shop – importing their stock items was interesting.
How did you get to where you are now?
I was one of the few geologists who actually went into a geological job rather than Financial Services like most of them. I worked as a ‘mud-logger’ on the North Sea Oil-rigs, recording the geological strata we were drilling through by examining the chips of rock appearing in the drilling fluid or ‘mud’ – hence the name. These were exploration rigs so very cramped, old, rusty and unpleasant to work on. The job also involved using early PCs – anyone remember 386’s? to record the information. After an industrial accident that left me badly burned and blinded for a few weeks I decided to seek alternative employment! I worked for a number of years in manufacturing starting off as a lab rat in Quality Assurance before doing an MSc with the Open University in Manufacturing. I moved up to be a Process Engineer but started to get bored and when given the opportunity to work for a software company specialising in manufacturing I jumped at it. I then implemented software systems and then for a big multinational car spares company supporting their IT system, with four years travelling across Europe - not quite as glam as it sounds. After that I set up my own IT Company again specialising in Sage software. Then after my wife Sally and I had twin boys I decided to throttle back a bit and now I work near home implementing Sage software so I still get to travel to clients but am usually back home by 6 o’clock.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Academically it was getting an Open University MSc after a long hard slog – five years while working full-time as well. Employment-wise it was running my own company and personally it’s customising my own motorcycles.
And your biggest mistake?
Opening that door on the oil-rig that had the explosive gases waiting behind it! More seriously though my biggest mistake has been not having the confidence to go and do things I should have at the time and then doing them years later and realising what a piece of cake they actually were.
What are your ambitions now?
I am happy with what I am doing as I’ve finally achieved a good work-life balance doing a job I quite enjoy close to home. All my ambitions are personal at the moment, the immediate one being to get my custom bike finished for the bike rallies this summer.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in a similar field?
Experience is more important to employers than just a degree as we all know, but ability and enthusiasm are more important. IT is still relatively new and despite some jobs needing qualifications, if you throw yourself whole-heartedly into the job you will gain the experience you need.
What made you choose Keele University?
It was a campus university in the middle of England, far from Hamilton near Glasgow where I lived at the time where the steelworks had just closed and everyone was depressed – Keele looked wonderful!
What kind of a student were you?
Someone who went to party and certainly did. I failed exams regularly and was always hanging around at Christmas doing re-sits which was great as you got the whole campus to yourself and a few other reprobates. As President of the Rock (Music) Society for two years I had great fun organising discos and trips out to blues bars etc. I was fined for several incidents on campus but I still strongly deny that the exploding custard powder was my idea, neither was I to blame for the traffic cones on top of I block, Lindsey. I ended up with a 3rd!
How has Keele influenced your life?
I met my wife there (Sally née Dobbie, and we have just celebrated 25 years of being together) and am still in touch with many friends. We had a reunion there a few years ago for one of the bands we used to be in and hang out with. The main band was called Decomposition: James Berriman, Caroline Bollen (Walton), Dave Brown, Damien Cavanagh, Mike Keating, Steve Mitchell and Mike Whitaker.... They won the Battle of the Bands in 1988 and we’re having another reunion this year hopefully. So it has been an enormous influence on my life. I would say that half of my friends now are ones I met at Keele.
What is your favourite memory of Keele?
It has to be meeting all my mates in the Alright Bar (as it then was) on a Friday and Saturday night, drinking loads and talking then at kicking-out time joining the queue for the chip van, buying some nauseating pile of grease; then staggering off to someone’s room to chat, smoke, play music and drink the rest of the night away till dawn (sometimes involving a late night ‘munchie run’ down to Keele Service station)
What is your impression of Keele now?
One of my current clients is in Keele Science Park so I went back quite recently, it’s amazing how much of it hasn’t changed and yet how radical some of the changes are like the great big thing* in front of the geology department! (* Claus Moser Research Centre. Ed.) I have to say I’ll be sad when the front of the Union is changed and all those grey paving slabs are got rid of. I have many fond memories of sitting on those steps outside the shops chatting away.
Anything else you would like to add?
Keele was a life-changing experience for me and although it was only four years of my life it set the course for most of the things I was to do later in life.