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Iain D. Brown

MSc Informatics

I found the entire course enjoyable – the lecturers and classroom assistants were enthusiastic and approachable.

Brief career to date: I worked in publishing for ten years after the award of my BA (English Literature), before completing an MA in the History of the Book at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. At a time when computers were just beginning to have an impact on the ways we consume information on screen, I used my MA studies to investigate the intersection of computing in the humanities – which consequently lead to a lectureship at University College London in electronic communication and publishing. After a good number of years I moved on to become a consultant in the electronic publishing arena, which in turn has led to joining the Civil Service.

Please summarise your current position/job: I work in the IT Security Team for a large Whitehall department as the Information Security Specialist. My responsibilities include ensuring the security and integrity of information held by this high-profile government department on its IT systems.

What made you decide to study for a qualification in computing? Although I was already a Member of the British Computer Society, through my existing work with computers since the 1980s, I wanted to obtain some formal recognition for my IT knowledge and experience. Doing a computer science degree seemed the most appropriate way to do this, as well as being intellectually stimulating.

Why did you choose Birkbeck? I came to Birkbeck with a strong humanities background. I looked at all the various courses at different London universities, but settled on Birkbeck as being the most convenient and most flexible. An important consideration was also the range interesting courses available as optional modules during the year of study.

How did your qualification help you in your career? Being awarded the MSc has helped me move into an area of great interest (and future demand!), that of information assurance. I was lucky I could tailor my studies at Birkbeck to focus more on this area in addition to learning more about computing systems and networks in general.

The MSc is also useful evidence for my application for the CESG Certified Professional scheme, which "recognises the expertise of those working in the Information Assurance and Cyber Security arenas in both government and industry" (CESG Website).

Did your time at Birkbeck help you in other ways? Besides getting the old "grey matter" firing again, studying at Birkbeck was a fun way to make new friends with people of similar interests but diverse backgrounds and ages and outlooks. It was also rewarding personally to be able to share one’s experiences with younger members of class.

Which parts of your course were particularly enjoyable or useful? I found the entire course enjoyable – the lecturers and classroom assistants were enthusiastic and approachable. I don’t think I could highlight any particular module as being outstandingly useful, as the modules I chose were equally relevant or challenging . The most enjoyable module was Michael Zakharyaschev’s "Fundamentals of Computing", which introduced us to the delights of Turing / finite state machines. I only wish I now had the leisure time to study this topic in much, much greater depth.