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Bartosz Borek

Linux Engineer, Arts Alliance Media

BEng Computer Communication & Networks, 2012

What inspired you to choose to study at Middlesex University?

I chose Middlesex as the place to study my degree because the promised course content covered all the things that I was deeply interested in: in-depth coverage of hardware/embedded systems design, software design and concepts, and a lot on networking (which was my main motivator).

I have been interested in computer networks ever since the days before the early internet (private BBSs and the era of Public Domain software) and I knew from an early age that the best way to secure an interesting and challenging career was to skill myself up in those subjects as very soon every businesses would come to rely on those technologies.

What one piece of advice would you give to a new student preparing to study at Middlesex?

My main piece of advice would be to maximise the return on your investment and your time while at university. Study honestly, challenge yourself at every possible step and don't believe everything you hear until you not only understand it but are also able to question it and validate the concept for yourself. Not only should you ask 'why?', but also 'what if?' and 'why not?' This kind of critical thinking will help you every day in your professional life as you need to be confident about what you say and think, and soon you will hopefully be paid for the use of your expertise. Remember that your opinion will be only as valid as the reasoning behind it.

I once spoke to a fellow student in class during the end of a mid-term exam and he told me that he doesn't think that there is any point in learning right now, he was convinced that once he finished and got a job with his uncle then that will be the time when he "really starts to learn". Don't waste your cash or brain like that; use your time at university to explore the things you came to study. If you are lucky then you might be able to continue this in your career, no-one worthwhile will hire you if you don't have the knowledge and skills that they need. The time for learning is now and you have the rest of your career to pay for the student loan.

Do you have a defining memory of your time at Middlesex? What makes this stand out in particular?

We were doing some lab work and everyone was following instructions verbatim. There were lots of settings that we had to program into this hardware board and I started wondering if I could make the circuit go faster by changing the processor speed setting to a higher value (which it could, but the question was what consequences this would have on the performance of the program).

My tutor said that I was the only one who had asked 'what if?', and his response cemented in me a desire to experiment and affirmed my confidence to try out things like this again and again. This has become a way of approaching most engineering problems in my work life, and while sometimes I get it wrong, I see that as a positive as even negative results are a result. You know what works and you also know what doesn't. It's always better to have tried two approaches and failed at one than tried one approach which worked and not know the limits.

What made you want to study your course?

Middlesex's BEng Computer Communications and Networks degree promised that I would have the opportunity to study these technologies and I knew this kind of formal education would be a good bet for my future - which it was. Plus, I also thought that practically every graduate out there has a BSc of some kind and having a BEng is something unique that not everyone has, it was different and being different in this way is often a good thing.

What did you enjoy most about your course?

The exposure to practical experiments was my favourite part of the course. Theory is all well and good, but unless you want to become an academic and work with theories only then you are going to need some practical skills.

Even writing up experiments in itself proved to be a good skill to learn and practice. Every new Linux script/software release/process that I create at work requires professional and comprehensive documentation to be written. It has to completely describe the subject in such a way that others can follow your instructions and you know you have got it right when the feedback you get is that "it works" and no-one asks any questions about it.

How did your course and time at Middlesex help you get to where you are professionally today?

The foundation of knowledge that I gained at Middlesex, as well as the skills in researching and critically assessing new information, has helped the most in my work life. Also the exposure to kindred minds; sometimes talking about a problem can help you solve it by yourself while explaining it to someone else.

Face time with colleagues and tutors is very good practice for the situations at work where you will be in a meeting and your opinion is called for too, as you need to back up what comes out of your mouth with facts in a confident manner.

What made you choose the industry you work in?

I planned to work in the IT industry for a long time before I started my course, which was the main reason I chose to study this degree. Most of all, I thought that if I was to spend the majority of my life working then it might as well be something that I truly love to do and it turned out to be a good approach.

I have worked in a profession that was completely different to what I do now and I found that once I lost interest in a task it was nearly impossible to get motivated again in a positive way. Let's be honest, you will still find yourself de-motivated sometimes through one reason or another and it is much easier to find a way to become motivated again if you are doing something that truly interests you. That is the secret to finding the energy needed to get up each morning and face the commute and full day at work, only to go home after and do it all again, every weekday, of every month, of every year until you retire.

How did you get your foot on the career ladder after you graduated? Would you recommend this route?

I found a job by first talking to a family friend who was a recruitment consultant. They believed in my motivation and potential, and before I knew it I had an interview lined up and got the job straightaway. Selling yourself is a difficult thing even for the best of us and having someone else to help sell you to a company is definitely a big advantage over someone who is going it alone. Just talking about yourself to someone who finds work for others as a living is great practice for selling your skills to anyone and I would definitely recommend it. You might even end up with more money as recruitment consultants that specialise in your chosen field will have up-to-date knowledge of who's hiring and who's paying what.

What advice would you give to those just starting out?

Practice persuading people of how much you love what you do, why you want to do it, what successes you have had and what excites you most of all. Tell them how awesome your last experiment was or how much you enjoyed your last piece of coursework (it might sound lame but it really isn't if you think about it).

What would you say your career highlights are to date?

I have had many good and bad moments in my career but I always try to turn a bad moment into a better one by learning from it. Implementing solutions and figuring out problems that no-one else in the company had are the tertiary highlights.

My secondary highlights would be my promotions from technician to junior systems engineer and then to systems engineer within two years.

The highlight of my career, however, was coming up with a real-world solution to a business problem that we had.

Modern cinema is fully digital, meaning no more actual reels of film (with some very rare exceptions). Content is delivered digitally via satellite (we are working on sending it over the internet as well) and also on physical hard drives. Hard drive copying machines usually perform sector by sector copy jobs, meaning that even if only 120GB of a 250GB drive is used then the remaining 130GB empty space is also copied, which causes them to be inefficient in terms of copy time and also very expensive to purchase.

It gave me great satisfaction to work on the project and I have used all the knowledge that I gained while at Middlesex University and learnt an awful lot more on top. It is now being deployed internationally into other territories and I have even had the pleasure of giving it a name - Lustro, which means Mirror in Polish.

Once there was a client visiting our team and my colleague told her about the system, to which she replied 'who is your supplier?'. I couldn't help but to butt in and say 'I built that!'.

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