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James Matchett


PT Computing Systems

Why did you decide to study part-time?

To me it just made perfect sense, I wanted the ability to gain real life industry experience while studying towards a degree.

It means I don’t have to worry about sorting out a placement if I were to do a conventional full-time degree and there is zero uncertainty about securing employment after I graduate, because as far as the company I work for during my part time degree is concerned, this is the job, and I just carry on as I have been for the past 4 years once I graduate!

How would you describe yourself to someone who’d never met you?

I like to think of myself as friendly and inquisitive.

I always love to ask questions and figure how things work.

My core interests lie in cyber security and it’s definitely the field I want to work in as part of my long-term career goals.

Tell us something interesting about yourself?

I’m a strong believer that you can teach anyone, anything, regardless of their previous experience in any subject; just as long as you find the right way to teach it to them!  

Before the pandemic I used to love going out to schools to teach pupils how to do programming, as well as hosting workshops directly for the teachers, to teach them how to better deliver lessons on programming and computer science.

What obstacles or challenges did you overcome?

In the past I used to find I had ideas in my head that I couldn’t really communicate as clearly as I wanted, so I worked hard teaching in volunteer groups to practice and develop my communication skills.  

As a result, I got to see the brilliant moment where someone who thought they’d never understand a certain topic, get a grasp on it and crack it, the so called ‘lightbulb moment’. It definitely will have a profound impact on the person being taught, but also on myself as the teacher, being able to see the impact outreach projects have!

How has your life changed since beginning your study – if you didn’t take the opportunity, where would you have been?

Since beginning my study I feel I’ve definitely grown a lot as a person, and developed my academic skills, professional skills but also personally I feel I've come out of my shell a lot more. I’m not afraid to go out and present on a stage or talk to someone about something technical that I’m passionate about.

Being given the autonomy and opportunity to research and learn about areas that really interest me has opened the world up for me. I always want to do a deep dive to understand how something works, take it apart and rebuild it so there are no black-boxes in areas I’m researching.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Without a doubt my biggest achievement has been winning the Higher-Level Apprenticeship Award from the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland.

It was humbling to find out that the judging panel decided that I embodied the core values of higher-level apprenticeship schemes and also that people were out there, seeing the hard work I was putting in and thought I was should be nominated for the award!

What are your future goals and aspirations?

I hope to further my skills in cyber-security and to continue teaching via outreach activities in the near future once the pandemic restrictions are reduced enough to allow in-person visits to resume.

I’m continuing my part-time apprenticeship programme with Kainos Software and Ulster University and it is my hope that when I graduate with a bachelor's degree in Computing systems, that I will be able to continue my academic journey onwards with potentially a postgraduate degree in cyber-security.

Why would you tell a prospective student to study part-time?

I would definitely say there are no downsides to a PT degree in partnership with a company.  

You are able to get the industry experience, the degree and also have the full university experience.

Not to mention the additional industry benefits of getting 4+ years of on-the-job experience while doing your degree, the connections you’ll make in industry as well as the life changing experiences you will have during your time on a part-time partnership degree.