David Harrison-Brown

BEng Chemical Engineering with Minerals Engineering, 2002
Senior Technical Applications Specialist, Johnson Controls (JCI)

I manage the Global Accounts for the Security Products division of JCI. I work closely with our largest end users ensuring they have the best experience of our products and get the most benefit from their purchases. Day to day this means that I talk to them about new products, how to solve their new problems with equipment they already have and provide a point of escalation when needed for support issues.

What is the best thing about what you are doing now?

I have literally no idea what each day is going to bring. The variety and challenge in this is the best part of the job for me.

What made you interested in your current role?

I love a challenging problem to solve, and to get the biggest problems you need to work with the biggest customers – so Global Accounts was the best place for me to be.

david harrison-brown

How has your career developed since graduating?

I managed to secure a Graduate Process Engineer position with a plastics manufacturer, however after only a few months I was accidentally exposed to one of the chemicals used onsite. I discovered I had a serious allergy to it; a 1 in 1,000,000 chance. After I recovered, I was medically not allowed inside the plant again as another reaction could have been fatal. I was a chemical engineer who was allergic to Chemicals!

This necessitated a change of career.I had always had an interest in IT so I sought employment there. After a couple of years, I was working as the IT Manager for a company that provided sensors and cameras for industrial use. I became involved in that side of the business which in turn led to a position working with industrial cameras. From there I moved into the Security industry, working on CCTV and electronic security. I switched companies early on and have been with my current employer for more than 13 years now. I started as an Applications Engineer covering the UK, and I am now a product expert for multiple product lines with a global remit looking after our largest end users.

What skills you learned from your time at university would you say you use most in your job?

It might not be the specific knowledge you learn during your degree that is most important to you later in life. What is key is learning to apply whatever knowledge you do have toward solving a problem, because that’s a skill can be applied to any subject at all.

We Are (Third Width)

Why did you originally apply to Birmingham?

It was simply the best place to study Chemical Engineering in the UK when I applied back in the late 90s. I also attended a two day visit event to the school where we got to attend some lectures and were put up overnight in Shackleton Hall to get a real feel for student life. This made me really want to study at Birmingham.

What are your fondest memories of the University?

The friendships made with people on my course, and spending three years of your life studying, living and partying with those people. Sometimes I still miss those times and friends today.

Is there anything you wish you knew either before you started your studies that would have better helped prepare you?

I took a year out before I came to Birmingham. I took part in a scheme called ‘A year in industry’, which was like an industrial placement year but you did it before you started your course rather than the more traditional point between years two and three of your degree. Giving up a salaried position was very hard, and it meant that I always struggled to adjust to just my student loans instead of a more regular monthly income. This made my three years at university a lot more difficult financially than they might have been had I not taken that year out.

What advice would you give to current students?

So much has changed in the 20 years since I graduated! My one recommendation would be don’t share a bathroom! When I came to university I choose to live in the only student accommodation that had en suite bathrooms, and always got plenty of stick from my friends for living in the ‘posh’ halls. Now, I think most are en suite but that wasn’t the norm when I studied here!