Alumni Profile - Dave Gurnell

Partner at a specialist technology consultancy called Underscore

dave-gurnell"I'm constantly researching new technology to expand my personal skill-set. I am also my own boss, which allows me the flexibility to work any way I like as long as I get the job done."  

PhD Computer Science (2006), School of Computer Science

Please provide a short paragraph detailing how your career has developed since graduating from the University of Birmingham?

Following my PhD Computer Science I formed a small software development company with fellow graduate Noel Welsh. We found ourselves taking on work from larger and larger customers, so we formed a partnership with several similar companies to create Underscore. There are now ten partners in the UK and Australia and we have customers all over the world.

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

I'm constantly researching new technology to expand my personal skill-set. I am also my own boss, which allows me flexibility to work any way I like as long as I get the job done.

What did you think were the best points of your course at the University?

A PhD gives you the freedom to research any subject you find interesting. This is both a blessing and a curse because nobody can tell you what to do. You quickly become the expert in your topic, so you have to solve problems that nobody else can help with. I found this exciting and challenging.

What advice would you give to current students studying on the course?

The biggest problem I had was focus. I spent my first year looking at possible research topics without knowing what I wanted to focus on. My advice to anyone starting a PhD is to find a problem that interests you, do something creative with it, and publish a paper as soon as you can. The best feedback comes from people at conferences - they will naturally point you towards a topic that is interesting and valuable to the community.

How did you grow as a person by studying at the University? Did it change your life in any way?

I gained self-motivation and self-confidence, which are really important in my profession. I also learned research and communication skills that I use every day. Most importantly, I picked up a lot of creative and intelligent friends who are a constant source of support and inspiration.