Jack of all trades, Master of Computer Science – and now a PhD. student!


This is Jester Coder, my little mascot, standing on the little computer that could. And the one that’s made this journey possible. As many of you who follow me on Twitter already know I was a fairly lousy student in a fairly lousy school. I always used to joke that double ‘not-getting-stabbed’ on a Wednesday afternoon (also known as German) was by far my favourite lesson. There was, however, one dedicated teacher (thanks Mr Glazier) who instilled in me a passion for coding and computing that never left me. Sadly circumstance meant going to University was not an option at the time so I left with almost no qualifications and no idea what I was going to do.

I’ve always worked for companies doing generally techy things, but always in sales or management. Fast forward 20yrs and several life-times and in 2012 and I was one of the first in the queue for this new little wunderkind called a Raspberry Pi. If I’m honest, I actually did very little with it. I’d never touched Linux or Python and really had little idea what I was doing. I did a little experimenting but it wasn’t until a visit to Bletchley Park and The National Museum of Computing a few months later where I saw adverts for something called a Pi Jam (or Raspberry Jam) which piqued my interest no end.

I returned less than a week later to the next Jam where I met Mike Horne, the now esteemed PiWars organiser, PiPod Podcaster, and Cambridge Jam Organiser. I also met Peter Onions, another famous Pi-Face. Some of the projects on display blew me away and I couldn’t help but think I’d missed a trick with this little device. So, I worked through ‘Invent with Python’ by Al Sweigart – highly recommended, via ‘Learn Python the Hard Way’ – also excellent, and eventually worked my way up to doing a MOOC with Rice University (An introduction to interactive programming in Python.)

3 years and many projects later I was lucky enough, based on the work I had done with the Pi and my self taught experience, to be accepted to read for a Masters in Computer Science at the University of Hertfordshire. I am thrilled to report that I received the final grade for my dissertation today and I got a distinction for this, which happily guarantees me a distinction for the MSc. overall.

With that in the bag I can now reveal that I have been awarded a fully funded PhD. studentship with The Knowledge Media Institute. This is a part of the Open University and is based, rather perfectly just down the road from Bletchley Park where this journey really began. I will be studying full time for three years – and they even pay me to do it which is unbelievable. I would never have thought four years ago that this would ever be in the realms of possibility.

I cannot give enough thanks to my wife, to Raspberry Pi, and to the Pi community and all those who encouraged me to pursue that which I have always wanted to.

I was a part of the 8-bit generation, and I still missed out. The Raspberry Pi is a phenomenal success and I believe is vitally important in the growth of interest in CS and STEM subjects for the next generation of coders, hackers and engineers. Long may it continue. I for one would be in a very different place without it.

Until next time.



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