Meet Mark Cund: BCU’s Alumnus of the Year


BCU has announced its latest recipient of the Alumni of the Year award, which recognises and celebrates the outstanding achievements of our graduates.

Mark Cund completed a BSc (Hons) in Computing and Electronics in 2008, before returning to study for an MSc in Automotive Calibration and Control, which he graduated from in 2012.

After working for Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) for almost 20 years in roles including System Engineer and Autonomous Vehicle Control Manager, Mark is now the Technical Lead in Control and Automation at Komatsu Mining.

But Mark’s journey to university was anything but plain sailing, and he has had to fight constant battles with self-confidence and doubt in his abilities throughout his life and career.

He said: “When I left school, I did A-Levels at Sixth Form, but I didn’t pass. I joined the Army in Military Intelligence, but it didn’t work out for me. I even started a degree at a different university and dropped out. I felt like a failure and believed that I would always fail at anything I wanted to do.

“After years of feeling not good enough to do anything, I realised that I was pretty good with computers, so I got a job as a Software Engineer at TRW. The company were very pro-university and wanted their staff to be well educated and qualified. I didn’t feel like I had the brains to complete a degree, I didn’t feel smart enough, or academic enough.

“But I really wanted to work my way up at work and get promotions. To be able to get certain jobs, I needed a degree, which spurred me on. I knew that with a degree, I could take more control of my future and what I could do next. The company offered to pay for my degree, and thanks to being able to do the course part-time alongside my job, I had nothing to lose.

“When I arrived at BCU, I was a mature student. I was 30 years old, had a mortgage to pay and a family to look after. This gave me a driving force to succeed.”

Mark studied at BCU’s City North campus in Perry Barr, before the course was moved to Millennium Point, now part of BCU’s City Centre campus.

He said: “When I started my undergraduate degree, I was working at TRW, but by the time I graduated, I had started working for JLR. Birmingham was also where I wanted to study; I’m from the area and I grew up in Redditch, so BCU was local to where I lived and worked at the time.

“I came back to BCU just a year after completing my undergraduate studies to do a postgraduate degree. The course was the only one in the country at the time that offered the flexibility to do it part-time alongside my job. So, I came back to Millennium Point every Monday afternoon for two years to complete my Master’s degree alongside working at JLR too.

“Completing my Master’s degree was a big highlight for me; I didn’t need to do it, it wasn’t a requirement of my job, and it was a really hard course, but it provided me with another set of skills.”

In his role at JLR, Mark worked in the research department, where he worked as an Engineer on a wide range of projects during his time there.

Projects included designing a mathematical algorithm to detect the attitude of a car when it was in motion to pull the electric seatbelt retractors, as well as leading on a project that would slam the breaks on a car if a collision is imminent, and he was even part of the team that introduced autonomous cars which drive themselves based on a pre-determined route.

The projects paved the way for him to work closely with government, as well as appear on TV shows.

He said: “One of my biggest career highlights was at JLR. We wanted to be able to steer, brake and accelerate a car with an iPhone. We thought that if you separate the controls of the car so they can be programmed by a computer, you have effectively created a motion-controlled system, so the autonomy that makes the decisions is the next logical step. If you can do what you do with your fingers on an iPhone, the next thing you can do is write a programme to mimic your fingers.

“It worked, and I demonstrated it on a test track to press outlets. Soon after, I was asked if I would demonstrate it live on BBC’s The One Show. It was scary, demonstrating with a beast of a Land Rover with two obstacles live on TV, but it was a lot of fun. It also happened to be on the same day as my interview to become a Chartered Engineer, so a big day for me.”

Nowadays, Mark is Technical Lead in Control and Automation at Komatsu Mining. The company, who are based in Worcester, make mining equipment.

Mark’s role includes managing software and hardware engineers, analysing data, managing plans, solving technical and design problems, and make sure that all staff are following the correct processes.

But working in his chosen industry hasn’t been without its challenges.

He said: “In this industry, you are always learning something because what you’re setting out to do essentially hasn’t been done before. 

“A lot of my work has involved me and my team having to start from scratch and do a huge amount of research into what needs to be done. In my current role, I’m doing so much that I’ve never done before, but that’s what keeps me going, always learning something new and discovering new ways of doing stuff.

“The challenge with engineering is that you must get comfortable with the discomfort. Solving problems is the job, so you have to deal with the discomfort of not knowing everything all the time.”

After somewhat of a rocky start to his working life, Mark has enjoyed huge success in his career since graduating from BCU. But what is his secret?

He said: “The word I’d use to describe my career so far is unplanned. I’ve stumbled across things that have interested me, and opportunities have been placed in front of me, mostly based on my skills and experience. But I have never had a really fixed idea of what I should be doing, I just like knowing how things work, so I’ve done what has interested me at that time.

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to get good at something; it doesn’t matter what it is, but if you get good at something, you can get good at something else too, and so on.”

With Mark accepting his Alumni of the Year award alongside graduating students from the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment, he has several pieces of advice for those looking to follow in his footsteps.

He said: “Be resilient to your own thoughts and remember that everyone has to deal with imposter syndrome at some point in their working lives.

“Also, accept that you can’t do everything all at once, so break tasks down and deal with one thing at a time. You will soon become much more confident in yourself and your abilities.

“And more than anything, be authentic. You can’t change who you are, so embrace where you’ve come from and who you have become.”

So, what does it mean for the graduate who assumed he’d never succeed in life, to become BCU's Alumni of the Year?

He said: “It still hasn’t really sunk in, but it is a real honour to be awarded the title. I am not an emotional person, but my wife, who is also a fellow BCU graduate, was really delighted for me. I don’t see what I’ve done in my career as an achievement as such, I’m just doing my job.

“But even on days when just getting out of bed feels like hard work, I get up, get dressed, show up and do my job to my greatest abilities.”

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