Alexander Gittings

After graduating from BSc (Hons) Computer Networks, Alexander has been working as a Professional Services Consultant at Axians UK, designing and implementing networking solutions.

Why did you choose to study your course?

When leaving sixth form I had two options study something sports-related such as Sports Science etc or IT related, I was generally better (as per my grades) at sports but had a keen interest in IT. During school, the IT manager noticed myself and a friend liked IT and put us through the Microsoft Certified Professional exams all whilst doing four other A-levels. During lunchtime, we also taught other students programming on Raspberry PI’s. During this time networking was highlighted in a lot of areas of my learning and I decided to look into Network related degrees and BCU was among one of them.

Why did you choose BCU?

During my search for universities, I visited many that had a Computer Networking related degree. BCU stood out as the open day allowed me to talk to the lecturers and get hands-on experience with some of the networking equipment. I think it also helped that I got an unconditional offer which eased my decision-making process.

What did you enjoy most about studying your course at BCU?

I think I had a unique experience at BCU that was very different from many students that attend university. Firstly, I got a job as part of the BCU Students' Union Welcome Week Ambassadors team in my first year, helping to welcome first-year students attending BCU. I learnt very quickly in this role and had a great time. During the Welcome Week, I met two BCU staff members Stuart Brand and Luke Millard from the Centre of Excellence in Learning and Teaching. The Centre then employed me during my three years at BCU, to do research and different projects around the University relating to Student Belonging and Student Satisfaction. I presented research at many European First Year Experience conferences around the world.

During my time with CELT, I was part of research into rewarding extracurricular activities within universities and became a member of the steering group behind BCU’s Graduate+ programme. I also had the chance to become a lab technician for several computing-related modules such as Switched LANs and WANs. The facilities that Computer Networks had access to were great to physically create networks and test different scenarios which helped with my network understanding.

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What is your current job role?

My current job role is as a Professional Services Consultant at Axians UK. My responsibility is to work with several Axians customers to design and implement networking solutions. Axians are a Juniper Elite partner with several different technologies under their belt such as multiple SD-WAN vendors and more.

How has your degree helped you to secure and undertake this role?

I think the sandwich course enabled me to learn the basics in the Cisco technology stack within the first two years enabling me to get a placement at Cisco where I was able to advance very quickly. BCU allowed me to go into placement with a good understanding of both business process and networking knowledge.

What do you enjoy about this role?

My current networking role allows me to work on cutting edge technology such as Silver Peak and Versa SD-WAN technologies as well as more traditional networking. My role also focuses heavily on Network Automation tooling which I focused my final year dissertation on.

What main skill from your university days will you take with you through your life? 

A skill that I have taken from university is to test and implement things to learn, the BCU lab gives me the facility to test my networking knowledge and allow me to grow my understanding through breaking networks.

What have been your greatest achievements since graduating from BCU?

I have had the opportunity to consult with very prestigious companies such as working with BT Global Services in Amsterdam for six weeks to migrate Layer3 MPLS LSPs that carry TV shows around the world shown to millions. Design and implement new SD-WAN technologies to many common brands around the world. Present my work in network automation at conferences in France. However, I think my greatest achievement following university has been passing my Microlight Pilots Licence last year, it has been a dream of mine to be able to fly and now I’m able to do so.

What advice would you give to a student who is heading into their first roles?

Firstly, be prepared. Going into an interview, you need to be confident in the basic understanding of networking, DNS, DHCP, Spanning Tree etc. You could be asked and expected to know the basics of how common protocols and standards function and if not, don’t lie, explain to the interviewer what you do know and how you would find more information about a specific technological area such as reading up on the RFC or researching whitepapers relating to a specific technology area.

Once you are accepted and heading into a job, be open to ideas but also be confident in suggesting your ideas, sometimes companies are looking for that spark and excitement to do new things. As well as technical competencies, professional skills are required by all jobs, from organising meetings with external customers to keeping on top of work during busy periods.