James Stewart

James tells us about his career journey after completing the MPhys in Mathematical Physics.

Why did you decide to study at the University of Edinburgh?

James Stewart

Though I grew up in Stirling, I was born in Edinburgh and it always felt like home. We’d visit for the Book Festival, the Fringe and other events like theatre shows, so I knew it well. I knew the University of Edinburgh offered a Physics degree programme, which was a subject I was interested in. I wanted to be away from home, but close enough too, so Edinburgh was the perfect fit for me.

Tell us about your career journey

Although I now reflect on my time studying Mathematical Physics as a very positive thing, I left University feeling that there was a side of myself, the more creative and artistic side, that was not being fulfilled. After graduation, I began by leaving maths and science behind completely, working in Blackwell’s Bookshop, then as a tour guide. I was also involved in comedy, acting and writing, which I’d started to do towards the end of university.

I eventually entered the world of escape games, became Creative Director for the company I was working for and designing new games for clients. After applying to graduate accountancy programs, I then landed in the Technology Development Programme at Nationwide, where I am now. I work as part of a software development team, fixing problems and creating new pieces of code.

Though it seems like a very unusual path to working in technology, I have learned a lot from this diverse path. All my experiences have been related to problem solving, which I learned most about from studying maths and physics.

What did you gain from your time at the University?   Were there any experiences during your time at University which particularly helped prepare you for life after graduation?

Studying at University, in a subject I was good at in school, actually ended up showing me that there were other aspects of my personality that I wanted to explore. While focussing on physics and maths, I ended up neglecting what I was actually more passionate about: the arts and creativity. However, during my fourth year of university I was lucky to join university Edinburgh Movie Production Society, and then the Edinburgh Revue, which is a comedy society.

Looking back in retrospective, I can say that studying physics gave me so many useful skills for everything I’ve done in my career. My analytical brain now coexists with my creative brain, and I feel mostly balanced between the two.

Do you have  a favourite memory of your time  in Edinburgh?

I remember the fourth year group project on the subject of Consciousness, I enjoyed looking at science and topics beyond science too. That was my first real taste of that collaboration. Working together with like-minded people on a project is what I've loved most in my career as well.

What do you wish you had known as a student?

I wish I had known that university is less about the specific things you are learning, and much more about what you learn about learning and also about yourself. I also wish I had known that it is normal to feel worried during university as most things are new. One of the best things to do is accept that and enjoy new experiences and what they can teach you.