In the summer of 2002, and despite having graduated just four years previously, I found myself at a crossroads in my career. I was living in Edinburgh, working for an accountancy firm, and six months into a chartered accountancy training programme. Everything, as they say, was going swimmingly - I had a great social life in a fantastic city, I was making good progress on the training programme, and I was working for one of the country's largest accountancy firms with significant potential for career development.
Yet, I wasn't happy. Maybe it was the fast-paced, competitive nature of the industry. Maybe it was Edinburgh, as in hindsight I often felt slightly unsettled and a bit of an outsider. Maybe, despite having undertaking a four year degree in the subject, I didn't actually like working in accountancy. For whatever reason, and after some sleepness nights, I made the decision to change career, leave the firm, drop out of the training programme, and return home to Dundee, where I had grown up, to join the MSc in Applied Computing conversion programme at the University of Dundee.
It was a huge gamble, yet without doubt it turned out to be the best career decision I have ever taken.
I ended up staying at the University of Dundee for almost exactly eleven years, during which I achieved an MSc, then a PhD, and subsequently worked on a number of interesting projects as a postdoctoral researcher, (occasional) teacher, and accessibility consultant for the Digital Media Access Group (DMAG). Those eleven years came to an end last week. Forgive me if I sound like an X Factor contestant who has fallen at the last hurdle, but it has been a fantastic journey, and I admit that I will miss working in academia. As I write this, it's Freshers' Week at the university, and I spent yesterday afternoon clearing up my desk to the sound of mums and dads dropping off their offspring, copious amounts of shopping bags, cuddly toys, and no doubt one or two tears. I hope they enjoy the ride as much as I did.
Like these students, for me it's time for a new challenge. After taking a one month break to recharge my batteries, I will be joining my ex-colleague David Sloan (@sloandr) at The Paciello Group as an accessibility consultant on the 1st of October. I'm looking forward to working with my new colleagues in a domain I had no idea existed when I left accountancy, yet one which personally ticks all the boxes in terms of being able to apply my skills, to continue learning about technological developments, and to help create digital resources which benefit everyone.
So, to misquote Neil Finn as Crowded House closed their Farewell Tour in 1996 (an odd reference, I know, but I like odd references and it seems apt):
Thanks for having me, University of Dundee, and everyone else I've worked with. It has been a blast.