Lecturer Spotlight: Alan O'Neill

Meet Computing Lecturer Alan O'Neill. Alan started his D&A career in 2000 after over two decades of experience in the military, proving it's always possible to make a total career switch and embark on new journeys.

What's your role at D&A College, and what's the story behind how you ended up here?

My day job at D&A is Lecturer in Computing. I've been in the further education sector now, lecturing in Computing since January 2000. On 21st November 1977, I left a one-horse village in a very rural area of England in search of something more. I joined the Royal Air Force, and for the next 22 years, apart from the odd occasion, I enjoyed every second of it. Whilst I have never really been in favour of conscription, I do think that there are many things about a Service background and training that young people could benefit from today.

I was fortunate enough to serve both at home and abroad in numerous locations - from Oxford to Cyprus, from Belize to Lossiemouth, and to many places in between. Some of the people I met I am still in touch with. So, after 22 years Service, on 24th November 1999 it came time for me to part company with the military. I left a pretty successful career to start at Dundee College in January 2000.

I spent the next six years as a part-time member of staff and also completed my BSc in Networked Computing at Napier University. Followed shortly by a Post Grad TQFE. It wasn’t long before I moved to Aberdeen College in a full-time post.

I came back to Dundee College a couple of years later and within, I guess, three years, regionalization and mergers took place. Since then I’ve been just quietly working away in Computing.

So, work is one thing, but what's the scoop on your life outside these college walls? Any exciting projects or weekend adventures?

Yes lots. I've never really been one to sit still for long periods of time, although when I was a lot younger I was an avid reader. So, outside of college I play golf with membership on my local club and at the moment playing off 18, but I would really love to be in single figures but really, that's probably beyond me now.  I’ve also been a paddler for many years now, and am a founder member and still committee member, of a local canoe club. I am a Level 3 Canoe Coach and also a Level 3 Kayak Coach. The club moved to being a charity fairly recently, so we had to upgrade the standards of our meetings / documentation and so on, and also report annually to OSCR. Having been a keen family historian all my life, I recently published a book on beginning your family history.

If you had to ditch your current expertise for something entirely different, what subject would you dive into, and what's the reasoning behind your switch up?

If I had to leave Computing behind, I’d move into something historical, maybe research driven, even social science based. It's difficult to imagine that, because computing and technology is in nearly everything. So even moving out of computing as a day job, whatever I moved into I’d still be a user of tech as it's everywhere.

If you could have any person, dead or alive, as a guest lecturer in your class, who would it be and why?

The pc answer would probably be someone from the foundations of Computing (Turing, Lovelace etc or someone like that). But secretly, the Drill Instructor from Full Metal Jacket – to teach self-discipline and teamwork ….

Share with us the most valuable piece of advice you've picked up on your academic adventure, especially when it comes to navigating the ins and outs of your subject.

The most valuable piece of advice given to me was before I came to academia, it was from my military career. The second-half of my time in the military I had a responsibility for teaching, training, learning, standards etc but the job role was Instructor in Gunnery (it meant surface to air missile systems) and a mentor of mine, who became a very good friend, and it is “there is no substitute to knowing your subject well”.

If Alan has inspired you, browse our Computing courses here!

Look out for more lecturer spotlights coming soon!