Today we had the opportunity to sit down with Martin Svejda, an international PHD Computer Science student, who came to BCU from the Czech Republic! He has a pretty inspiring story and once again proves just what is possible when you fully immerse yourself into the BCU community.
Hi Martin, it’s great getting to chat with you today! What originally got you interested in Grad+ and the award?
“I was always interested in certifications as they have quite a different weight back home. So, it is not only a sense of achievement but also, I wanted to get the most out of my course and beyond! Grad+ offered to me a guide to what is doable or related to my studies and interests so I could plan what I’d like to do and discover, whilst maintaining a sense of direction as to where I want to take it. For example, if I wanted to travel, I would align myself with activities connected to travelling.”
How many of the award levels have you completed and when did you do these?
“I completed up to the Gold level in my first year, and when the Platinum was announced in my final year of my BSC course, I made it my personal mission to complete it before I finished my degree and I am pleased to say that I managed it.”
Out of all the online resources & programmes we offer, which one is your favourite and why?
“I used potential.ly and also LinkedIn Learning as within my computing course there is always something to learn, yet they have so much more to offer. Other resources like the STAR technique helped me tremendously in various interviews not only computing related. It can be hard to admit sometimes, but Big White Wall has also helped me because staying on top is demanding mentally too, and it is fine to ask for help!”
Apart from the work you’ve done with Grad+, tell us about what else you’ve gotten involved with within the university!
“I have been fortunate enough to be the first ever student at BCU (with the team of course) to be awarded with an Extra Mile Award and the Student Union’s and Vice Chancellor’s Award. I had the opportunity to embark on teaching and went to China to help strengthen our partnership with our sister university in Wuhan.
Recently as part of my PhD studies I was able to be part of establishing a brand-new High-Performance Computing department from scratch to serve university but also outsiders too! I travelled to Greece to attend PhD Hub hackathon which I helped organise too. What I consider really an achievement, as promised on my very first day at BCU, I found and made friendships that will last a lifetime!”
We hear you’ve won an Extra Mile Award, can you tell us more about this?
“I was with other placement students at the time and this was my very first assignment on the job! I was relatively known over my placement and was entrusted with creating a guide for the whole event in terms of technical delivery and I oversaw part ordering, delivery, and storage. So, the event was one weeklong Hackathon for all the first year students in CEBE, called Induction Hack. Students were given a robot assembly kit and were to make it as interesting as desired whilst learn crucial aspects of their upcoming degree. This was the very first time this has been done and for my efforts, responsibility and work on the event itself I, amongst my team, was awarded an Extra Mile Award, but also the Student Union’s President and Vice Chancellor’s Award. None of those were ever given to placement students before, so that was a big one!”
What advice would you give to a new Computer Science student who is interested in starting their Grad+ award?
“I would say from the beginning especially, be a YES person! If an opportunity presents itself, take it. I know studies can get overwhelming but this scheme is designed so that it does teach you, but also gives a breather, it allows you to see what else is out there to be done and provides that often much needed break. Today, your degree will not be enough. I would like to stress that any, and I mean any competitive edge you can have over others WILL help. It does not even have to be related because everything has benefits and it is good for something somewhere down the line.”
During our chat you told us you helped to start the International Buddy Scheme within the university – can you tell us more?
“All the credit for this goes to my dear friend Nicole-Stepfanie Szabo who created it in the first place. I was one of the first employees to be hired and was with the group for the first 2 years. We worked on shaping the scheme, and how could we support international students in all aspects of life, specifically specialising on areas outside of help with assignments, although we provided those too! I made sure I could give all the information that I never had as an international student because a scheme like this didn’t exist. We had a good turnout on the events, so I like to think that it helped some people.”
Finally, what are your plans going forward Martin? We remember you telling us something about a super computer too?
“I currently work for BCU on a 12-month contract. This means very soon I will transfer from part-time to full-time studentship and will focus 100% on my studies. I need to use a supercomputer for my PhD, so when there was a possibility to start one with my amazing supervisor Dr Roger Tait, I said yes immediately. We have done some work already and more is in the pipeline! So that is my future I hope. I will emerge as a Doctor myself in 3 years, and then hopefully the HPC department will be up and running steadily and I will join BCU as a permanent member of staff so I can keep running what I started. If it sounds like a dream come true, that is because it is. Overall in my years of studies up to now I have achieved all my goals, and then some! I would like to finish saying that no matter how crazy your dreams may sound, always follow the clues and work harder than anyone and eventually they will become reality no matter how impossible it seems.”
Wow, what a productive time Martin has had during his time at BCU as a student, from winning an Extra Mile Award to completing the 4 levels of the Grad+ award, and even beginning to design a super computer! If you’d like to share your story with us you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or message us via social media.