Ken McDermott BSc Hons Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Class of 1987

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Electrical and elecronic engineering graduate from the then Paisley College of Technology, now UWS, tells us about his career since graduation and why the reason behind his choice of study is just as applicable today.

Ken McDermott

Ken said: “I’d chosen the course in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, because of the college’s excellent reputation. The staff were very dedicated to the cause, and the ‘sandwich courses’ allowed you, from second year, to spend half your time in industry, half studying.”

This, Ken believes, ensured that when he and his peers eventually entered the world of work, they had a “perfect fit” for immediate employment.

“I do think the industrial experience was invaluable, because you weren’t coming out cold with a degree–you were coming out with a degree, plus a year and a half’s worth of industrial experience. You were further ‘up the curve’ than when you began.

“The actual qualifications we had were absolutely relevant, certainly back in the 1980s; electronics was a boom subject, and there was a big demand for them in Scotland. Of course, once you were with the companies you did start using your new skills, but it was alongside an understanding of what people actually did. That’s why the industry recognised the importance of the courses. It wasn’t uncommon for companies taking on students as part of the sandwich course to offer them full-time employment thereafter.”

During the second, third and fourth years of his Honours degree, Ken worked with three different companies, for six months at a time. “I actually was quite fortunate, because I was able to get a taste of different organisations, their different standards and philosophies. The industrial experience varied from place to place; you could be doing anything from working in production, to in a machine shop or the storeroom. That gave you experience of typical job functions, job conditions and working hours; a good, comprehensive understanding of the industry.”

Ken graduated in 1987, and built up several years’ experience in the industry before joining his current employer, Gas Measurement Instruments (GMI) Ltd, in 1991. As its name suggests, the company designs and manufactures an innovative range of gas detectors.

“There are about 100 people in the company. Our main design and manufacturing facility is at Inchinnan, near Glasgow Airport; we have service centres in Milton Keynes, Houston (Texas) and Shanghai in China; and also technical distributors in every country round the world. Our main regions are North America and, closely behind, Europe; and then the Middle East and Far East.”

Ken spent 18 years in GMI’s Design Department, designing hardware and writing software. Four years ago, he was invited to move into product management. “I can now use my engineering skills, first honed at Paisley College of Technology, with emerging product management skills to make the role more successful. Additionally, given GMI’s worldwide customer base, there’s also substantial opportunities for travel.”

Ken’s been married to Jane, a Principal Teacher at Neilston Primary School, for 23 years, and they have two children, Ewan (18) and Kathryn (15). Family time remains important to him, and they’re all fans of the great outdoors.

“We’re a family of hill-walkers, that’s for sure. Not just in Scotland either; we go every single year to Ambleside in the Lake District, which is a good base from which to access all the hills down there. It’s a really family-inclusive activity.”

This profile was first published in 2015.

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