Thursday, 25 November 2010

Fun in Glasgow

I have been working in Scotland for most of this week and the travelling between meetings has given me a chance to catch up with some reading.  I am currently half way through the excellent second volume of the diaries of Chris Mullin: ‘Decline and Fall: Diaries 2005-2010’.  If, like me, you have a fascination with UK politics and are interested in reading the ruefully honest thoughts of that rare creature – an independent-minded MP whose career was not as important as his politics – I highly recommend it (and the first volume: A View From The Foothills: The Diaries of Chris Mullin).

Whilst in Scotland, I had a lot of fun speaking to the students on the Computer Forensics and E-Discovery degree at the University of Glasgow.  The Course Leader, Brad Glisson, was impressive as was the quality of the students who appeared to be very bright and enthusiastic.  Maybe the habitual moaners on some of the forums who criticise the quality of current undergraduates could break away from tedious stereotyping and learn a little about the reality by spending some time in Glasgow with this bunch of students? 

One question that came up during my talk was whether or not it was worthwhile for students to gain an advantage by taking extra certifications.  Lee Whitfield, founder of:, in one of his excellent articles (, talks about this point: 

“The problem is making yourself more appealing to a potential employer.  My best advice is to get some training. Finish your degree but don’t just stop there.  Find a way to pay for an EnCase passport and attend their courses. If you do that it means that you know how to use the software and can go straight in to a job and start working right away without the company having to spend money training you. Anything you can do to help a potential employer save money will be in your favour and, if you can do the work you already have won half the battle.”

It is rare I disagree with Lee as I think he offers outstanding advice.  However, my view is that if you are studying for a Bsc or Msc at a decent University there is absolutely no point taking the extra certifications.  To my mind, it is just wasting money and for most students in the real world already in debt it won’t make enough of a difference to justify the expense.  On saying that, if you can afford to do so it won't do any harm.   

I certainly do agree entirely with Lee's next piece of advice:

“I would even suggest going to a local forensic company or police force and asking if you can volunteer your time there for free while you finish university. If you offer to work for free I don’t know many people that would turn you down and it would give you some much needed experience. Also, if you prove yourself to be good at the job they’ll be more likely to hire you once your degree is over”. 

If the organisation doesn’t seem too keen for you to spend time with them – they often try to tell you that you can’t spend time with them for confidentiality/security reasons – then offer to make the tea, do the filing or even wash the cars!  Although you should never lie on your CV (the consequences are too severe and you will get caught) you can certainly exaggerate your experience and half a day at a forensics company can legitimately be added as work experience.  This will certainly give a new graduate an edge over others for no financial outlay and will increase your chances of being interviewed.  At the interview, you can then use the experience in a light-hearted way and show your human, fun side – as I have said in numerous articles, it will help make the interviewer like you as a person which is the whole point!

As always, I would be interested in knowing whether or not you agree.  

Finally, as someone with a broken boiler and no heating/hot water for the coldest weekend of the year I will leave you with the following which still made me smile earlier today.  In his note of commiseration to Valerie Profumo after the downfall of her husband, Noel Coward wrote: ‘Do remember that nothing ever matters quite as much as one thinks it does.’  Quite!

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