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Adam Williams (PGCE Mathematics 1996)


After twenty years using and developing software, including five years in the space industry in Germany, I needed a career change. I decided to try and teach my favourite subject, Mathematics. After a PGCE at Reading, I taught for two years. Teaching wasn't quite what I hoped for, and I was enticed back to Germany and the space sector, where I have used my teaching skills to deliver operational training to various European Space Agency teams. After three years in France working with the International Space Station, I am back in Germany, first helping fly a spacecraft around Venus and now working on a project to land a European rover on Mars.

Why did you choose to study at the University of Reading?

In 1995 I had three young children, a mortgage, and my wife had to take a night job at a local bank to help ends meet. I needed a course which was within commuting distance of our home in Frimley, Surrey, and which could take me at short notice - interview to course-starting was only three weeks.

What was the best bit about living and studying in Reading?

Actually, I remained living in Surrey, which made the university experience rather different to my first degree. But it was wonderful to study how to teach my favourite subject, and to learn how to help others understand it.

What top tips would you give to students who are beginning their studies?

Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be afraid of new situations - just try to relax and enjoy them.

What are you up to now? How did you get there?

I am working for the European Space Agency, based at their operations centre, in Darmstadt, Germany. Having started my career with simulator software development, I moved to using simulators to train flight control teams, then to organise the trainers, and finally to be part of the flight control teams themselves.

What would be your top tips for students interested in working in this sector?

Apply for an ESA Young Graduate position

How has the University of Reading and the Careers Centre helped in your chosen career path?

Although I am currently working in the space sector, I am very glad to have my PGCE qualification from Reading a) because it gives me skills which I can use in my current job b) it gives me an alternative employment option should I have to quit the space sector for any reason

What are your top tips for students graduating this year? What should they be doing to secure the job they want?

If you only have a BA, consider studying for an MA as well.
Try and get some practical experience, if necessary working as an intern for 3-6 months.
Be honest!

What does the University mean to you and what is your favourite memory?

My favourite memory of being at the University of Reading is sitting in the first session of my PGCE course. It was a Monday morning, and I had just (the previous Friday) left the most stressful job of my career (then and since). I was about to embark on studying how to teach my favourite subject. I had no responsibilities (yet!), and even though I didn't really understand the course handbook (despite having read it through ten times!) everything was wonderful - I was relaxed, I was going to learn something, I was able to meet and work with lots of new and interesting people.

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