Loud and clear
Martin Nicholson works as a technologist for the BBC’s R&D (Research & Development) department.
From working on Radio 1’s studios through to helping develop technology to help blind and partially sighted, his work is helping to shape broadcasting. Find out how he made his way into the BBC and see how you could too.
You work in the BBC as a technologist. What does that mean?
At the BBC – working in R & D – it means you’re one of the engineers in the department.
What kinds of projects do you work on?
I’m currently working on the internal network. This is based on very reliable technology but it’s getting old and it’s going to need upgrading at some point. So, we're looking into a next generation network which is an IP (Internet Protocol) based network. There are a lot of challenges.
We have massive streams of HD video which is one and a half gigabytes per second, which is pretty big. They’re technical challenges, but there are also challenges around how different people will want different things. We try to think about what the future holds and what the network should do.
How did you get into the BBC?
I did a five year course in electronic engineering at the University of Surrey. I [then] saw an email from the careers service saying that the BBC had some technical jobs. At the time, I didn’t know much about what the BBC did. They weren’t necessarily my first choice, but I went to the interview and (R & D) showed a lot of demos of what they had invented and that's what sold it to me.
What would you say is the best thing about your job?
You get to work on lots of interesting things and work with a lot of people who are equally interested and passionate about creating and working on a project.
Is there much teamwork involved in your job?
My last project was about the next generation network and was really good because everyone was working towards the same goal, but people have different ways of getting there. It’s a very good team working experience.
What hooked you into engineering?
I went to an open day at the University of Bath and went to a variety of engineering schools in lots of different areas because I wasn’t sure of what I wanted to do. I think it was hearing some of the stuff that they do in electronic engineering - because I’m quite interested in computers generally - that sold it to me.
The BBC R & D Department. Photo by Mark Bassett
What did you study at A Level?
I did physics, maths, geography and I did an AS in economics. At the time I almost gave up maths because I didn’t really enjoy it. It turns out most engineers are the same, but when I went to the University of Bath open day I realised if I want to do that I would need maths... so in A2 I missed out on a few weeks worth of work and had to get myself back on the course.
Do you think that – when you see how useful maths can be – you see it in a different light?
Yes, I decided it was something I had to pursue because all the universities wanted maths and science to go into engineering. That’s fair enough but it’s important to remember that engineers don’t use maths for fun like mathematicians do.
What have been some of the highlights of your jobs so far?
I have had my name in the credits for a TV show and I’ve gotten to meet celebrities. I’ve met Chris Moyles, for example. I’ve been in the Radio 1 studio and I think there was a photo of me on the Radio 1 website in the studios.
Do you enjoy knowing many, many people benefit from your work at the BBC?
It's nice to know that the projects I work will have a direct or an indirect benefit to potentially millions of viewers. It’s quite nice to know that - behind the scenes - we worked on it.
I also worked on a set-up box for the RNIB that is benefitting thousands of blind and partially sighted people in the country.
What do you like doing out of hours?
I like playing sports, mainly racquet sports...badminton, squash, tennis and football to an extent.