Tom Ralston, BSc (Hons) Sound, Light and Live Event Technology, 2007

What are you doing now?

After graduating in 2007, I moved back to Manchester and began training as a Project Manager for dbn Lighting. Whilst at dbn, I was also the WYSIWYG designer for the opening ceremony of the European Capital of Culture, Liverpool in 2008 and Head of Lighting for the same show in Turku, Finland in 2011.

In September 2011, I relocated to Dubai, working as a Project Manager for Eclipse Staging Services. Since moving to Dubai, I have headed up the technical elements of some of the largest and highest-profile shows in the region, working with such touring acts including One Direction, Michael Bublé, Gary Barlow, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Justin Bieber, amongst others. In 2014, at the leading industry awards show, I was awarded the Middle East Young Achiever of the Year award for the Middle East Events Industry.

I moved to Dubai with my partner Caroline, also a University of Derby Graduate, who has been my partner since our years at Derby. We married in Lake Como, Italy, in June 2015 and are currently looking into buying a villa in Dubai. Caroline is the owner of Proposal Boutique and has been featured as one of the University of Derby’s most successful graduates.

What were the main reasons you took that course?

The great thing about the course is it had a good mix of 'theory' and 'practical'. Although there were certain elements to the theoretical side which were fairly general, such as core mathematics, the majority of the theory was extremely well tailored so that it actually applied to the industry students would all be going into. For example, we looked at the optics of the lighting fixtures themselves, rather than just 'generic optical theories'.

The lighting equipment the course had was of a good industry standard and in fact the company that I went on to work with straight after graduating actually owned certain pieces of the exact same equipment. This made it easy to start in the industry and gave the impression from day one that I knew exactly what I was talking about. A lot of the similar courses on offer from other universities at the time were mainly arts-based, incorporating things such as scenic design etc. Derby was one of the only courses which was more science-based, providing a more in-depth understanding of the technical elements we studied.

Why did you choose to study the course at the University of Derby?

Apart from the course being one of the only courses of its type at the time, on visiting Derby for the first time, I knew it would be the right place to study. Being from Manchester, Derby was a much smaller city, but this didn’t really put me off as I knew it would still get the same university experience to that of one in a large city. In fact, looking back, I feel that my university experience was probably better due to the fact that Derby was a much small place to live.

Someone told me in my first year that ‘Derby is big enough to get lost in, but small enough to get found in’. As cheesy as that sounds, I think it was a perfectly true statement.

What impact has studying this course at Derby had on your career?

The course itself was well respected within the industry, because it was still a fairly new type of university degree. Potential employers that I approached during my final year were aware of the course, giving my application an advantage over other candidates.

This is a very practical course and an excellent way of getting hands on experience that will help you in future job progression.

How did the lecturers inspire you?

The majority of the lecturers who taught me throughout the course were not simply just ‘pure academics’, they also had experience within the events industry. This helped greatly as they were able to tailor the specific modules so there was a good balance between pure theory and real world applications.

The fact the lecturers had this knowledge and experience made me realise what we were being taught would indeed be beneficial to our specific future job roles.

What are your future plans?

Dubai life is great, from both a career and lifestyle perspective. As such, Caroline and I are currently looking to settle here as we see this as our home for the foreseeable future. Career wise, my plan is to continue working at Eclipse, with the overall goal of becoming the General Manager of the company.

What would you say to anyone thinking of coming to study this course at the University of Derby?
Get involved, not only with the course, but also with things such as the Events Society. This is a very practical course and an excellent way of getting hands on experience that will help you in future job progression. If you sit at the back of the class, and don’t get involved with any of the practical projects, then you are quite simply on the wrong course.

Who are you still in touch with from University of Derby?

Close course mates, and key lecturers.