Alumni Spotlight

Dave McDonald - CEO, Nova Broadband

27 Nov
Dave McDonald

Dave McDonald is the founder and CEO of Nova Broadband, the Cork-based internet provider serving Munster and beyond. The company is rapidly expanding and has grown from a small start-up to a major player in Ireland’s telecommunications industry. Dave talks to us about his time studying Computer Science and how UCC helped him develop as a person.

Course/subjects studied in University College Cork
I did Computer Science - good old CK401 - which is a great course, despite the ever-changing nature of the field of computing. It has given me the skills to take on any new technology or topic - to be able to read up on anything, digest it and run with it. This proves invaluable every single day.

CS was actually not my first choice though! I wanted to be a professional pilot, having first flown a plane at 16 years of age. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be, because one of my eyes wasn't quite up to scratch and I was happy to go ahead with CS, because I loved technology. I have no regrets. I learned coding at 8 years of age, which was VERY unusual back then - not as much now, especially with all of the wonderful work CoderDojo is doing.

Best memory of UCC
[censored] :) Seriously, I have tons of memories of hanging out with friends, parties, making the city our own. It was a great time of my life.

Academically speaking, we got to work with lots of cool stuff and do cool projects. My final year undergrad project was an instant messaging platform and it was fun to see that working, as it was truly amazing at the time to be able to message people over the internet, which we take for granted today of course.

How has your time at UCC helped you to get to where you are now?
When I started in first year, I was quite shy. It took me quite a while to come out of my shell. I will say that without UCC, I would not be the person I am today, personally or professionally. During my four years at UCC, I learned so much more than what was on my course. I learned to be confident and articulate. There was a human element to it all too. I made some of the best friends of my life. I had some amazing lecturers. When I was struggling, there was help. If I hadn't done CS in UCC, there is no way I would have had the skills or personality traits needed to start the companies I own today: Nova Telecom, Nova Broadband and Cleverfish.

What is your advice to current UCC students?
Honestly, HAVE FUN is my first piece of advice. Your time will pass so quickly. If you are shy, join a society, go and talk to that girl or guy. This is a time when you are finally branching out from your parents and your teachers. Decide who you want to be. Find like-minded people and hang out with them, even if it is all a bit intimidating at first. If the question is, "will I go to that thing or stay in?" - Just go! Above all, break your boundaries. Don't be restricted by them. I'll leave someone else tell you that you need to look after the academic side. That should be a given. It is of utmost importance. But don't forget that this is where you will truly become the person you will most probably be for the rest of your life. Make it count!

What person/people at UCC had the most positive influence on you?
Dr. Richard Studdert was a positive influence. I volunteered as a demonstrator in his lab classes (Microprocessor Systems) where we studied the Intel 8086 processor in all its glory. It gave me confidence to overcome my shyness, by standing in front of a class and speaking and by engaging one-on-one with the year behind in the lab classes. There was a particular occasion where I was in a bit of trouble and he showed me a great kindness also!

Were you involved in any Clubs or Societies?
I joined the UCC Mountaineering Club (Official) and went on outings to the Galtees, Purple Mountain and a few more. Some of my buddies joined also and I think at times there was more drinking in hostels than hill-walking! Lately I have taken it up again (the hill-walking, not the drinking in hostels) and go out every second Sunday with the Cork Backpackers club. It's a great way to get exercise for someone like me who is not inclined to kick a ball (being a computer nerd).

Favourite UCC legend or superstition
This one probably comes up all the time, but hey. I took great joy in walking across the quad in the years after my exams! I still love to visit the campus occasionally. It is an oasis in the busy city environment. It makes me really feel the passing of time, to look at all the amazing new buildings. It really is a living campus and it is great to see it evolve. I am busy hinting to my kids about going to UCC. I hope they do and I hope they will get as much out of it as I did.

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