Christopher Walton

Christopher graduated with Computer Science BSc before completing his PhD and post-doc research at the School. He now leads a large team at the Amazon headquarters in Seattle.

Name Christopher Walton
Degree Title Computer Science BSc & PhD Computer Science
Year of Graduation 1996 (BSc) & 2000 (PhD)

Your time at the University

Christopher Walton

I started a degree in Computer Science in 1992, before the Web was popular, when computing was still a niche subject. It was great to be around like-minded people with big ideas, who were similarly obsessed with technology.

The University had several machine rooms with green terminals that were open all hours, including one in the basement of Pollock Halls. We spent many late-night sessions writing software, playing online games, reading Usenet, and exploring the edges of the Internet.

The University had a lot of impressive technology, including supercomputers, which were generally available to anyone who asked. The courses were taught by many (now) famous names in Computing and AI, and the System Design Project was a great first experience of working in a development team. My first degree was over too quickly, so I stayed for a PhD and then post-doctoral research in AI, for a total of 10 years before I was finally ready to move on.  

Your experiences since leaving the University

After University, I worked as a Software Engineer in Glasgow at two tech startup companies, both of which were great fun but neither very successful. I then returned to Edinburgh to work at the Amazon Development Centre, with various people from my university days. Amazon was one of the early adopters of Machine Learning, and my previous research was put to good use to improve Amazon product recommendations. I eventually became a manager at Amazon and moved to the headquarters in Seattle, where I now lead a large team of engineers and scientists using AI/Machine Learning techniques to improve Amazon Advertising systems.

Alumni Wisdom

It is important to pick a subject that you are passionate about, rather than focusing only on career prospects. Many people are now choosing to study computing because you can earn a lot of money, but the most successful people are the ones with a real passion for the technology. It is also important to keep studying and learning after leaving university as technology moves very fast and a continuous effort is needed to stay relevant.

Related links

Christopher Walton on LinkedIn