In the eleventh edition of Conversations with Old Boys we chat to Dr Adrian Tiplady, who is a member of the team responsible for South Africa’s successful bid to host the International Square Kilometer Array (SKA) Project. The SKA is expected to become one of the largest and most technologically advanced scientific projects ever built. Adrian, who matriculated in 1996, is now working on various scientific, technical and strategic issues concerning the SKA, including negotiating the establishment of a treaty organisation between ten countries
“What I took away from Westville Boys’ High School was an idea that I, along with other pupils, had the potential to have a positive impact on the world around us.”
Biography of Adrian Tiplady in Brief
Name Adrian Tiplady
Matric Year 1996
School House Cliff
Junior School Highbury Prep
Leadership positions Matric Council
Current employment Head of Strategy, SKA South Africa
Qualifications BSc, BSc Hons (Telecommunications), PhD (Physics & Electronics) (Rhodes)
Conversations: Who was your favourite teacher at school?
It is difficult to choose - the school was blessed with so many amazing teachers - but if pushed I think it would be Mr Lichkus (Art). Unbeknownst to him (so now is a good opportunity to thank him), he probably has had the most lasting impact on my career. Of course, one cannot forget his extraordinary creativity, dedication and passion for the subject and for teaching, and the craziness and hilarity that would often result - but more than that, he taught me how to view, interpret and question the world around me. I honestly don't believe I would be where I am today had it not been for that.
Conversations: Was there an important life lesson that you learnt at Westville Boys’ High School?
Its difficult to pinpoint - I definitely think I am a much better person for having attended Westville Boys' High School. I learnt how to think about the world, how to appreciate the educational opportunities I had around me - not just what was in textbooks, but what was communicated by inspirational teachers. What I took away from Westville Boys’ High School was an idea that I, along with other pupils, had the potential to have a positive impact on the world around us. So, if there is a life lesson in that, it is that we should continually strive to be the best we could possibly be.
Conversations: What advice would you give to a primary school boy considering his high school options on why he should attend Westville Boys’ High School?
I could not advise on a better high school to go to. When you attend Westville Boys' High School, you are attending a school that has a pedigree of academic and sporting excellence known across South Africa. It is maintained by the ongoing achievements of the school, and its old boys. You will never regret having the school as your alma mater.
“When you attend Westville Boys' High School, you are attending a school that has a pedigree of academic and sporting excellence known across South Africa.”
Conversations: Have you kept up with any of the achievements of Westville Boys’ High School in recent times?
Through Facebook and the school's website - it has certainly been a source of pride.
Conversations: Why did you choose science as a career?
Truth be told - I was off to study music when I left school, and registered for a degree in music (jazz) and computer science at Rhodes University. I continued studying music, but added Physics and Electronics as an extra credit (funny story that, but I wouldn't advise anyone to do it - I blindfolded myself before randomly choosing). I ended up obtaining a degree in all three - but chose to continue with physics and electronics for my post-graduate degrees as I realised that I could still perform as a musician (very important to always have a passion), and focus on solving problems as my career. I guess I always had a passion for science and engineering - it just grew inside me whilst at University. If you can pull it off, have a passion as your career.
Conversations: What do you love about your career?
I have had unbelievable opportunities throughout my career - I have travelled the world, met multiple Nobel prizewinners as well as Stephen Hawking, and have even had lunch with the Head of NASA. I have stood in front of thousands of people, from school learners to the general public, from politicians to world-renowned scientists and engineers, speaking about one of the most exciting projects ever to come to South Africa. The SKA is a project that has the potential to have a significant positive impact on South Africa, and the way the world perceives South Africa. What is clear to me is that South Africa produces world-class innovators, scientists and engineers.
Conversations: What advice would you give to a high school learner considering a career similar to yours?
Be prepared to challenge yourself, and never be scared of failure. I never intended on entering a career in science, and so had a broad range of subjects at school covering both science as well as the arts. I think this was a great combination - I did the main science subjects, but then did something completely different to keep me on my toes.
Conversations: Are there any particular ambitions you have for your career in the future?
I have never been the kind of person to sit behind a desk 9 - 5. I like to solve big problems with big ideas and big solutions. Hopefully, after the SKA, there may be something just as challenging, but with the same potential positive impact on the world around us. If not, I can always go back to my original plan - go play jazz in a Parisian cafe.
Conversations with Old Boys is a project of the Westville Boy’s High School Foundation, in partnership with the Westville Boys’ High School Old Boys’ Association