David Trevelyan, software engineer smiles at the camera

David Trevelyan

Code Composer. Software engineer at TikTok.

Male software engineer puts on headphones to code music applications
Male software engineer stands in front of a screen showing music videos
Music video on mobile phone screen
Software engineer codes on laptop

I’ve always loved music and play keyboards, guitar and bass. I got into making music on my computer and I find virtual instruments fascinating. Now I work as a software engineer working in digital audio, experimenting with sounds for TikTok.

I learnt about engineering through my dad – he was a lecturer in engineering at Durham University, which is where I grew up. After football or after school, if I was waiting for a lift home, I’d pop into his office and I’d listen in to  students and staff talking about engineering.

Music and maths were subjects I was interested in at school and when I started looking up university courses I realised that engineering would let me study more tangible things than maths and I could use my creativity that I applied to music. I didn’t expect to follow my dad! I chose mechanical engineering at Imperial College London because I felt it would keep my options open.

I continued learning at Imperial and studied computational physics for my PhD. I discovered that I enjoyed building the tools and software for the experiments more than the experiments themselves. That was how I found that software engineering was what I wanted to be doing full-time.

I’ve been playing with virtual instruments since I was 16 years old but couldn’t see a route into doing it as a job. I hadn’t done any computer programming as a teenager. But with my computer skills from university, I knew I could start working in music technology.

There are all sorts of companies shaping the future of music and virtual instruments. I started working on AI generated music and now work for TikTok as a senior software engineer. It is a bit different from being an audio engineer in a recording studio; I develop code which other software engineers can use to make creative audio and music apps. Music has so many parts to it – the notes, the speed, the sounds and instruments used – and interacting with music intuitively in a digital form as easily as picking up a guitar is important to let people be creative

I work on creating features that will shape the future of music apps – developing technology that hasn’t hit our devices yet. I think we’re hardwired to enjoy learning new things and having fun and I get to do both in my role. I make music in and out of work and now I know how the music software that I am using works.

I wouldn’t want to be a musician in the limelight, but my work lets me create music for millions behind the scenes and on the cutting edge of tech.  

Where to next?

Find out more about how you can turn what you love into engineering, and what a future in engineering could look like, by exploring the links below. And if you have a question or comment, get in touch, we’d be happy to help!