Claire O’Hara tells Smart Futures about her work at Arup.
What does Arup do?
We design everything from hospitals to motorways. It is one of the biggest consultant engineering firms in Ireland, with about 380 engineers and planners here, but 12,000 staff globally.
Describe a typical work day?
I’m currently managing a tunnel project in Sweden. Our design team is in the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK and Dublin. A typical day might involve video conferencing, travel, teleconferences and email, as well as staying on top of technical issues.
What are your favourite parts of the job?
Every day is different and the technical challenges are never the same. You might think of engineering as technical, but communication skills are really important. The knowledge you need is in people’s heads. I love that every day is different and also that people part.
What’s most challenging?
The most difficult is probably the nicest part too: working with so many people. Somebody always has the answer for a technical issue, but it is about finding that person. Why did you choose civil engineering in NUI Galway? I’d wanted to be a civil engineer from age 13. But when I was 18 I wasn’t 100% sure. I chose non-denominated engineering for first year, which gives you a flavour of all types of engineering. By April I knew civil engineering was for me.
Which parts of the course did you enjoy most?
I liked the numerical analysis and geotechnical engineering. Concrete is man-made and there is a formula behind it; working with soil and rock is more unpredictable. I did two years research on it in NUIG after my degree. What was your first job after university? I was a graduate engineer in Arup’s geotechnical team. After 18 months I went to work in our Australian office in the oil and gas industry. The work was really exciting.
Who most influenced your career path?
I really liked maths, physics and sciences. My cousins were in engineering and their jobs seemed to match what I liked. My parents helped me a lot in deciphering what I wanted as a career. What advice would you give students considering civil engineering? Study honours maths and applied maths for the Leaving Cert. It will make life easier in college.
Why did you do an MBA in the UCD Michael Smurfit Business School?
I was always interested in business and economics. I wanted to learn more so opted for an MBA. What do you do in your free time? I run, play Gaelic football and sweat it out at bikram yoga.