Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked Paul Dowling from Teagasc to give some advice for people considering this job:

Paul Dowling



Read more

Paul Dowling
Ideally, try and get a job in the industry for a summer, or get a bit of experience before you go into it. You have to be happy with working outside, and doing physical work. If you are not prepared to work hard or are looking for a soft job, don't go into Landscaping. Design is very sexy at the moment, everyone wants to be a designer, a Landscape Designer. It's different on the ground, you have to be out there on sites in all weather and you have to make sure projects are managed well and you're able to muck in with everyone else. Biology is most important for anyone going into Horticulture or Landscaping as it covers propagation and helps with the identification of plant names, species and families through the universal use of Latin. Chemistry is also helpful as the use of various chemicals is a constant in horticulture. The chemical content and dangers of fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides in use in Amenity Horticulture needs to be understood anyone going into this business. Geography would be a relevant subject as well. Also, the simple things like having a full, clean driving licence, which can make you a lot more employable if you are trying for a job with a Landscape Conractor. This indicates that you are more mobile and can also drive a company van if needed. Be sure you're happy with the outdoor life. Having taken a Horticulture course will give you an advantage. However, it's possible to take a job first and study later, e.g. in IT Blanchardstown it is possible to study at night. I think you cannot beat doing the Diploma Course in the National Botanic Gardens because it is a good practical course which also covers all the theory and is invaluable for gaining plant knowledge.

Realists are usually interested in 'things' - such as buildings, mechanics, equipment, tools, electronics etc. Their primary focus is dealing with these - as in building, fixing, operating or designing them. Involvement in these areas leads to high manual skills, or a fine aptitude for practical design - as found in the various forms of engineering.

Realists like to find practical solutions to problems using tools, technology and skilled work. Realists usually prefer to be active in their work environment, often do most of their work alone, and enjoy taking decisive action with a minimum amount of discussion and paperwork.
Career Interviews
Sector Profiles
School Subjects (LC)
College Courses
Study Skills
Work Experience (School)
CV & Interview Preparation

Featured Article

logo imagelogo image

Return to List

Patrick Power - Biomedical Scientist

Patrick Power, a Biomedical Science MSc graduate from NUI Galway, describes his work at the Galway-based medical device company Aerogen.

How did you go about getting your current position?

I worked with the company during university summer holidays and intended to work for them for six months after college to save some money. That was five years ago.

What are your main tasks and responsibilities?
  • Evaluation of product performance
  • Lab replication of clinical conditions
  • Design of new products/ new applications for existing products
  • Investigation of ways of improving device performance
  • Literature reviews
Describe a typical day or week…

Working for a small, high-tech company means a huge variety of daily activities. As a small company we have to be dynamic, meaning it is unlikely I will know what I will be doing a week or a month from now or who I will be working with. Each week throws up a new and interesting project or problem that has to be dealt with in an expedient and intelligent way. Each of these projects tends to be dealt with by a small cross-functional team that varies depending on the task at hand. Timelines can be tight but it’s always rewarding to work on life-saving technology.

What do you like best about the job?

Each day presents new challenges which keeps work interesting. The company is staffed by very intelligent and amicable people, who make working here both mentally stimulating and enjoyable. And what do you like least? Paperwork is probably the least favourite part of the day for anybody working in R&D. However, the value of the more interesting parts (experimentation, design, etc.) is diminished if it is not documented correctly.

What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?

Probably the biggest personal achievement was the invention of a device that improved performance five-fold for our surgical spin-off and has subsequently become the main platform for that application. However, every day we’re working on devices that save lives and that never ceases to be rewarding. For example I’m currently on a team working on delivering life-saving therapeutics to premature babies.

Does your role require particular skills?

A rational mind-set: application of scientific method, good note keeping, problem solving…

Flexibility: ability to work with or without rigid limits and to rapidly change between projects depending on what the company requires on any given day.

Ability to adjust mind-set from regimented to creative depending on task

Ability to see the bigger picture while focused on the small details Ability to think outside the box (clichéd but vital)

Good team player, ability to work well with a wide range of personality types

Be confident enough to back yourself, but open minded enough to be persuaded by other logical arguments

Interest in learning: read scientific papers and patents, watch scientific videos, talk to and listen to people in your field. Also look at other technology fields for ideas/inspiration.

In hindsight, is there anything in your career you would do differently now?

As I’m quite early in my career (almost five years) I have no major professional regrets. Aerogen is a great company and I thoroughly enjoy working here. However, in the future I may like to branch out from science.

What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?

Having a masters degree has become the bare minimum in science. However, doing one is expensive. I would recommend doing a part-time masters while working in a company that provides relevant work experience. Sure it makes for a tough couple of years, but you’re effectively doubling your value from an employment standpoint (education plus experience). Many science masters allow you to tie in your final-year project into your job, making things a little easier. If you get a chance to do a PhD after your degree, take it. Four years might seem a long time but it seems longer the older you get.

Are there particular kinds of work experience that would be beneficial to people thinking of a career in your sector?

Any lab experience is helpful, though it important to realise there is a world of difference between a medical manufacturing lab (“clean room” typically) and an R&D lab. Working in an R&D lab tends to be a lot more fun.

What other advice would you give someone considering this type of work?

Become familiar with the scientific method and thought process. It doesn’t particularly matter which science you practise it in, as it is largely transferable between the disciplines. Always carry out testing as per protocol but don’t become a drone – always be thinking of better ways to test or ways to improve what you’re testing. Always be learning.

Article by: Smart Futures