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 Afra Ronayne from ESB to give some advice for people considering this job:

Afra Ronayne

Mechanical Engineer


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Afra Ronayne
I would advise somebody considering this job to talk to people who are engineers already. They should try to talk to people working in different areas of engineering as even when people do the same degree they can have very different day to day jobs, from full time office based jobs to full time site based jobs.

Also it is important to remember that even if you complete an engineering degree you are not limited to a purely technical career as there are plenty of other areas you can get involved in like project management or finance.

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.
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Christopher Large - Design Engineer

What’s it like working in medical devices? Recently graduated design engineer Christopher Large talks about his work at Creganna-Tactx Medical and what he studied at school and college. 

How did you go about getting your current position?

I originally got a position in Creganna-Tactx Medical through the Co-op department in the University of Limerick, and I worked for six months in the company as a student in 2010. (Co-op is the name of the work experience part of courses, undertaken by all undergraduates at the university.) Once my Co-op was completed I returned to the University of Limerick to finish my final year of college. I kept in contact with the team at Creganna-Tactx Medical throughout my final year, inquiring about any positions that I could fill once I finished my degree in Product Design and Technology. In March 2012 a graduate position was offered to me within the company which I was delighted to accept.

What are your main tasks and responsibilities?

To carry out the validation testing on a medical device that is under development for a customer. As my knowledge about the product has increased since I started, my responsibilities have extended into different areas of the project such as product design and development, quality systems and documentation. Describe a typical day or week… Taking last week as an example, I started the week building test units of a medical device in the clean-room with our manufacturing engineers – we built five different variations of the product assembly. I proceeded to test these units, looking at factors such as insertion testing, valve integrity, valve aspiration etc. I took the information which was recorded, drew conclusions, wrote up my findings in a presentation which I then gave to the customer at the end of the week.

Does your role require particular skills?

Some of the skills required are: Attention to detail Communication skills The ability to work as part of a team Confidence in your own ability One of the main challenges I faced when I began this job was my communication skill with the customer, but as my understanding of the project developed my confidence in expressing my conclusions and recommendations to the customer increased.

What do you like best about the job?

Seeing my work being presented to our customer, no matter how small or large the task. I also like seeing out a task from the beginning to the end, e.g. building test units, testing the units, making conclusions/recommendation on the findings and presenting them to the team and our customer.

What do you like least?

As with all medical companies there is a huge amount of paperwork attached to anything you do – we live in a highly regulated world! It takes time to understand quality systems, and every step must be completed perfectly to achieve the level of traceability required by the company and our industry regulators.

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

Being asked to return to Creganna-Tactx Medical as a graduate – in today’s climate it is becoming increasingly difficult for engineering graduates to find a role which matches their college degree.

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

Looking back on my career I am hugely satisfied with how it has developed. If I was to do it again I would have looked into doing a Masters in Bio Medical Engineering after college, since there was a gap of seven months between when I graduated from UL (August 2011) to when I returned to Creganna-Tactx Medical (March 2012). That time could have been better spent developing my education even further.

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

In secondary school, engineering and maths were always two of my best subjects. From this I decided to move into these areas in college. During college there was a wide range of subjects which have proven critical for my job, for example CAD drawing, Materials, Prototype Development and Manufacturing Design. Also, learning in college how to finish projects and tasks on time has proven important in my day-to-day work.

What skills and education would you recommend to somebody who is thinking of starting in your line of work?

Consider an education and courses that are a good fit – most of the engineering courses fit well with this industry e.g. Bio-Medical, Mechanical, Manufacturing, Design etc. A huge amount of the training for the medical device industry is done on the job, so any placements with a medical devices company really help.

Do they need specific personal characteristics?

As for all graduates, they need to show a large amount of enthusiasm towards the job and an ability to learn. In the medical device area, good communication skills and a meticulous eye for detail are also key if you want to excel.

Are there particular kinds of work experience that would be beneficial to them?

Work experience in any type of medical area/sector would give you an idea of this type of work. Getting into a medical company for Co-op from college as I did, would provide a perfect opportunity to get a feel for the medical device industry.

Is there any other advice you would give someone considering this type of work?

Working in medical devices is a challenging and fulfilling industry to be in. There is lots of innovation in this industry so there are plenty of new and groundbreaking advancements. In turn, that can bring variety as a career choice. Of most importance, our work is helping people to live longer and healthier lives, and that gives a great sense of satisfaction on the day-to-day job.

Article by: Smart Futures