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 Mary Ita Heffernan from Health Service Executive to give some advice for people considering this job:

Mary Ita Heffernan

Social Worker

Health Service Executive

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Mary Ita Heffernan

Whilst in secondary school, I changed my mind many a time regarding the career path I wanted to pursue! I always knew that I wanted to work with people but was unsure about the profession which would most suit my interests and skills in this regard.

While in school, I definitely found that being unsure about the type or area of work you want to pursue is a very difficult and confusing position to be in, especially given the array of career choices now available and the pressure one feels in trying to make one’s mind up.

To this end, I would strongly advise anybody in this position to research courses and job descriptions well in order to make the most informed decision possible at that time in your life. 

I recommend one tries to gain as much work experience as possible as it will provide you with valuable insight into your skills, ability, likes/dislikes for certain areas of employment!!!!

Also I would research the courses and job areas as much as possible so that you can make an informed decision regarding your choices. If you can't gain enough information in school, contact the college directly or arrange to talk to somebody who facilitates the course. In particular, it would be really valuable to talk to somebody in the profession to gain a realistic and practical insight into the job.

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Shauna Harris - Software Engineer

Her guidance counsellor pegged her for accountancy, but Shauna Harris chose a degree in computer applications at Dublin City University (DCU) and never looked back.

She says IT is not as maths-focused as some people think and involves a lot more than sitting in front of a computer. Shauna is part of a large development team at IBM and the teamwork – bouncing ideas off one another – is something that really appeals to her.

How did you first get interested in computers?

I first became interested in computers when my parents bought my brother and me a computer. In primary school, I mainly used the computer for games. I didn’t start programming until my first year in college.

Why did you decide to do a computer course?

I didn’t get a chance to explore computers in secondary school, but my parents knew I was interested in computers. I was inquisitive and curious, so they said why not consider a career in IT. I decided to apply for computer applications, specialising in software engineering, at DCU. During my first year in college, I realised that the IT profession, and specifically software development, was quite unique as it gave you the capabilities to create something out of nothing.

What do you do at IBM?

I’m a software engineer. I’m involved in the full development cycle of new IBM products. This includes design, implementation, testing and documentation. We work with customers too if problems occur.

What I enjoy most about my job is that each day you face new challenges. No day is the same.

What’s most challenging about your job?

The difficult parts are the technical challenges. We might get a high-severity problem or a complex feature that we need to introduce. We have to drop everything and work together to solve the complex problem under time pressure. This kind of problem would be urgent, a showstopper for customers and one that we need a fix for.

What did you most like about the DCU course?

I really enjoyed the job opportunities. In second year I was selected to complete a scholarship programme over the summer where I got to see IT research. I also did a six-month internship with Intel. That gave me exposure to working in a large IT company and I realised that it suited me. DCU also gave me a skillset that I didn’t recognise at first. It’s a skill that allows you pick up new programming languages; it is nearly like a thought process and learning to see similarities between languages.

Article by: Smart Futures