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 Elaine McGarrigle from CRH plc to give some advice for people considering this job:

Elaine McGarrigle

Mechanical Engineer

CRH plc

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Elaine McGarrigle

The most important skill that a person in my position can have is communication.

One needs to be able to communicate effectively with people of all levels in order to do a days work. I think that this is the most important quality, to be able to fit in well with people, everyone from the operators to the senior management, one needs to be able to read them and how best to communicate with them.

An interest in basic engineering and in the heavy machine industry.

It is important to realise that working as a mechanical engineer in Irish Cement does not generally involve sitting at your desk all day. It involves alot of hands on, on-site work so a person needs to be prepared to get their hands dirty.

Another quality that is important is to be willing to learn. Even after a number of years in college, one needs to be eager to learn the ins and outs of a new environment; how cement is made, what equipment is involved, what generally goes wrong and how it is fixed.

Everyone will help and teach you but you need to open your mind and be prepared to take it all in.

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The Investigative person will usually find a particular area of science to be of interest. They are inclined toward intellectual and analytical activities and enjoy observation and theory. They may prefer thought to action, and enjoy the challenge of solving problems with clever technology. They will often follow the latest developments in their chosen field, and prefer mentally stimulating environments.
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Brid Sheehan - Grid Controller

Q: What’s your educational background?

I have a BSc in Applied Physics and Instrumentation as well as an MSc in Renewable Energy and Energy Management. I graduated with my BSc from Cork Institute of Technology in 2004. I completed my MSc through distance education with the University of Ulster.

Q: Tell us a bit about your job.

I work as a Grid Controller – I am the only female Grid Controller at Bord Gáis Networks. Grid Control is based at our headquarters in Cork and constantly monitors transmission gas flows (high pressure gas transportation through large steel pipes) and system pressures throughout the network. Grid Contol is a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week, 365-days-of-the-year operation and carries out its function with the assistance of hi-tech, industry-specific systems. My colleagues in Gas Control in our office in Finglas, Dublin, manage the distribution system, i.e. the pipes that deliver natural gas from the transmission pipes to our homes and businesses.

Q: What do you do on a daily basis?

As a Grid Controller, my role is to monitor the gas grid to ensure the safe operation of the Irish natural gas system. Some of the key parameters we monitor are gas pressures, temperatures and flows, and valve positions. We also monitor gas detectors around the country and control the flow and pressure of gas at strategic locations. This includes three gas turbine compressor stations. We have two stations in Scotland compressing gas for transportation to Ireland via two sub-sea interconnector pipes, and one in Cork where gas comes onshore at Inch from the Kinsale gas field.

Q: What do you like about your work?

I like the variety of people from different engineering disciplines that I interact with every day. I’ve been in the role for three years and I learn something new every day. The working hours are shift-based, which I enjoy as it allows me more flexibility to pursue my hobbies than with a 9-5 job.

Q: Any advice for people thinking about getting into this area?

I would advise anyone who is interested in this line of work to have an interest in a wide range of engineering disciplines and to gain experience in a few different areas of engineering, once they finish their preferred course.

Article by: Smart Futures