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 Fergus O'Connell from BioPharmachem Ireland to give some advice for people considering this job:

 

Fergus O'Connell

Quality Officer

BioPharmachem Ireland

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  Fergus O'Connell
A broad science background is very important. An ability to recognise small inconsistencies is equally important. For example do you recognise small discrepancies between different camera shots of the same scene in films and TV series?

An ability to question everything and think laterally is important. Also the ability to say 'no' (not everyone is comfortable doing this). Working in quality is not about being popular and definitely not about being a tyrant but one needs to be approachable, consistent and have good interpersonal skills.

Not all of your decisions are going to be popular but they need to be based on a sound rationale and you need to be able to support them. One also needs to be acutely aware of the fact that your opinion won't always be right.

One must always be open to being convinced of an alternative argument.
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The Social person's interests focus on some aspect of those people in their environment. In all cases the social person enjoys the personal contact of other people in preference to the impersonal dealings with things, data and ideas found in other groups.

Many will seek out positions where there is direct contact with the public in some advisory role, whether a receptionist or a counsellor. Social people are motivated by an interest in different types of people, and like diversity in their work environments. Many are drawn towards careers in the caring professions and social welfare area, whilst others prefer teaching and other 'informing' roles.
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Colin Keogh - Research Engineer

Colin Keogh is a research engineer. He works in the area of alternative and biological fuel sources. He’s currently working on three EU-funded research projects in DSSC (dye-sensitized solar cell) solar panels, algae biomass and traditional Biomass.

What are your main tasks?

I mainly evaluate newer forms of energy technology in areas such as environmental sustainability, energy balance and emissions. These evaluations help develop new technologies, inform governmental policy and help companies decide which technologies to use.

What’s your typical day like?

There’s no such thing as a typical day for me. One day I could be writing up an algae technology report, the next I could be conducting energy feedstock testing in the lab or travelling overseas to meet research partners.

What is the most challenging part of your work?

Sourcing information can be a nightmare. A lot of your time can be taken up with trying to get the information you need. Another challenge is trying to relay a technical opinion to people with a non-technical background.

Have you always wanted to be an engineer?

My childhood definitely was the biggest influence in my career direction. My father was a car mechanic so I was around cars and machinery, helping out around the garage. I developed an interest in how things work and problem solving, which lead to me studying mechanical engineering. The skills I learned in college, combined with an awareness of the importance of renewable energy, lead me into developing new advanced energy technologies.

What education/training have you gone through to date?

I completed an honours degree in mechanical engineering in University College Dublin followed by a master’s degree in energy systems engineering (focusing on renewable and biological energy systems). I’ve also taken many short courses in technical management, presentation skills and technology commercialisation.

What advice would you give to anyone interested in a career in your area?

Don’t be too worried about being a maths expert. Maths is a very important part of engineering but so is a logical brain. Once you’re comfortable with maths, you will be fine. Don’t be afraid to ask to take part in something you’re interested in while in college, be it a lecturer/research group project, skills workshop or voluntary group – you could get the chance to gain experience others would kill for. Tell us something surprising about your work.

Every hour, the sun radiates more energy on to the earth than the entire human population uses in a year. The ability to harness a fraction of this energy efficiently would solve the global energy crisis and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Also, engineering is the most common undergrad degree among Fortune 500 CEOs!

Article by: Smart Futures