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 Brian O'Connor from Smart Futures to give some advice for people considering this job:

Brian O'Connor

Analytical Chemist

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Brian O'Connor
Science is a fascinating subject and you truly have to immerse yourself in it. When you do the rewards are fantastic. It is of course a tough subject but once complete you learn how to solve many problems yourself.
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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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Dr. Norah Patten - Aeronautical Engineer

Dr Norah Patten is a communications and outreach manager for IComp and also has a role with the International Space University. She is a space enthusiast, aeronautical engineering graduate and a University of Limerick researcher.

What is IComp?

IComp is the Irish Centre for Composites Research. It’s an Enterprise Ireland/IDA-funded technology centre. We work with industry to conduct research.

Could you describe your typical day in IComp?

For communications and outreach, I promote IComp at events and conferences. I meet with different industries to see if we can work together. I also help write European proposals for funding.

What is your role in the International Space University (ISU)?

In 2010, I was a participant in the nine-week Space Studies Programme. Since then, I’ve been involved [in the ISU] every summer. Last year, I was the chair of the Space Management and Business Department. This year, I’ve opted to be remotely involved over Skype.

What subjects did you study in school and did they influence your career path?

For the Leaving Cert, I did physics, chemistry, French and geography. A trip to NASA on a family holiday when I was 11 was the turning point.

When you have an interest in something, you choose your subjects around that. What did you do after school?

I did aeronautical engineering at the University of Limerick (UL). To me, it was the most closely linked undergrad in the [space] area. After that I did a PhD in UL. I also spent eight months working on an internship in Boeing in Seattle during my undergrad, which was great for getting hands-on experience. During my PhD, I spent a couple of weeks working in the Dell lab in Leixlip in Dublin.

What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for your job?

Getting work experience in any of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) areas gives you a huge insight into what happens in that career. If students are interested in engineering, any industry-related work is a brilliant opportunity.

Any tips for those trying to get work experience?

Don’t be afraid to get in touch with a company. You’ve nothing to lose by writing an email or picking up the phone. What’s interesting about your job? There is a good bit of travel involved so it’s a great way to meet people. I love going to different events and finding out about the latest thing people are working on.

What do you wish someone had told you before you started out?

Never to take anything for granted. Surround yourself with positive people and do your best to do something you love.

Article by: Smart Futures