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 Keith Hayes from Health Service Executive to give some advice for people considering this job:

Keith Hayes

Ambulance / Paramedic

Health Service Executive

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Keith Hayes
At a minimum get your Leaving Cert, that’s required anyway. But don’t sell yourself short aim for a third level college qualification, something like a science degree. It may not have obvious benefits now but the career is changing direction so fast it could stand to you big time.

Take your time in applying I joined the service when I was 25 yrs old and looking back I think around that age is the right time. When you consider some of the calls we attend and things we may need to deal with, joining at 17 or 18 after the Leaving Cert with little or no life experiences may turn you off because it is very demanding physically, mentally and emotionally.

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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Ken O'Neill - Embedded Engineer

Your name?

Ken O’Neill

Your job title?

Embedded Engineer

What are the main tasks, responsibilities and skills required?

I am responsible for all of the code that is used on our devices. This means that I have to fix anything that goes wrong or add new features when needed. I also play a role in the design of new devices.

Describe a typical day?

There is no standard/routine day here! Some days can be coding and testing all day. The next day could be writing documentation. The next day could be research and design for the next new device we are going to make.

What’s cool?

The fact that I get to play with electronics every day! The research and design aspect is pretty exciting too. What’s not so cool? What are the main challenges? Companies messing you about! “Yeah, ten days, ten days no bother”. {30 days later} “Yeah, they’re on the way now.”

Who or what has most influenced your career direction?

My parents were the biggest influence. They bought me a PC when I was 14 and I became increasingly interested in computers. Then they obviously wanted me to get a degree. So it was either straight up computer science or computer engineering. I went with computer engineering as I was quite interested in electronics at the time. (I learned to solder by making a good mobile phone from the parts of 3 or 4 broken phones as I couldn’t afford a new phone!)

Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?

It’s a standard 9-5 kind of job. This allows you time in the evenings and weekends for hobbies and fun stuff which is important for a healthy work/life balance. In electronics, there is typically a fairly short career ladder compared to business etc. You start as a junior engineer then as your experience grows you are given more responsibilities with the projects you are given, becoming a senior engineer. After this, in some companies, you may move into a more managing role, meaning you are in charge of the project but you are not directly involved with creating/designing. (Project leader/manager).

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

English, Irish, Maths, Economics, Chemistry, Biology and German. Quite honestly, they had absolutely no influence on my career path. I really should have done engineering and physics but I was only 15 when I made the decision.

What is your education to date?

After secondary school I got an Honours Degree in Electronic and Computer Engineering and then completed a Masters Degree in Electronic Engineering (majoring in Renewable Energy Systems).

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

Projects. Projects. Projects. I really enjoyed the projects in college. It meant I could do things my way. I used to try and do the stranger projects, I think, detecting heart abnormalities using computer algorithms or wireless sensors in a surfboard kind of thing. The more interested you are in the project, the more work you put into it and the more enjoyable it is. If there aren’t any projects that you like the sound of, propose a new one for yourself!

A good college will then provide you with a supervisor that has the skillsets needed to help you out! Projects also translate quite well into a work environment. Also, programming. In my first year of college, I found that I particularly enjoyed programming. It can be quite frustrating when programs don’t work, but when you learn the patience and the skill set needed for programming, a final working program can be incredibly satisfying and gives you a taste for more!

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

Patience. This is engineering. Things don’t work first time. When things do work first time, I think that something is seriously wrong. For my role in particular, you need to have an interest in programming and playing around with embedded devices and well as a desire to continually learn! This is electronics, you could learn something new things every single day until the day you retire.

What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?

Not so much work experience but a hobby. Play around with the Raspberry Pi or Arduino boards etc. If you’re doing Engineering in the Leaving Cert, introduce some electronics into your project. You’ll almost guarantee a good grade. Muck around with Android apps. People have incredibly powerful development devices in their pockets that are just used for Facebook and WhatsApp! It’s like having a Bugatti Veyron to drive down to the shops!

Article by: Smart Futures