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.


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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Rosa Doran - Astronomy Educator

What were the main ‘career decision’ milestones in your life so far?

I don’t think I can give a short answer to this. I think the most important one was the decision to observe the world around me and hear what nature and the universe is telling me every day. This is what really shapes my decisions, being awake to life!

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

I adore every minute of my life and I am very happy with what I do. I have the opportunity to meet so many interesting people and to know so many different places and cultural habits. I am one of the lucky people to whom work is not a means. I learn new things every day, and I have a feeling that I am contributing a little bit to make the world a better place. What else can one wish from life?

How did you go about getting your current job?

I was doing a PhD in black hole astrophysics when an opportunity appeared to start a non-profit association devoted to public outreach and education. 14 years later here I am, working for an organisation that started with 25 people and is now coordinating a movement that gathers over 20,000 people worldwide.

Describe a typical day?

I could never have a typical day. It is not in my nature. No two days are alike. Isn’t that awesome? What are the main tasks and responsibilities? Usually I am the public face of NUCLIO. I have to make sure all the projects are moving forward as well as finding new opportunities for the future ahead. I also make sure all volunteers are comfortable with their tasks and try to find more help whenever it is needed. Designing and following our strategy is another one of my main tasks, although it is difficult when the organisation is moving as fast as NUCLIO. Luckily I have amazing people supporting our organisation.

What are the main challenges?

The main challenge is supporting all the educators in need of help. This involves finding solutions for the different needs of people in the different corners of the world and keeping all the reports updated. What are aspects of the job that you like? Meeting people and being able to make a difference are the best aspects of my job.

What are the challenges with your job?

Competition is the biggest challenge. Especially when we find people that could help us so much and would make a huge difference to our organisation but instead provide competition.

What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?

I think my communication skills are the main skill that I bring to the workplace. What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path? Maths and physics were the two subjects that had the biggest influence on my career to date.

What is your education to date?

I have a Masters in high energy and gravitation, where I studied black holes and I’m doing a PhD in science education.

What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?

I have many highlights, but one I won’t forget was being able to gather over 3,000 people to watch the annular solar eclipse in 2005. Giving a presentation to 200 girls in India, giving a talk to children in China and training teachers in Principe are also high points in my career to date.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

Choose a job where you can make a difference. Richness is feeling proud, not having a big bank account. Money is volatile, knowledge is not.

What are some of the most important personal characteristics required for the job?

Knowing how to collaborate and spot good opportunities are really important for my job.

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

Community work, communication training and working with school students would all be great work experience for this position.

Article by: Smart Futures