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 Sinead Kenny from Smart Futures to give some advice for people considering this job:

Sinead Kenny

Design Engineer

Smart Futures

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Sinead Kenny
If it is possible to get some work experience during the summer holidays or weekends, it would be great. Find out if there are any positions (voluntary or otherwise) available in your local IT or University. Get involved in a hobby such as model making, this would be very helpful as it would help with dexterity & impart an understanding of the ways in which different materials interact when assembled together.

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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Anne McCarville - Manufacturing Engineering Lead

What are the main tasks, responsibilities and skills required?

My role in Abbott is to manage a team of engineers and technicians to provide support to a production team to ensure output goals are met. My team monitors the performance of equipment and processing yields to ensure the production of high quality products.

My team also works with engineers responsible for quality and Research and Development (R and D) to introduce new processes or new products into the manufacturing area.

Some of my main responsibilities include: Ensuring there are sufficient resources to ensure the engineering needs of the department are met, developing engineers and technicians in their roles by ensuring appropriate training is assigned and ensuring that they work on progressively challenging activities. I also monitor work activity owned by my team and provide guidance and direction to ensure that they achieve their goals.

Finally I meet with internal and external customers to ensure their expectations are met and also liaising with suppliers to provide feedback on performance. The department I work in manufactures drug eluting stents . Stents are small, expandable tubes that are inserted during angioplasty into a blocked section of an artery to open the artery and improve blood flow. The drug on the stent prevents the artery from narrowing again after angioplasty. They are coated with medicine that prevents scar tissue from growing into the artery.

Describe a typical day?

My typical day starts at 8am where I meet with the production line support team which includes production, quality and engineering personnel. We discuss the performance of the previous day on each production line. Discussion topics include safety, quality, output, yields and training. We have rules in place which determine whether further action needs to take place and these actions would get assigned to an owner in the production line support team.

Having this meeting early in the morning sets the priorities of the team for the day. After getting some breakfast, my mid-morning is typically filled with meetings on various items which include: Meeting each member of my team individually every fortnight for an hour where we discuss everything from their work load, their development and personal items. I also attend meetings where we discuss the status of new projects being implemented. Also, I would look at the key performance indicators of the departments which would include safety, quality, outputs and yields.

After lunch consists of similar meetings, plus I would get a little “me time” where I can work on my own specific interests and goals. I also get the opportunity to meet with colleagues and my supervisor to discuss hot topics. Later in the afternoon, I prepare for the shift handover. At this time I review the performance of the day and provide any handover notes to my team.

What are the things you like best about the job?

There are a lot of things I like about the role; but I will go through three that stand out the most to me. I am continuously learning because something new happens every day.

When you are supporting several production lines anything could happen that I and my team need to react too. The job keeps me very interested. I like the teamwork that exists between engineering, quality and production. We all work together to meet the same goals.

When we are doing well there is a great feeling of achievement and accomplishment. I enjoy watching someone new in the team learning and growing in the role and then developing over time into an area whether they are considered a subject matter expert or considered for promotion. It gives me great satisfaction that I helped them get what they really want in their careers.

What are the main challenges?

There’s nothing that stands out to me that I like the least. If ever I am facing a challenging time, I always get great support from my team, colleagues and my supervisor.

Who or what has most influenced your career direction?

I always had an interest in engineering. I was good at maths going to school and my career guidance teacher suggested an Engineering course. I was also interested in Biology and therefore the specific course I chose was Biomedical Engineering in the University of Limerick (UL).

While in college, I spent 8 months working as a co-op student/intern in Hewlett Packard as a Quality Engineer. While there I learnt key engineering activities that really confirmed that engineering was what I really wanted to do. After I graduated from UL, I started work in Abbott in Clonmel as a Quality Engineer.

I spent four years in this position where I was responsible for ensuring each product was “built as if intended for my family”. During my time working as a Quality Engineer I got the opportunity to: complete a Masters in Business Administration (MBA). Work on the launch of new products; which involved me travelling to the United States for training. Become a supervisor to Quality Engineering Technicians.

My supervisor and colleagues then encouraged me to move into a manufacturing engineering role where I worked on exciting cost improvement projects and further new product launches. During this time I progressed to become a Senior Manufacturing Engineer. Soon after this I was given the opportunity to manage a team of Engineers and Technicians as a Manufacturing Engineering Group Lead.

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

Yes; very much. Work life balance is very important. I have been working for Abbott for the past 9 years. During this time the company have allowed me the opportunity to complete a Masters (MBA) in my spare time. The company were very flexible to me by allowing me to go to classes in the afternoons and they also allowed me time off during exams.

Over the 9 years, I have moved from Quality Engineering positions to Manufacturing Engineering positions; and also from being an individual contributor to managing personnel. There are lots of opportunities for progression within the company. I have made some good friends at work down through the years. I also recently got married and am currently enjoying married life!

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

I took the following subjects: Irish, English, Maths, French, Biology, Chemistry and Home Economics. Maths and biology were my strengths so that’s why I choose Biomedical Engineering in college. When in school I was worried whether I needed to do physics as a subject; however I had nothing to worry about, as college started with the basics in first year which brought me up to speed very quickly.

What is your education to date?

I went to Secondary School in Mount St Michael, Claremorris, Co Mayo. I completed Transition Year in Mount St Michael; which was an excellent year which gave me a taste of what it was like working in four different work environments. For me, this was what allowed me to determine what jobs I liked and what jobs I didn’t like.

After doing my Leaving Cert, I got from my career guidance teacher and I decided to do Biomedical Engineering in the University of Limerick. I also completed a Masters in Business Administration with UL whilst working in Abbott. While in Abbott I have completed several courses which include: Sigma Greenbelt, Presentation Skills, Public Speaking, Influencing Skills, Leadership Excellence (which looks at the competencies important for a leader to have) and several “on the job” training courses

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

For me, the important subjects for college were honours maths and chemistry. These are the subjects that helped me to get through the degree modules. However, if you don’t have them, do not worry. Another important subject for college was mechanical drawing (which I didn’t do in secondary school). If you don’t have these subjects; you just have to spend that little extra time working on them to get up to speed with your peers that did these subjects. These subjects are not essential but they are good to have under your belt.

Completing an internship is very important to me. I spent 8 months as a Quality Engineering intern when doing my degree. It was my first step in understanding the day to day activities involved as an Engineer. Project management is also a module that was very important to complete in college. It’s the stepping stone required to ensure that you can plan a project appropriately when you start work. Every module is important that you complete in college. Although you may not use all of them; you will be surprised that they could come in handy at some stage in your career.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

Try to get experience working as an engineer or a technician while in college. This will give you a good feel of what an engineer does on a day to day basis. Teamwork is important. Engage in activities that develop your teamwork skills. As an Engineer you have to work with a cross functional team. Get the basics in project management. This will help you plan a project from start to end. If you want to do a specific engineering position; like a CAD Engineer, you will need to spend some extra time at these modules in college.

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

My advice is to try to get some experience working in an engineering company as an intern in college, or as a summer student; or even as a Transition year student. I got some experience working as a Quality Engineer in Hewlett Packard (which is very IT related) but this gave me the opportunity to work in Abbott (a medical device company).

Article by: Smart Futures