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CRH plc

CRH is a leading global building materials group employing approximately 87,000 people at over 3,800 locations in 31 countries

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Interviews

Damien Mason, Mechanical Engineer

Damien Mason, Mechanical Engineer

Damien Mason studied Mechanical Engineering in the University of Limerick. He is now working as a Mechanical Engineer for Irish Cement and is based in Drogheda.

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

Damien Mason, Mechanical Engineer

My biggest career milestone so far was when I chose to study Mechanical Engineering in the University of Limerick.

I always wanted to be an engineer, and subjects I chose during school were influenced by this, e.g. physics, construction studies, etc.

I completed 9 months of co-operative education as a mechanical engineer in Wyeth Nutritionals in Limerick as part of my engineering degree. This not only gave me a great insight into the technical aspects of a mechanical engineers job, but also the interpersonal aspects of working in a large company and dealing with people in completely different disciplines.

I chose to travel for a year after college to Australia, New Zealand and America. I would highly recommend this to anyone wishing to get some "worldy" experience. It not only allowed me to have fun and explore remote parts of the world, but also increased my confidence and developed my personality in new ways.

On my return from my travels, I then chose to accept a job with Irish Cement in Drogheda as a mechanical engineer. I worked in the Maintenace Department here for 2 years with a hugely varied number of challenges over this time.

I was then asked to transfer departments, and work on a new 200million project in Irish Cement, called "Kiln 3".

Shortly into this project I was asked to move to Copenhagen to work in the Layout and Design Department of the main suppliers of equipment to the project, FLS. This was a higly rewarding experience for me, and I would recommend anybody to spend some time abroad working in a foreign environment. It was a sharp learning curve here, and I attended some high profile meetings that I would otherwise have not been involved in had I not been in Copenhagen. I learned a lot about plant design, the importance of good communication, and all the aspects associated with a large new Cement Plant - design, layout, procurement, supplier issues, documentation control, civil/mechanical/electrical interaction, shipping and deliveries.

I am now back in Irish Cement in Drogheda, and am heavily involved in the installation of large sections of mechanical equipment for the new plant.

Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?

Damien Mason, Mechanical Engineer

The primary people that influenced my career were my parents. My father teaches engineering and technical drawing at a secondary school in County Clare, and also owns a plant hire business, so all my life I remember being exposed to engineering and large machinery.

Both my mother and father were fully supportive of all my career decisions throughout my life and the importance of this cannot be understated.

How did you go about getting your current job?

Damien Mason, Mechanical Engineer

I heard of my current job from an advertisment on the University of Limerick careers brochure.

I sent in my CV via email, and recieved notification shortly afterwards that I was being selected for an interview.

I attended the 1st interview and was interviewed by the then Works Engineer and two representatives for HR.

The second interview was with the Works Manager and the HR Manager for the group. Both interviews were relaxed overall, but questions were still tough.

I felt the main objective of both interviews was to extract what type of person I was, my personality traits, and how I would "fit" into the organisation.

I was told I was successful over the phone by a HR represenative from Irish Cement.

Describe a typical day?

Damien Mason, Mechanical Engineer

A typical day for me would be developing mechanical tender packages to send out to prospective contractors for the installation of the equipment associated with the departments listed above.

As the deadline for completion of the Kiln 3 project is so tight, it is critical that information is compiled as accurately and as quickly as possible to send out to the contractors.

I would speak with the contractors regularly throughout the day clarifying issues that they raise, and providing them with extra information should they require it. I try and analyse the method of installation and check for potential problems, interfacing issues, possible improvements for saving time during installation, etc.

I have to work closely with the civil and electrical engineers in order to co-ordinate activities with the mechanical contractor so that we develop an efficient plan for installation.

I am also in charge of co-ordinating inspections of equipment which is on the critical path of the project plan. An example would be organising a visit to Finland to investigate if the delivery of the 70 ton overhead crane for the raw mill building is on schedule, and if not investigating why delivery has slipped, and ensuring a recovery plan is produced by the specific supplier to meet our expectations.

It is critical to be organised effictively, as the workload is very large and timescales are tight, and you need an efficient system in place for filing of emails, recording of information, etc.

The rewards are satisfying however, and the sense of achievement is very gratifying.

What are the main tasks and responsibilities?

Damien Mason, Mechanical Engineer

Previously when I worked in the Maintenance Department, I would have been the engineer in charge of two large sections of working plant - the raw mill department and the kiln department.

Responsibilies here were varied, and shifted from focusing on daily operation, to maintaining/increasing throughput, troubleshooting problems, developing potential projects for plant improvement, and organising annual major overhauls.

I gained a lot of experience here working with different disciplines - mechanical fitters, electrical technicians, management, shift supervisors, operators, along with various contractors and suppliers to the company. I am now working on the new 200 million project called "Kiln 3" in Irish Cement and have a lot of responsibilities and pressure on my head.

I am in charge of the installation of the Raw Mill, Coal Mill, and the Exhaust Gas Conditioning Department, and also the Insulation Contract for the entire plant. At the moment, I am heavily involved in developing mechanical tender packages to send out to prospective contractors for the installation of the equipment associated with the departments listed above.

As the deadline for completion of the Kiln 3 project is so tight, it is critical that information is compiled as accurately and as quickly as possible to send out to the contractors.

I would speak with the contractors regularly, clarifying issues that they raise, and providing them with extra information should they require it. I try and analyse the method of installation and check for potential problems, interfacing issues, possible improvements for saving time during installation, etc.

I have to work closely with the civil and electrical engineers in order to co-ordinate activities with the mechanical contractor so that we develop an efficient plan for installation.

I am also in charge of co-ordinating inspections of equipment which is on the critical path of the project plan. An example would be organising a visit to Finland to investigate if the delivery of the 70 ton overhead crane for the raw mill building is on schedule, and if not investigating why delivery has slipped, and ensuring a recovery plan is produced by the specific supplier to meet our expectations.

It is critical to be organised effictively, as the workload is very large and timescales are tight, and you need an efficient system in place for filing of emails, recording of information, etc.

The rewards are satisfying however, and the sense of achievement is very gratifying.

What are the main challenges?

Damien Mason, Mechanical Engineer

One of the main challenges I face is to try and get as much experience of the new Kiln 3 Project as a whole, while still trying to focus on the individual areas that I am responsible for.

There are so many aspects to the project apart from the mechanical installation, so it is a challenge to obtain as much knowledge as possible.

I hope this will help to keep my future career path within CRH as varied and as exciting as possible.

I also feel challenged by maintaining positive interpersonal relationships with the people that I work with. On a daily basis, the pressure to perform your job is constant, but you still have to make time for the people you work with.

It is a challenge trying to balance the time you devote to the job and to your colleagues. They are the lifeblood of the organisation, and you will need them sooner or later to help you out with an issue, with advice, etc.

Finally, I also find it a challenge to try and remain neutral when discussing an issue or project with a group. The objective is to try and stick to the facts without letting emotion, past history, biases, or peer pressure into the equation. Here is where tact, sensibility, and diplomacy need to reign supreme.

What's cool?

Damien Mason, Mechanical Engineer

One of the main cool things about the job is the opportunity for global travel.

I just recently spent 7 months working in Copenhagen which was a fantastic experience.

Here in Irish Cement, there is something different every day at work. It never gets boring, and I have never once found myself counting down the clock to 4:30.

The company is very flexible also, meaning that a lot of responsibility is given to you, and you have a lot of freedom to chose the direction in which you approach the job.

Also there is ongoing performance management meetings with your boss, and you have a dedicated mentor to discuss any issues or future plans which you have.

The company sends you on quite a number of courses and further training/education. I have recently completed a week long Management Development Programme with the IMI, which followed on from a Graduate Development Programme with the IMI which I completed 2 years ago. I have also been on an International Cement Production Seminar lasting 3 weeks, 1 of which was spent in Vietnam. I have completed two Kepner Tregoe Courses, one on Project Management and the other on Analytic Troubleshooting. I have completed a Vibration Analysis Course, a Certificate in Health and Safety from UCD, not to mention various computer software programme courses.

All in all, continuous learing is priority for Irish Cement and it's employees.

Finally, one of the coolest things about Irish Cement is the culture within the organisation. It is a really enjoyable place to work and people gel extremely well together here.

What's not so cool?

Damien Mason, Mechanical Engineer

As it is a heavy industry we are involved in, it is not necessarily a suit and tie environment.

It can be a dusty environment, but like other heavy industries, it is just part of the business, and if you are happy in your job, this is a minor inconvenience.

Another thing that can be mundane is filing of documents and emails. This is an absolutely necessary part of the job, similar for all companies, but can be time consuming unless you have an efficient system in place.

What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?

Damien Mason, Mechanical Engineer

What I bring to the workplace is that I am a very practical minded person.

I think through problems rationally and logically, and try to be fair and non-judgemental in terms of the solution.

I am organised, patient, and decisive.

I try to be tactful when handling delicate situations, and I am working on being more assertive in the workplace also.

To be a good "fit" for the organisation, you need very good interpersonal skills. It is a large organisation, and you will be dealing with many different personalities - engineers, mechanical fitters, electrical technicians, shift supervisors, contractors, suppliers, labourers, managers, etc.

Attention to detail, and thoroughness in completing tasks are two other qualities that are also desirable.

What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?

Damien Mason, Mechanical Engineer

The subjects which I had control of choosing and which influenced my career path were:

Secondary School: Technical Graphics, Construction Studies, Engineering, Physics. These were an excellent base for my degree course in Mechanical Engineering in University.

University: Mechanical Engineering - choose fluids stream instead of solids stream half way through my degree course. In my current career, choosing the fluids stream has not had any significant bearing on my ability to perform my job.

If I had the choice in Secondary School, I would have chosen Spanish as a language to study. This allows a lot of extra opportunities to travel globally.

If I had the opportunity to change my choices in University, I would have done a years post grad in buisness studies and accounting after my degree in mechanical engineering. I belive this would have given me a competitive advantage in aspiring to a career in management.

What is your education to date?

Damien Mason, Mechanical Engineer

Scariff Community College - Leaving Certificate - 7 Honours

University of Limerick - Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering - 4 years (including 9 months co-operative education in the workplace)

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

Damien Mason, Mechanical Engineer

Maths is definitely very important for any engineer.

Additional to that I have found the following courses very helpful in my job: Technical Drawing AutoCAD Physics Chemistry Computer Sotfware Programmes - Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Project. (I feel it is imperative nowadays to be highly computer literate)

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

Damien Mason, Mechanical Engineer

The most rewarding event in my career so far has been a sucessful 7 month secondment to Copenhagen, Denmark, working for a company called FLS.

They are the main suppliers of equipment for the new 200 million plant in Irish Cement, Drogheda.

I worked with the design and layout department there and participated in many high profile meetings within the company. It was an extremely steep learing curve and I gained a lot of valuable knowledge when there.

I have also been engineer in charge of two different departments of the existing Irish Cement Plant - the Raw Mill and the Kiln.

I achieved a lot of success in terms of availability of plant during my time in the above departments, while also contributing to developing ideas for future improvement of plant operation.

I also co-ordinated annual overhauls in these areas and had good success here.

Finally, I have a great sense of achievement from all the various courses I have completed during my time with the company, e.g. IMI courses, Kepner Tregoe courses, an ICPS course, a Health and Safety Certificate, Computer Sofware courses, etc.

What personal qualities do you have that helps you in your career?

Damien Mason, Mechanical Engineer

I have the following qualities that help me in my career: Very practical Organised Extroverted Good Interpersonal Skills Realistic Matter-of-fact Decisive Like to take charge Actively seek leadership Willing to Learn

What is your dream job?

Damien Mason, Mechanical Engineer

I would love to move to Australia and teach people how to sail. If that wasn't possible, I would like to open my own adventure centre somewhere in Ireland.

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

Damien Mason, Mechanical Engineer

I really enjoy my job, and I think this reflects itself onto my personal life also.

Working with Irish Cement is a pleasurable experience as the company are very flexible in terms of allowing time off for outside commitments.

If you are achieving your targets, and keeping on top of your work, the company will always be flexible to your needs, and this is a win-win situation for both parties.

I go to the gym 3-4 days per week in the evenings. Within the company also, there is a golfing society, a tag-rugby team, a sports and social club, and on numerous occasions a lot of my colleagues and I have gone bowling, to the cinema, or for a sociable drink after work.

I also have time for windsurfing in the evenings, kayaking at the weekends, and the list goes on and on really.

There is good job security also at Irish Cement, an attractive pension scheme, share options, twice yearly performance reviews, a dedicated mentor, and the opportunities for partaking in a vast number of educational courses throughout your career.

With the global nature of Irish Cements parent company CRH, there are also many opportunities for travelling around the world, and above all, the potential for your progression is boundless.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

Damien Mason, Mechanical Engineer

If you are really interested in people and have good interpersonal skills, you will find this job very rewarding.

Like a lot of jobs, you will not be using all the theoretical knowledge you gained in University or College, but you will develop significant management potential and the environment is stimulating and rewarding.

As an engineer, you will probably spend about 50% of your time in the office, and the other 50% out in the plant.

You should also expect that you may be asked if you are willing to travel abroad. This would be very attractive to most people, and a definite means to gain great experience, but it may not suit everyone.

You should ideally be a balanced person, someone with a good deal of technical knowledge, but also a good ability to deal with people.

Responsibility and challenges will be given to you from day one, and if you can handle the pressure, you will gain more and more responsibilities, ultimately leading you to gain invaluable experience, and undoubtedly onto a successful management position.

With the global nature of ICL's parent company CRH, this could be yours in Ireland or one of many countries worldwide.

What are the three most important personal characteristics required for the job?

Damien Mason, Mechanical Engineer

Prioritising and working under pressure, integrity and dealing with people.

What is your favourite music?

Damien Mason, Mechanical Engineer

Razorlight, The Killers, Mundy, U2, Snow Patrol, Artic Monkeys, and Dance Music in general.

What is your favourite film?

Damien Mason, Mechanical Engineer

Gladiator and Braveheart

What is your pet hate at work?

Damien Mason, Mechanical Engineer

People being late for meetings, and mobile phones ringing in meetings.

What is your star sign?

Damien Mason, Mechanical Engineer

Aries

Have you undertaken, or do you plan to undertake any further training as part of your job?

Damien Mason, Mechanical Engineer

I have completed the following courses since joining Irish Cement:

IMI Courses - Graduate Development Programme - 3 weeks - Management Development Programme - 1 week Vibration Analysis Course - 1 week Kepner Tregoe Courses - Project Management - 3 days - Analytical Troubleshooting - 3 days International Cement Production Seminar - 3 weeks Certificate in Health and Safety from University College Dublin - 3 weeks Computer Software Courses - Microsoft Project - 2 days

For the future, I would like to complete the following: 1 year diploma in business management Master of Business Administration (MBA) Further educational courses with the IMI

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

Damien Mason, Mechanical Engineer

Experience in other heavy industries would be beneficial to provide a "taster" for a position in Irish Cement. An example would be Aughinish Alumina.

Experience in Power Stations, Large Processing Plants, Large Scale Projects, and any industry heavily reliant on maintenance would be beneficial also.

Finally, any company where you have to interact with a lot of different people, even a construction site, will benefit anyone in the long run.

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