Studying STEM subjects gives you a set of skills, such as critical thinking and problem-solving, creativity and innovation, design and communications, all of which are highly valued by many different types of employers.
Physical and Mathematical Sciences is a broad sector, with many potential career paths for those with qualifications and suitable skillsets, including medical work, engineering, teaching, finance and technology.
The engineering sector itself is made up of a wide range of companies providing a diverse range of products and services.
The most usual route is through taking a degree at a third level college, often following this with a post graduate qualification.
Students can study mechanical engineering at Level 6, 7 or 8 in colleges across Ireland or they can study a general engineering degree then specialise in mechanical engineering in the final year.
Physicists want to understand how the world works, in every detail and at the deepest level. This includes everything from elementary particles, to nuclei, atoms, living cells, solids, liquids, gases, living organisms, the brain, supercomputers, the atmosphere, galaxies and the universe itself.
There is a whole host of career opportunities for mechanical engineering graduates.
A wide range of opportunities exist in both electrical and electronic engineering.
Smart Futures is a government-industry programme providing science, technology, engineering andmaths (STEM) careers information to second-level students, parents, teachers and careers guidance counsellors in Ireland.
Catherine Ahearn is a Data Scientist. Her job involves researching various mathematical and machine learning techniques, and writing code to create predictive models using large amounts of data.
Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?
I don't think any one thing influenced my career direction the most; several things helped me to narrow down what I wanted to do as I went along. An interest in maths and a curiosity for how computers worked led me to do a degree in computer science, with an optional honours maths stream. While doing my degree, I found out that data science and machine learning were areas I was interested in because of the maths involved
Describe a typical day?
A typical day can vary a lot, but generally consists of activities such as writing code, analyzing data, and researching and applying machine learning and mathematical techniques. However, we follow the Agile working process, so every day there are standup meetings where everyone gives an update on what they've been working on, and every other week we have planning and review meetings
What are the main tasks and responsibilities?
My main responsibilities are based around data science and machine learning. I research various mathematical and machine learning techniques, and write code to create predictive models using large amounts of data. These models have to perform well, both in terms of speed and how 'good' the model is at predicting, and so improving performance is another important part of the job. I have found that so far, logic and problem solving skills have been very important for my job. Finding out why something isn't performing as expected is a large part of my work. Skills in mathematics and programming have also proved essentials for researching and for writing code.
What's not so cool?
What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?
Getting involved with internships while in college has definitely proven to be the most useful. My placement in Altocloud gave me a great interest in machine learning and data science, as well as great hands-on learning experience in the field. I even had the chance to contribute to the Altocloud blog, for this I did a piece about the area I focused on during the placement, i.e. Machine Learning. You can view the blog here! I enjoyed this placement so much I came back after graduating from college!
Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?
My job allows me to have a good work life balance. Flexi time allows me to work at hours that suit my lifestyle, and I can always come in earlier on a particular day if I need to leave earlier. Because most of my work is done on a computer, there are options to work from home as well if you aren’t able to come into work on a particular day. The atmosphere in the office is very friendly and relaxed which really goes a long way I think.
What advice would you give to someone considering this job?
If you’re unsure of whether or not you’ll like the area you’re thinking of studying in, try some beginner online courses or lessons such as those on Coursera. Trying out things that you mightn’t have had much exposure to in school, like coding, can really help you decide if it’s for you.
What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?