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.
After her Leaving Cert, Lynsey chose to do a Mechanical Engineering course in DIT. She had taken work experience in IBM during the summer months, and applied for a position there when one became available after she Graduated. She chose the Manufacturing Process option in Year 2 of the course and now works as a Manufacturing Process Engineer.
What were the main 'career decision' milestones in your life so far?
The first career decision that I really made (apart of course from actually choosing to enter into engineering) was in college. I began my college career as a Mechanical engineering student. After 2nd year the course split into Mechanical engineering and Manufacturing engineering.
I picked Manufacturing engineering. I then entered a "competition" with a organisation called Minerva. From this I was lucky enough to get awarded a position of work experience for a summer with IBM.
Finally I spent two summers with IBM on work experience which cemented my interest in the whole industry.
When I finished college I had secured a job with a medical device manufacturing company. I got started there and was quickly introduced to the difference of working in a company so tightly controlled and guided by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). I found that I preferred to work somewhere which could be more innovative on a daily basis. Somewhere that I could effect change quickly in my own role and see the result.
Eventually a job opened up in IBM which I applied for. I was offered the position and took it. This was to date the biggest decision regarding the route my career would take.
Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?
The person that most influenced my decision career wise was myself. My parents were of the opinion that no matter what I wanted to do with my life, I should get a degree and at a least "have it in my back pocket" to pull out when needed.
They were right with respect to me anyway and were a major part of my career progression with their support. With the availability of free education, there really was no reason not to give it a go.
College isn't always for everyone but I didn't know if it was for me until I tried it. The choice of what I wanted to do really just came from me. I didn't know anyone in engineering at all but going to the college open day let me know enough about it to know that I wanted in.
How did you go about getting your current job?
Describe a typical day?
The working day starts at 8 o'clock. Like most jobs I would start by checking my email. The company which I work for builds Servers. No two customer orders are ever really the same so there is a lot of variation in the product. Trouble-shooting any manufacturing engineering problems that arise with the unique orders as they arise is what my department works on when required.
In my working life I have generally considerable contact with sister plants in the US. I would attend a number of meetings and conference calls on a daily basis. One of the main objectives is to send a product through the manufacturing floor as smoothly as possible.
To do this all the different aspects of manufacturing must be addressed. People, parts, equipment, training, skills, communiaction etc. New products are constantly being released to the marketplace. Getting the factory ready to take on the production of a new product is also within my role as a manufacturing engineer.
This is where travel would enter into my job. I would visit sister plants who may be introducing the product earlier than us and I would learn everything about it then. I would asses all requirements and would be responsible for making sure from a manufacturing engineering aspect my site was ready to start producing by a certain date. No two plants are the same either so it's never just a matter of copying what was done on another site.
What are the main tasks and responsibilities?
In my role an aspect of what I do is process design. This means designing the way in which a product moves through the factory. Basically it starts as a collection of loose parts and end up as a finished product, i.e. a Server.
Before I introduce new products, I work with the manufacturing floor personnel to constantly improve the way we do things. I innovate and bring new ideas, I have ownership as a engineer for different manufacturing areas which are my responsibility to help optimise.
I have ownership of products and maintain their integrity via in-house production computing systems. I communicate regularly with other manufacturing sites, purchase and assist to design required equipment.
No two days in my job are exactly the same. It offers a varied workload that keeps you on your toes!
What are the main challenges?
I think the most challenging aspects of my job and of any job is the skill of communicating. It is an essential skill to attain. Because my job offers different challenges every day it requires you to think and be innovative on a constant basis.
This is an definite element in a company that always thrives to do things in a better way. My job is also very complex with relation to in-house computing systems involved in the design of processes.
What's not so cool?
What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?
My college career afforded me a lot of the necessary skills for my current role. This gave me the understanding of manufacturing methodologies and the practical application of them.
The most important thing after you have gained the necessary skills is in how you apply them. Enthusiasm in what you do is essential.
Having the drive necessary to do this job well is something which cannot be learned. Not settling for "ok" and thriving for the best is what I believe in. Being able to recognise improvement opportunities and pushing for them is a huge part of my daily role.
What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?
In school I was limited by the amount of subjects offered. I went to an all girl's convent school and they had pretty much the stereotypical girl's school subjects then.
For my optional subjects I did Geography, H&E Social and Scientific and Biology. I had all the regular subjects too. English, Irish, Maths and French. I think it's fairly obvious from the above list that my subjects didn't have much of a influence over my third level education choices.
If subjects like physics, engineering etc., had been on offer, I think I would have taken them instead but they were not available to me. I don't believe choices made in school about subjects always have to dictate what you do in college. In my case it just meant I had to work a little harder in the first year of college to catch up.
My school subjects never stopped me. If you know what you like and what you want do, you will always find a way. To be honest it's the knowing what you like that's harder, there are lots of paths to achieve what you want in education today.
What is your education to date?
What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?
I attended DIT which has a name for being very hands on. They offer skills which are not confined to theory.
In my first year I learned to weld, sand cast metal, machine shop work, sheet metal work. All of these were alien to me but it gives an incredible appreciation of the processes needed to make to simplest of things.
It also consisted of a lot of classroom work doing maths, physics and other engineering orientated subjects. My work on a daily basis is split into two different sections. On the one hand I use in-house computer systems which control the production of an extremely varied product.
On the other hand I spend a lot of time on the manufacturing floor, trouble shooting and solutioning which can involve anything from changing how something moves through the factory to designing equipment or solutions. My course prepared me for that and it affords me a variation in my daily tasks that I really like.
What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?
What personal qualities do you have that helps you in your career?
What is your dream job?
Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?
My job currently offers me a lifestyle that I am happy with for now. I'm sure that as the years go by my needs will change.
Upskilling and progressing would be the way I would envisage making drastic changes to my job role and my earnings. I work in a company which doesn't have steady state production, i.e. there are busier times than others. However, on the whole, my work hours would follow that of any typical job.
In relation to affording the luxuries in life, it could always be better, though compared to some other professions you get started on an "average" wage a lot earlier.
Progression opportunities is a strong focus in my current job. This is why I value education so highly. It offers you the means to upskill and progress your career.
What advice would you give to someone considering this job?
With regard to education I say don't worry if you think you have the wrong subjects in school. I certainly didn't have the subjects you would typically expect.
There are a number of courses that cater to different backgrounds. The most important thing is to do your research. Go to open days, talk to the colleges and generally just find out what exactly you would be getting in to.
Don't just take for granted you know what a certain course or career is all about. Think about what you like to do, and not just necessarily in school, if you find yourself being curious about how things work or how thing are made, it's a good indication that you could like something like engineering.
One of the best things about engineering is that it really can be your passport to the world. There are great travel opportunities within the industry and chances to be involved in the next big thing.
Practically every man-made product around you came from a manufacturing plant, it's a huge industry with a lot of different avenues to take. Innovation is a really big part of what engineers do. The desire to be creative and improve production and processes is an important attribute for a manufacturing engineer.
What are the three most important personal characteristics required for the job?
Resilience - This job means introducing change, which in my experience is not always welcomed by everyone. Sometimes you may know the best way of doing something but another aspect outside of your control cannot be made to accomodate the change e.g. computer systems. The ability to move on and keep going with new ideas and solutions is essential.
Communication ability and standing firm - The ability to be able to communicate with every kind of person and knowing when to stand firm and when to compromise in the best interest of the bigger picture.
Sense of humour - Like any job it can get very stressful. The ability to laugh at yourself and not let the tension build up is something everyone learns in time. The sooner the better really. It makes for a happier and more productive worklife.
What is your favourite music?
What is your favourite film?
What is your pet hate at work?
Have you undertaken, or do you plan to undertake any further training as part of your job?
It is definitely my intention to return to education in the very near future. I am out of college two years and even now I can see the advantage to continuous education.
The one thing that is always recommended by engineers that I have encountered is to take any and all education that you can. Apart from the fact that it makes you infinitely more qualified for different jobs, it keeps you up to date with new technologies and methodologies.
Sometimes a company will contribute towards costs and give you time to attend college if it is related to upskilling for a role which the company values. To date, I have witnessed a number of people transition from one type of career to a completely different career within the same company.
Education is the tool that allows you to change your work life to whatever you wish depending on how you go about it.
What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?
To get a sense of manufacturing engineering, actually working in a factory or production company is the best experience really. If you can gain experience like that where you get to see aspects like production lines, quality controls, procurement and parts planning.
There are however places that engineers work that would not immediately appear relevant. Often companies can hire process engineers to improve the efficiency in what they do.
Distribution companies, service industries even down to way an airport may perform their baggage handling process.
Engineers with a knowledge of how to get the best output from a process with the minimal input required can be found in every industry.