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Interviews

Ciaran MacSamhrain, Transport Infrastructure Ireland

Ciaran MacSamhrain, Transport Infrastructure Ireland

Ciaran MacSamhrain works as an engineer for Transport Infrastructure Ireland. French has been hugely beneficial in Ciaran's career as he worked in France where he was involved in supervising the manufacturing of the Luas trams.

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

Ciaran MacSamhrain, Transport Infrastructure Ireland

In 1981, when I was 12 years of age, I joyfully announced that I was half-way through my education and couldn't wait for the other half to end. My mother made it very clear that I could add another 3 or 4 years onto that, for a degree! (The background being regular, terrible recessions, every decade, coupled with mass emigration).

As school subject choices needed to be made over the coming years, I made sure to stay in Honours Maths and to do Physics because I reckoned that, as I was good at making and fixing things, I might want to choose engineering when the time came. In the end, I did Mechanical Engineering in TCD and, as there were no jobs really available in the late-1980s (except for those who had a 1st Class honours degree), I did a Diploma in QA in NUI Galway which was fulltime until one got a Tuesday to Friday work placement.

I got a placement in a chip manufacturing entity in Dublin. After this year long diploma, courtesy of my mother spotting a job advertisement, I got a permanent job in Iarnrod Eireann in the Technical Department in Inchicore Works, where locomotives, carriages, etc. are maintained. I was involved in many interesting projects, mostly specifying and buying vehicles, e.g. the first Arrows, and this made me competent in contracts and legal issues relating to procurement.

I was there from 1992 to 1997 and left primarily for a change and for more money! I then worked for a number of years through agencies working for various pharmaceutical manufacturing companies, a year here, a year there, and the work, surprisingly, was like the previous railway work: specifiying and procuring; only this time it was things like high-speed Tube-filling machines, etc. Next, out of the blue, I got a call from a businessman who had gotten my name from Iarnrod Eireann and he offerred me a car, nice salary and a permanent sales engineering job, selling Bus, Truck and Railway parts, with the CIE companies being my main customer.

That was interesting but hectic. After one year, again I was appraoched (as opposed to applying) and was asked (because of a lack of people with railway engineering experience) if would I be available to supervise the manufacture of the Luas Vehicles in France! Of course I was! That was 18 years ago and, a couple of years after my return from France, I was made permanent and promoted to Rolling Stock Manager. 18 years later and I'm still here!

Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?

Ciaran MacSamhrain, Transport Infrastructure Ireland

My mother was a key influencer in both ensuring I went to college and looking out for job vacancies. My father was also a major influence in that he ensured, with my mother, that I received an excellent education.

How did you go about getting your current job?

Ciaran MacSamhrain, Transport Infrastructure Ireland

I did a Diploma in QA in NUI Galway which was fulltime until one got a Tuesday to Friday work placement. I got a placement in a chip manufacturing entity in Dublin. After this year long diploma, courtesy of my mother spotting a job advertisement, I got a permanent job in Iarnrod Eireann in the Technical Department in Inchicore Works, where locomotives, carriages, etc. are maintained.

I was involved in many interesting projects, mostly specifying and buying vehicles, e.g. the first Arrows, and this made me competent in contracts and legal issues relating to procurement. I was there from 1992 to 1997 and left primarily for a change and for more money!

I then worked for a number of years through agencies working for various pharmaceutical manufacturing companies, a year here, a year there, and the work, surprisingly, was like the previous railway work: specifiying and procuring; only this time it was things like high-speed Tube-filling machines, etc. Next, out of the blue, I got a call from a businessman who had gotten my name from Iarnrod Eireann and he offerred me a car, nice salary and a permanent sales engineering job, selling Bus, Truck and Railway parts, with the CIE companies being my main customer. That was interesting but hectic. A

fter one year, again I was appraoched (as opposed to applying) and was asked (because of a lack of people with railway engineering experience) if would I be available to supervise the manufacture of the Luas Vehicles in France! Of course I was! That was 18 years ago and, a couple of years after my return from France, I was made permanent and promoted to Rolling Stock Manager. 18 years later and I'm still here!

Describe a typical day?

Ciaran MacSamhrain, Transport Infrastructure Ireland

My days are extremely varied, no day is the same but hopefully this will give a flavour: I arrive in and have a 9am Conference Call with the French company who supply our trams. The discussion might include things like a new energy-monitoring system we want on future trams, the Floor Slip Resistance of the existing trams, the new Door Control Software safety approval certificate and independent testing, etc. as well as prices for equipment and new trams. 10am: get to see my emails and generally there would be 10 to 20 new ones since the evening before, relating to, say, Extension of the Tram Lifting System for new longer trams we have (e.g. power consumption query from supplier); or an email from someone requesting me to give a talk or an email from HR requiring me to attend an IT Security briefing or an email about Maintenance spares.

12pm: e.g. Meeting with the MetroLink team to review latest issues under discusion with the external Engineering Design consultants. This could include discussions on Vehicle Fire Standards, passenger capacities, low-floor versus high-floor, infrastructure (segregation) requirements if driverless, etc. 1-2pm LUNCH! 2pm e.g. More emails akin to those earlier. 3pm e.g. Meeting with Risk Manager to review risk registers e.g. Functional (Department) Risk Register (sample item on this: the need for and reasons why additional staff are required); and Project Risk Registers e.g. Make sure the contract for X includes us getting an Advance Payment Bond before we make the first payment.

4pm Catch-up and brief my manager. 4:30 / 5 / 5:30 / 6pm. Emails, plus e.g. Preparation of report (e.g. commercial report for final settlement of a contract at cost neutral, i.e. our late delivery penalties match their additional unforeseen costs/claims or Preparation of a Business Case for the National Transport Authority in order to get approval for expenditure for something)

What are the main tasks and responsibilities?

Ciaran MacSamhrain, Transport Infrastructure Ireland

The procurement of suitable, safe, reliable trams for Dublin's expanding Luas network; the management of the type-approval of them with the Regulator; the specification and procurement of Depot Equipment for the maintenance of the trams; All imaginable work associated with the aforesaid. e.g. support (technical, contractual and commercial) to our internal Operations and Maintenance managers who manage contractors who operate and maintain the trams (under contracts of which I was party to the developments and negotiation).

What are the main challenges?

Ciaran MacSamhrain, Transport Infrastructure Ireland

The most difficult part of my job is Managing my managers! This is especially difficult in the Public Sector where one can feel that as much or even more time is spent on ensuring that we can be SEEN, in time, to have done the right thing over and above the time taken to actually do it. This is to bolster ourselves for future questionning (e.g. in a Public Accounts Committee hearing) wherein it is easy to criticise.

Also, the VERY Risk Averse nature of things means that sometimes a large capital expenditure approval might take 1 or 2 years when in a private sector environment it might take months. This is due to the number of government agencies things must go through, often with each one getting their own independent consultants to review matters. As for Technical Challenges, in the light of the above, no matter how difficult they are, they're easy!

What's cool?

Ciaran MacSamhrain, Transport Infrastructure Ireland

Delivering for the Irish public is a key personal driver of mine. When a new depot, tram Luas line is launched, my colleagues and I do feel (justifiably, I believe) very proud.

What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?

Ciaran MacSamhrain, Transport Infrastructure Ireland

Being able to communicate with people at differing levels of background and education (Growing up I had friends from all differing backgrounds so that has helped dealing with all echelons of society and recognising their stengths and weaknesses); A Mechanical Engineering degree obviously (although now there are various Transport & Operations Management type of course which, while not core engineering degrees would be suitable for my job, if the person had a particular interest in railways). Also, my father used to correct our English grammar constantly as children and this may have helped my ability to read and comprehend complex and verbose contracts (but it may simply have been exposure to them over years and a personal interest).

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

Ciaran MacSamhrain, Transport Infrastructure Ireland

Irish, English, French, Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Latin (I failed Latin(!) but only concentrated on 6 subjects because, at least at that time, all colleges only counted up to 6 subjects when calculating entry points). I stayed in Honours Maths and choose Physics in order to not rule out opting for engineering. I would not have done anything differently in hindsight.

What is your education to date?

Ciaran MacSamhrain, Transport Infrastructure Ireland

Leaving Cert TCD Mechanical Enineering Diploma in QA (UCG / NUI Glway)

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

Ciaran MacSamhrain, Transport Infrastructure Ireland

Obviously Maths and Physics were key for Mechanical Engineering but French has been vital (due to having to deal with French companies all the time, plus having had to live there for a year while the first Luas vehicles were being manufactured) and Irish has been useful in the extreme due to our Irish Language obligations in terms of tram signage, etc.).

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

Ciaran MacSamhrain, Transport Infrastructure Ireland

Being a key team member for the launch of Luas in 2004; Having been elected by my peers (twice) to be the Staff-elected Board member for periods of 5 years both times (against a strong and worthy field of competition).

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

Ciaran MacSamhrain, Transport Infrastructure Ireland

Socialability & Passion (which unfortunately includes a little anger!) which I believe has inspired others (Analysis says I have a Red personality)
I have a record of a large number of former staff who have gone on to very senior roles internally and externally; I also take on students immediately upon seeing any general request by HR and I invariably, after lots of effort inducting/training them, get everything back in spades.

What is your dream job?

Ciaran MacSamhrain, Transport Infrastructure Ireland

I have it already! (I don't see myself moving nor doo I want to).

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

Ciaran MacSamhrain, Transport Infrastructure Ireland

My job is very demanding whilst I'm present but generally I only need to be there for the standard 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. There is also flexibility when required due to a good relationship with my manager and his recognition of my commitment generally.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

Ciaran MacSamhrain, Transport Infrastructure Ireland

Its very specialised so one would really have to do Mechnical Engineering or a Transport Operations/Transport Management degree course. Foreign languages would be extremely useful.

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

Ciaran MacSamhrain, Transport Infrastructure Ireland

Ability to be pro-active /self-driven.

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

Ciaran MacSamhrain, Transport Infrastructure Ireland

I only plan to keep up with developments in International Standards relating to trams.

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

Ciaran MacSamhrain, Transport Infrastructure Ireland

Working with any railway or tramway company (owner, operator or maintainer company).

What is your current job title?

Ciaran MacSamhrain, Transport Infrastructure Ireland

Rolling Stock Manager for Transport Infrastructure Ireland.

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