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.
Claire Purcell is a software engineering intern. Her job involves writing and debugging code, as part of software development projects.
Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?
I always absolutely loved Maths and Science, so I chose quite early on in secondary school to study Undenominated Engineering in NUIG, as I wasn’t sure which branch of engineering would interest me the most. In first year, we tried out a bit of everything, and my favourite by far was the programming that we learned (C and Arduino). I found it so interesting and I then decided to pursue Electronic & Computer Engineering in second year.
Describe a typical day?
A typical day would be similar enough to any other company following the Agile way of working; stand ups in the morning to track everyone’s progress and give/receive support if needed, perhaps sprint planning or backlog grooming meetings (depending on what day of the sprint it is), and other than that I’d be spending my time coding and working on whatever project or task I’m doing at the time. I liaise with colleagues who may be working on a particular task or project with me throughout the day aswell, it’s an open plan office so this is quite easy to do quickly and efficiently.
What are the main tasks and responsibilities?
So far I have been working on a big enough project since I started working here in early January 2018, so the tasks I have been completing have all been based on that project; researching various things for it, writing and testing its code etc. My responsibilities mainly lie in furthering the project’s progress, and giving support to my teammates wherever I can and wherever it may be needed. Aside from the obvious communication and programming skills, I’ve been utilising a lot of research, data collection and data manipulation skills for the project aswell, which I’m sure will stand to me for my Final Year Project next year.
What are the main challenges?
What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?
Certainly a strong background in Maths in secondary school made it easier for me to learn how to programme in college, as it’s a fairly similar way of thinking (problem solving). The subject in my course which was/is of the most use to me in my job now is Programming. Anyone who has programmed before will tell you that the best way to learn it is by using it, so probably the most useful part of my education has actually been my work experience, both in an internship in Ericsson and in my current work placement
Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?
Yes I’m very happy with my lifestyle. My job is doing something that interests me every day, and Flexi-time allows me to continue doing things I love outside of work at times that suit me, like exercising and spending time with friends. There’s a really great atmosphere in my workplace and people are more like friends than work colleagues, and we have quite a relaxed, yet efficient working environment.
What advice would you give to someone considering this job?
Take the time to get your head around the subjects. Sometimes it can be tempting to just learn off methods and exam questions to get a good degree but at the end of the day that won’t help you in industry. You may find then that you’re back at square one having to learn how to code for yourself when there’s no examples to copy and paste, and no friendly classmate to give you their code. The best thing I do for my own learning in college is take the time to really understand what’s going on in assignments and exam questions, because once you get it using it becomes so much easier.