What is Smart Futures?

Smart Futures is a government-industry programme providing science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers information to second-level students, parents, teachers and careers guidance counsellors in Ireland. On this website you can:

  • Read career stories profiling people working in all kinds of STEM in our blog; browse STEM ‘Career Stories’ or look up a career by entering a keyword (e.g chemistry) in the search box (top left hand corner) 
  • Request a STEM volunteer to visit your school for free here or become a volunteer yourself!
  • Watch careers video with people working in areas such as food and sports science, cybersecurity, engineering, energy, app development, biotechnology, medical devices and lots more hereSTEM Infographic

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Career Stories: Dorothy Creaven, CEO, Electronic Engineer

Dorothy Creaven Profile Image3 2024

Dorothy Creaven talks to Smart Futures about running her own tech company

What’s a typical day like?

Often I’m creating business leads, looking at partnering with companies or working on strategy for Element Wave. I am on my email all day. I use Twitter to keep an eye on what’s going on, especially around the mobile space, and I read tech blogs. Then there are meetings via Skype or WebEx or travelling to meet customers in Europe.

Why did you choose electronic engineering in NUI Galway?

I was good at maths, physics and science-based subjects, so it seemed like a good choice. The course ranged from hardware design to software programming to micro-electronics. It gave me plenty of options afterwards.

Tell me about your first job?

My first job was as a software developer in Cuan Studios, a recording studio and software house in Spiddal, Co Galway. I was developing plug-ins for ProTools (a digital audio workstation), creating different sound effects for music and audio files. You could actually hear what you were trying to do with the algorithms that you were running the audio through.

What does Element Wave do?

We help brands to encourage people to come back to their mobile apps more often. Many companies invest significantly in mobile app development but, often, a lot of people are not using them.

We came up with a way to encourage people to come back to these apps and created a way for companies to communicate with these app users. It combines a user analytics system and mobile push notifications platform. It is a little piece of code that fits into any mobile app.

Who are your customers?

In Ireland, our customers include the GAA and RTÉ. Our target industries are entertainment, sport and media, and we are also in the gaming space. A lot of our customers are from the UK, the Netherlands and Sweden.

What do you most enjoy about your present role?

I love that it is so varied. Myself and James Harkin, Element Wave’s co-founder, are the main drivers of where the company is going. It is great to be in control of your own future. The sky is the limit.

Were there subjects in school that proved useful?

I would say definitely higher level maths and also physics. Maths gives you a good base for crunching numbers and physics is important for understanding how things work.

What do you do in your free time?

I love to travel. I also go running and do yoga most mornings.

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World Space Week with an Irish Twist – Seachtain Dhomhanda an Dearbhspas

Looking at life through a different lens

Gael-Choláiste Chill Dara who won first prize for the CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory World Space Week experience at Ireland’s historic Dunsink Observatory will learn about the Universe from experts at the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies (DIAS) and the European Space Agency (ESA) as Gaeilge.

40 students from the schools Transition Year are participating in the Comhrá 24/7 initiative; taking part in a world record attempt for the longest Irish language conversation in the world in a relay conversation circle. The transmission is part of a total schedule of 169 hours non-stop that will be streamed live online.

The students will also participate in a live video link with Galway born Dominic Doyle, senior optical engineer with the European Space Agency at their technical centre ESTEC in the Netherlands. During the live broadcast Dominic and the students will be discussing ESA and the World Space Week theme – Space Guiding Your Way making it a truly cosmic Irish transmission.

Well done to the students bringing the blas to Seachtain Dhomhanda an Dearbhspas i Réadlann Dhún Since.

This event is in association with ESERO Ireland, the European Space Education Resource Office.

Click here for more information on Ireland’s World Space Week events.

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Career Stories: Grainne Dunne, ODP Pharmacist, AbbVie

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Grainne Dunne an ODP Pharmacist at AbbVie talks to Smart Futures about her career.

What are the main tasks, responsibilities and skills required?

I joined AbbVie in 2013 as a Pharmacist on the Operations Development Program (ODP).

The ODP is a two-year training program offered by the company with three eight-month assignments in different areas of the Operations business.

My first assignment as an Industrial Pharmacist was in AbbVie’s Sligo Pharmaceutical facility. Here, I worked on many projects from technical transfers to the design and co-ordination of development trials.

I was encouraged to seek out opportunities and to get involved in any project or business area I thought would be of value to me and my career.

I am currently on my second rotation. I am working in AbbVie’s Cork facility.

The ODP requires that you do an elective assignment in a functional area outside your field. I chose Business Excellence and Supply Chain.

Describe a typical day?

It depends on the rotation.

Currently I am involved in the planning operations for the Cork site.

I take part in cross functional team meetings with Production and Quality to generate and ensure adherence to monthly and weekly production, release and shipping schedules.

I work on global teams around the receipt and consolidation of customer demand.

I also have projects with Supply Chain. I am currently mapping and benchmarking our Change Control Process with the view to optimising our current procedure.

What’s cool?

I work as a part of a global team that makes a remarkable impact on patients’ lives around the world.

What are the main challenges?

I am challenged daily but I see this as a good thing as I am constantly learning.

Who or what has most influenced your career direction?

I decided to work in the Pharmaceutical Industry because I wanted a career that allowed me to work on diverse challenges and to continuously develop and learn.

I am given great advice and guidance from other AbbVie employees in particular my mentor Mairead Dunne, the Abbvie Cork Site Director.

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

Yes, definitely. There is a great work life balance and I have made a lot of friends through work.

When I started everyone in Cork and Sligo were so kind and I settled in very quickly.

We also organise a lot of social activities outside of work.

What subjects did you take in school and did they influence your career path?

I studied Chemistry and Biology.

I really enjoyed them and this influenced me when deciding to study pharmacy.

What is your education to date?

I went to St Leo’s College Carlow.

I studied Pharmacy in Trinity College Dublin and completed a Masters of Pharmacy in RCSI.

I have completed a RAPS Regulatory Affairs Certificate course and have started a Process and Chemical Engineering Certificate.

Continuous learning is very important to me.

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

It was very valuable to have studied Chemistry and Biology for studying Pharmacy.

In my current role Chemistry and Pharmaceutics (the study of drug design) is important.

I think the skills you develop in college are also very valuable like time management and communication skills.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

Qualities which I think are valuable are an interest in science, good communication skills, an ability to adapt to change, teamwork and an analytical mind.

I think it is very important to be respectful and helpful to those you work with.

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

Try get a placement in a pharmaceutical company – Abbvie have a very good Intern Programme.

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Career stories: Ronan Byrne, Project Engineer, Exergyn

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Ronan Byrne talks to Smart Futures about being a project engineer in new Irish start-up Exergyn, which employs 12 people.

What does Exergyn do?

Our engine, the Exergyn Drive, works where there is waste hot water. We’re researching how to convert waste heat from engines and biogas sites into electricity.

What does a project engineer do in Exergyn?

I do anything that I’m needed for including product design, testing, writing programs and data analysis. There are only four of us in the engineering team so we do a lot of different projects and research.

Describe your typical day?

I go from designing products using computer-aided design (CAD) to reviewing them and later to the manufacturing stage. That’s spread over a week or two depending on how complicated the product is. The hours vary, but typically I work from 9am to 6pm.

What’s cool about your job?

We’re doing something that hasn’t been done before so it’s quite interesting and challenging. It’s like solving a puzzle. I’m involved in a lot of interesting areas so I don’t get bored or bogged down in one project.

What are the main challenges?

Because it’s a start-up, you might design something that doesn’t work straight away. You then have to go back and change it. That can be quite frustrating.

What do you wish someone had told you before you started out?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Often people think that asking questions is a sign of weakness or shows they don’t know something. Everyone has problems or struggles with aspects of their job so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

What subjects did you take in school and did they influence your career path?

In transition year, I wanted to be an accountant. I did work experience in an accounting firm towards the end of the year but I didn’t really like it. I had chosen my Leaving Cert subjects before that so I had picked accounting, economics, physics and music. I enjoyed physics and I wanted to build things so I felt engineering was a good fit.

What did you do after school?

I did manufacturing and design engineering in Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), which I finished in 2012. After college, I started working in Exergyn.

Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle that you’re happy with?

Sometimes I have to work long hours but I don’t mind doing that during the week as I have the weekends free. I play football the odd night but work doesn’t really interfere with that.

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