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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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

Grainne Dunne photo

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

Ronan Byrne_Photo

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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Career Stories: Michael Keogh, Aircraft Engineer, Ryanair

Michael Keogh

Michael Keogh tells Smart Futures about working as a Ryanair aircraft engineer.

Describe your typical day?

I am a B2 avionics maintenance engineer so I work on electrical, instruments and radio systems. B1 engineers work on airframe and engine systems. We work 12-hour days, working two days then two nights, followed by four days off.

On a typical day, I carry out a technical status review of our operating aircraft, plan for scheduled maintenance and provide technical support for our operating aircraft in Dublin and abroad. On nights, we carry out routine and scheduled maintenance.

What’s cool about your job?

Every day is different; there are always new challenges. I get great job satisfaction when I have to recover an aircraft with a technical issue that prevents it from flying, especially when abroad.

To recover an aircraft, we have to find the cause, repair or remove and install a component, followed by a complete test of the affected system.

What are the main challenges?

Working in a high-pressure environment and maintaining our aircraft in a safe, efficient and cost-effective manner. I must keep up to date with my Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) licence, company approval and recurrent training.

Another challenge is learning about new aircraft and systems in a constantly changing industry.

How do you get an IAA licence?

After completing an apprenticeship and on-the-job training, you can apply to do IAA exams. Once completed, the IAA issues a licence.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

Engineering and science subjects are extremely important as they help you to understand aircraft systems such as aerodynamics, pneumatic, hydraulics, jet propulsion, radio theory, electrical theory and instrumentation.

What subjects did you take in school?

I took maths, English, Irish, engineering, technical drawing, physics and French.  The science and engineering subjects were essential during my apprenticeship and I use them every day in work.

What did you do after school?

I did an apprenticeship in aeronautical engineering with Ryanair in conjunction with FÁS in Shannon and Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT). During my apprenticeship I did night classes in radio, instruments and electrical theory.

What inspired your interest in engineering?

Having a curious mind; I always loved the practical side of technical drawing, metalwork and physics.

If you wish to pursue a career in aviation engineering, you may find the following links useful:
•    Ryanair – Engineering recruitment
•    IAA – How to become a maintenance engineer
•    DIT – Aircraft mechanic apprenticeship
•    Education and training boards (SOLAS/FÁS recommends contacting these for more information on apprentices)

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