What is Smart Futures?

Smart Futures is a collaborative Government-Industry-Education programme promoting STEM careers to students in Ireland. It provides access to careers information and role models to students, parents, guidance councillors and teachers. It is managed by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) in partnership with Engineers Ireland.

On this website you can:

  • Browse STEM ‘Career Stories’ about people working in all kinds of STEM-related roles or look up a specific career area 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: Rachel Hersee, Research Chemist, Henkel

Rachel Hersee Henkel

Rachel Hersee talks to Smart Futures about her career as Research Chemist working in Adhesives research for Henkel.

What are the main tasks, responsibilities and skills required?

My Job is to develop new technologies for adhesives that will be transferred into new products for Henkel.

I work as part of a large team on a daily basis to turn new ideas into products on the shelves.

The job is vary varied and interesting and constantly changing. You need a good understanding of chemistry for this job, and also to be creative and curious about how things work in order to be able to develop new technology for our products.

Good problem solving skills and team work are also good skills to have, as in a multinational company you work with teams from all over the world on projects.

Could you describe a typical day for us?

My day consists of working in the lab on concepts and ideas.

Sometimes we are asked to solve problems with production issues or current products in the market as well as developing brand new products.

I go to team meetings with the research, development and management teams to discuss the progress of our current projects.

This involves meeting people from different disciplines from production chemists to analytical chemists and packaging engineers.

Often I would be asked to conduct health and safety audits in the lab to ensure that the standard of safety and quality is upheld.

I can also be asked to attend various training sessions throughout the year.

No two days are the same in a research and development environment and it is a very satisfying and rewarding career.

What’s cool about your career?

I have always loved science, so getting to do what I love every day is great.

I am lucky to be in a job that is pure research and development. This means that every day is different and the goalposts are constantly changing.

I get to see a product grow from an idea in the lab to a finished product on the shelf.

I have learned a great deal not only about science, but about working as part of a team and also about not being afraid to use initiative and take control of my work and my confidence has grown as a result.

In Henkel we are rewarded for our hard work and we have a lot of opportunities for promotion. This leads to a long and satisfying career that is yours to make.

What are the main challenges in your career so far?

Sometimes if we are near a product launch or if there are any production problems there can be a lot of pressure to get the issues solved in a short time frame.

All the scientists pull together and get the job done, but it’s worth it in the end.

Who or what has most influenced your career direction?

In school I always loved to learn new things and loved science subjects.

My science teacher always encouraged me and she made science interesting.

My parents always encouraged me to make my own choices for what I wanted to do after school and to go with what made me happy.

I chose Biology for my leaving cert and wanted to pursue a career in Biological Science.

However when I attended college we did Chemistry, Physics and Biology in the first year and we were to specialise in one for our degree.

I knew after a few months that I wanted to pursue Chemistry. I got an honours degree in applied Chemistry.

I started my career in Henkel as a Lab Technician and after 12 years I got a promotion to a Research Chemist role.

This promotion changed my career path and has opened new doors for me to further my career in Henkel.

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

My job has flexi time and is Monday to Friday.

I start early in the morning so I can have a long evening to spend with my family and doing things I like such as the gym and walking.

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

In school along with the core subjects I took Science for Junior Cert and Biology and Geography for the Leaving Cert.

These definitely influenced my choice of college course and career as these were my favorite subjects.

What is your education to date?

I attended Our Lady of Mercy Secondary School, Drimnagh where I completed the Leaving Cert.

I completed a Degree in Applied Chemistry in I.T Tallaght after which I started in Henkel.

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

The chemistry knowledge is the main thing that I would use daily in my job.

A good foundation in basic computer knowledge was also helpful (the use of MS word and Excel in particular).

Good communication skills and team work were also relevant, but I have improved these as I have grown in confidence in my job.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

If you love science and technology, this is the type of job that you will excel in and be very satisfied in.

Do science subjects for the Leaving Cert and focus on getting a science qualification after school.

Also work on improving other important skills such as team work and communication.

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

A lot of college courses provide a placement in industry, but if not try to get a part time summer job in the science industry.

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Smart Futures: Tech Careers Event for Teens!

TechSmart Futures logo

To kick off Tech Week Ireland Smart Futures is holding a FREE Technology Careers Talk on Monday, 27th of April 2pm-4pm for teens. The talk will take place in Science Foundation Ireland, Wilton Park House, Wilton Place, Dublin 2.

This event will give secondary school students an opportunity to hear a series of short talks on a number of different career paths in technology, with a range of diverse speakers sharing their insights on what it’s like to work in or with technology, whether in a start-up or multinational company.

Speakers include:

Gaia Dempsey, from augmented reality software company, DAQRI; Tony O’Donnell (SAP); Harry McCann (Digital Youth Council), Daniel Hehir (Microsoft), Aimee Hynes (Henkel), Deirdre Cogan (INSIGHT) and more!

Parents, teachers, guidance counsellors etc. are welcome to attend, but can only do so while accompanying students.

We will be using the hashtag #techweekirl throughout the event so be sure to join in the conversation over on our twitter!

All attendees must have an Event Brite ticket.

Students under 16 cannot attend this event without an accompanying parent or guardian.

All students attending this event must complete this form, and have it signed by a parent or guardian and bring it with them on Monday 27th April (2-4pm) to be able to attend this event.

Download Consent Form.
Get your FREE ticket here.


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Career Stories: Orla Concannon, Support Associate, SAP

Orla Concannon SAP

Orla Concannon talks to Smart Futures about her career as a Support Associate at SAP.

What are the main tasks, responsibilities and skills required for your career?

I work as a Support Associate in the Customer Interaction Center in SAP.

In the Customer Interaction Center, we assist our customers via phone, email and online communications.

My role is to prioritise customer’s technical cases by analysing the effect on their business from a commercial perspective.

Describe a typical day?

My daily activities include taking inbound customer calls, emails and service requests.

One of my core tasks is to obtain business impact information from SAP’s customers in order to assess the criticality of their production issues or project plans and if necessary follow up with the technical teams for critical customer cases.

Along with that, I assist customers with navigation of the SAP Support Portal, in turn educating the customers on how to use the common functions such as downloading software and requesting license keys.

What’s cool about your career?

I really enjoy engaging with customers from all over the world.

I also love working in a diverse and multicultural team environment in the Customer Interaction Center.

Many of my colleagues are from different countries with different cultures and backgrounds, so I learn a lot from them.

What are the main challenges?

When dealing with customers from different countries, the language barrier can be difficult and challenging at times.

A second language would be an advantage in my role. This is something I would encourage students to think about.

If I could go back, I would definitely have studied a second language as I can now understand its value when working in a huge multinational company like SAP.

Who or what has most influenced your career direction?

I think my family members and peers have been the strongest influences regarding my career direction. I have always had an interest in business from a young age.

I also feel that my work experience has played a huge factor in my career direction.

As a Galway native, I had the opportunity to study business in NUIG or GMIT.

However, after thorough research I chose to study business in the University Of Limerick, because of the internship program incorporated into this four year course.

The University of Limerick has one of the largest cooperative education programmes in the European Union and has a strong reputation for high rates of graduate employment.

The proof is evident from my story, as I returned to work in SAP once I graduated.

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

Yes, SAP is a great company to work for.

The company is largely focused on developing and retaining talent within the organisation.

In the Customer Interaction Center there are many opportunities available to progress into different sub teams within this department, along with opportunities to develop into different roles in other departments.

My working hours are flexible which allows me to enjoy a lifestyle that I am happy with and the company provides many benefits to their employees, such as a complimentary three course lunch every day.

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

In school, I studied Business Studies, Home Economics and Biology.

I would definitely say that studying Business Studies in school has hugely influenced my career path as it provided me with a strong foundation.

After this I continued to study business in college and I now work in a business role today.

What is your education to date?

I attended secondary school in Presentation College, Headford in Co. Galway.

After my Leaving Cert, I completed a four year Bachelor of Business Studies Degree in the University of Limerick.

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

I feel that my education up to now is very relevant for my current role.

Having a strong background in business, I feel that I am able to understand and relate to the customers when obtaining business impact information regarding their technical cases.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

For my role as a Support Associate, a graduate of business or an IT related discipline is required.

A European language is desired, in particular German or French. I feel that an interest in customer service is essential for working in this position along with strong communication and teamwork skills.

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

Work experience in a customer service role would be beneficial for this position as we are dealing with customers on a daily basis.

Every year, SAP hire many interns as part of their internship program. As previously mentioned, it is through this internship that I first began working in Customer Interaction Center at SAP.

This internship was a huge advantage to me on returning to my role in Customer Interaction Center.

From the beginning, I felt more confident and capable in my work environment by having this previous experience and knowledge.

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Galway Youths are gearing up for F1 National Finals


F1 in Schools is a competition open to all secondary school students in Ireland. The task: to form a team, build and race a mini F1 car and present themselves and their car at various finals across the country.

There are two categories for entrants, Junior and Senior. The annual competition begins with a mandatory submission of a five-page plan, outlining the team and their projections for the competition. If the team qualify, they progress to the regional finals. Here they race their car, present their team and deliver a verbal presentation of how they manufactured their car, whilst informing the judges of their work in aspects including marketing and sponsorship.

Ignition Racing are a team of four Junior Cert students from Presentation College, Headford, Co. Galway, who formed after being inspired by Photon Racing, another team from Presentation College that reached the World Finals in Abu Dhabi in 2014.

Having won the regional finals at GMIT Castlebar, Ignition Racing are now progress to the national finals being held during Tech Week at the end of April this year. They hope to represent Ireland in the world finals (being held in Singapore!).

The team at Ignition Racing are sponsored by Evergreen Healthfoods, Galway Natural Gas Ltd, Emmerald Polymers Ltd and Galway Property Services.

For sponsorship opportunities contact the team on their website.


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