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:

  • 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: Brian Quigley, Senior In-Process Control Chemist at Bristol-Myers Squibb


Brian Quigley talks to Smart Futures about his career as the Senior In-Process Control Chemist at Bristol-Myers Squibb.

What are the main tasks, responsibilities and skills required?

I test in-process samples in real-time. This means that when we manufacture the active ingredient for our medicines, and any problems occur, I make suggestions for possible fixes.

You need to be very organised in my job, able to multi-task many situations at once, be able to react quickly to problems and think on your feet.

You need to have excellent communication skills and be able to work in a team environment.

Describe a typical day?

At the start of my shift I check on all the production units and plan out what tests I will receive into the laboratory. I am then able to set up the instruments and run off the samples as they come in.

At the end of my shift I summarise the production status for the next shift crew.

What’s cool?

Being part-responsible for millions of dollars / euros worth of chemical products each time I am in work is exciting, as well as being a serious responsibility.

Also, being involved in the transfer of new medicines to production as they are developed.

What are the main challenges?

Shift work can be very tiring – the body just doesn’t function the same at 4 o’clock in the morning!

Who or what has most influenced your career direction?

My parents took a huge interest in my education and encouraged me to work hard and study a subject that would lead to a good career.

My science teacher at school made the subject interesting and accessible and so was another big influence.

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

Yes. Shift work in particular allows for an excellent work-life balance and I have plenty of time to spend with my family and pursue my hobbies when I am not in work.

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

Chemistry, Economics and Physics were my option subjects for Leaving Certificate. Taking Chemistry encouraged me to study it at University level.

What is your education to date?

I attended Presentation Brothers in Bray between 1981 and 1987.

I studied Science then from 1987 to 1991 at Trinity College.

In 2014 I completed a Post Graduate Certificate in 3rd Level Education and Learning.

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

All the Organic Chemistry modules touched on aspects of drug-manufacture reaction and synthesis and these are things I have always used in my career.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

Focus on getting a science qualification and at the same time develop your ‘soft’ skills such as teamwork, communication skills, organisational ability and presentation skills.

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

Try to pick a course that offers a work-placement in the industry. If this isn’t possible try to get a summer vacation job in the industry.

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SAP Launches New German Work-Study Opportunity for Leaving Cert Students

SAP_AG_logoLarge group of students cheering at college sporting event

SAP,  the world’s leading provider of business applications, cloud services, analytics, mobile and database solutions, has announced a new support for secondary school students in Ireland with an interest in technology and German, to help encourage them to think about STEM pursuing careers.

The company, which employs over 74k people worldwide, has a strong presence in Ireland, with offices in both Dublin and Galway.

Cooperative Learning : Leaving Cert student opportunity in Germany

Students completing their Leaving Certificate in 2015 are invited to apply for a dual-study programme with SAP, which would give them the opportunity to complete an accredited Degree Program in Germany at Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW,) while also gaining valuable work experience in SAP’s Headquarters in Walldorf, Germany.

This is a chance for students taking German for the Leaving Certificate, who have an interest in working in technology, to earn a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) in Business Informatics and get PAID while they study!

Benefits and requirements

Students will have access to SAP mentors, who can provide guidance concerning career choices, as well as innovative on-the-job-learning in a highly stimulating, international environment.

On average, 80% of graduates secure employment even before they finish their studies; many are employed at SAP while others take up demanding roles within the SAP ecosystem. Graduates of the program typically find careers in the areas of Software Development, Service & Support, Product Management and Consulting.

Along with a monthly study stipend of €950 per month, students that make it through, will have access to a high-quality SAP laptop and services for 3 years and will be fast-tracked for SAP global hiring upon graduation.

While the first year will be taught 100% in English, the second and third year are taught through German, so students applying are required to achieve a minimum B2 (Hons) result in Leaving Certificate German to be eligible.

Students with an aptitude for IT and an interest in programming will have an advantage, and should be able to show initiative and willingness to learn. Relevant extracurricular activities are also desirable.

For full details visit http://bit.ly/1CiCbIV or email Careers.Ireland@sap.com.

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Irish Chemistry Student Shortlisted In Video Competition – Needs Your Votes!

video entry still shot

Matthew Coleman, a final year Chemistry student in UCD has been shortlisted in a science communication video competition run by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC).
The brief was to highlight the importance of chemistry in health and his video entry explains the research that he is doing on the development of Nanoparticles as a drug delivery method.

Matthew tells us a bit about the competition and how he’s discovering the importance of good science communication:

“Research in the chemical sciences is kicking ass in tackling global health challenges.

While that’s great, The RSC want non-specialist audiences and the general public to understand how this is happening. What better way to explain how than with video communication!

The RSC’s ‘Take 1 minute for Chemistry in Health’ video competition, now in it’s 2nd year, challenges researchers to produce an original video explaining some important contributions made by chemistry to human health….in just 60 seconds!

Six video entries are short-listed by a panel of five esteemed judges and these then go live on the RSC’s website for the public to vote for those they think best. With big cash prizes up for grabs for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place, it’s no wonder the competition has attracted such interest.

The fields of Science and Technology can contain a lot of jargon. Especially Chemistry. So for me, the competition presented a refreshing opportunity to escape the heavy vocabulary and an opportunity to communicate how my research helps in a way that’s easy to grasp to the average person.

A challenge no doubt, but it was an exercise I’m glad I took. I learnt valuable skills in script-writing, presenting and video editing and it showed me that there are certainly other career-opportunities within science that I had never considered.

I would strongly recommend other researchers enter the competition next year, be they undergraduates like myself or otherwise.”

To vote for Matthew’s Nanoparticle video visit the RSC competition webpage here.

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Career Stories: Jack Nagle, Professional Services Manager, Verizon


Jack Nagle talks to Smart Futures about his career as a Professional Services Manager, in the IT Security Division of Verizon Enterprise Services.

What are the main tasks, responsibilities and skills required?

I manage a team of specialists who are involved in numerous high value projects internationally.

My role combines management of the team, along with business development and liaising with clients.

Describe a typical day?

Since we all work on different projects in different countries, I spend a lot of time on the phone.

I use a variety of telecommunications technologies to work with team members in order to understand the status of a given project, as well as working alongside sales in order to generate new business.

My focus is mainly on Europe and the Middle-East.

What’s cool about your job?

I like engaging with clients, understanding their problems, designing solutions and overseeing the implementation.

Working with IT Security is technically challenging, but we all understand the consequences if business critical systems and functions aren’t properly implemented.

What are the main challenges?

Administration is vital but tedious, there’s no other way to describe it.

Having said that it’s an essential part and it contributes to good discipline.

Who or what has most influenced your career direction?

I was brought up to understand the value of hard work. It took me a while to understand fully the importance of school and hard work.

Probably my biggest influence would have been peers I could see going places, and they helped me understand what I needed to do if I wanted to get anywhere in life.

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

The job is demanding, and the hours can be long.

There is good payback in that we are all focused and operate in a culture of high-trust, so a lot of the time I work from home if I don’t have to travel.

I have a very good relationship with a lot of our clients, so meeting them needn’t always be stressful.

Work can consume all your time if you allow it, so building in leisure and family time is really a question of discipline as well.

I took a mixture of subjects, Economics, Chemistry, History, I think they have all proven to be useful on the way.

What is your education to date?

I started with a Double Honours BA in Psychology and took minor subjects like Statistics, Computer Science and Philosophy, in UCC.

Since then I have done a Post-Graduate Diploma in Computer Science, also in UCC, a Post-Graduate Diploma in Statistics in Trinity, an MBA in DCU and more recently a Post-Graduate Diploma in New Business Development in the DIT.

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

I found courses with logic to be very useful, and studied this both in Philosophy and Computer Science.

Statistics seems to have a bad reputation, I don’t know why, but it is essential for many areas of both technology and business.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

I think that it is useful to have a good broad education and to focus when you have a better idea of what you really find interesting.

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

The area itself is a mixture of the technical and the organizational.

A good understanding of the web and how it works is necessary, as is some basic knowledge of security.

I would stress that it is all very ‘learnable’, with a lot of material available in the public domain.

At a very practical level a lot of the risks that are being made are linked to normal human purchasing behavior for example, so the logic of what’s going on and why is usually very easy to follow.

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