Here are the questions you asked our panel of people who work in the energy sector in Ireland.
Elva Bannon (Wavebob):It would be a huge undertaking to start from scratch with your studies, so I would suggest looking into courses which may complement the qualifications and experiences you have already.
Something which is starting to gain more recognition is the idea of environmental psychology. Much of our energy need is based on habit and convenience, and how we interact with our surroundings. Changes in this habit can have a big impact on our energy needs.
The iTunes University has some free courses that could give you a good idea of what it would involve.
Rachel Fine (CPL): There are a number of options open to you if you are willing to invest the time in pursuing such. While the CAD, BER and Safe Pass may be an additional advantage, I would recommend that you look at the IT Tallaght course of Energy and Environmental Engineering (three year Diploma or four-year Level 8 Degree). It is an excellent course if you are focused on a career specifically within the energy sector.
Alternatively, to broaden your options you could complete a degree in Mechanical Design/Engineering (a space which is very busy at the moment particularly in Energy) and following this complete an MSc in Energy/Management. This would give you more options in addition to the energy sector.
With either route you take, I would highly recommend interning during available time with relevant companies in the energy space as this will really stand to you when the time comes to begin your career.
Rachel Fine: I suppose what is fascinating about a job depends on the individual but a career in energy definitely provides a varied career.
A lot of roles currently in this space are project lead and thus, an individual would usually be dealing with a number of projects (depending on scale) each year.
While there are permanent opportunities in the Energy sector, you might prefer the idea of “contracting” whereby you work for yourself and effectively lease your services to companies. However, in order to be in this position you would be looking at a minimum of four to five years’ experience in your chosen field and ideally a project management qualification. Energy management is one such area whereby you could work for a range of clients, from the food industry to banking institutions.
Sheila O’Connor (ESB): Many of the audits I do are different from each other. I have audited some of the IT systems we have in ESB which control and aid in the operation of the distribution network, considering the controls in place around the resilience of the systems.
I have been involved in construction-based audits on new stations or wind farms, and generation station overhauls, where the focus is on reviewing the adequacy of project management.
Occasionally there’d be an audit of ESB’s overseas operations (e.g. Spain, Malaysia), where you would first need to understand the business and then ensure that there are sufficient controls in place around all elements of the business they are involved in, e.g. how they acquire services etc.
Sheila O’Connor: It is difficult to break down a day in this way. It is easier to consider over the course of an audit. An audit would typically be four to eight weeks long. The initial one to two weeks are almost exclusively research based, as the audit will often be on an area or process that you are not familiar with.
The next two to four weeks are based around meeting people, reviewing processes, documentation, controls etc, so it is far more hands-on, and will include site visits, if appropriate. This middle part of the audit is one in which time management and planning is more relevant. It is also the part in which I find my technical expertise most called upon.
The last one to two weeks are spent trying to form an opinion on how adequate everything you have seen is, and what actions/improvements you would recommend.
While I am afraid that there is no part of my job I could call daydreaming, this latter part of the audit is where one would be most called upon to think a little more laterally, and to draw upon experiences in different unrelated audits or in previous roles.
Obviously the work in my previous roles would have been very different.
I’m mostly based in the office but I would travel to site on a regular basis to projects that are at the initial stages of applying for planning or to those that are at construction stage.
EirGrid has a number of departments fulfilling various roles, and communication across these is vital. Therefore I spend a lot of time emailing or speaking to colleagues in other areas of the business.
I also have a number of customers who are developing wind farm projects and we work together to ensure the projects are “on programme”. I am also in regular contact with members of the public, stakeholders and landowners to discuss projects I am involved in at any time.
Brid Sheehan (Bord Gáis Networks): As I work a shift pattern, I work 12 hours a day (either day or night shift). The work I do on any day varies from a regular pattern, which consists of about six hours spent monitoring the system parameters (temperatures/pressures/flows and pro-actively determining maintenance activities which are needed).
This also includes corresponding with local authorities and co-ordinating work with people on sites all over Ireland.
This is the most important part of my job as it ensures the safe operation of the gas network and ensures that customers have access to the required amount of gas in a safe and timely manner – these six hours are spread out throughout the day and take priority over any other work.
In an emergency situation, I help co-ordinate all emergency procedures to bring the network back to normal safe operation, working off the “National Gas Emergency Management” plan.
I spend about four hours facilitating commercial operation (calculating the amount of gas which is to flow into the Irish system and a time profile for that flow). The final two hours on average are spent reviewing and updating work instructions and emergency procedures and ongoing improvements to the way we operate.
Sheila O’Connor: There are merits in both. With a larger company, you get a greater range of exposure and an opportunity for more general experience and contacts, as well as exposure to the business aspects such as funding, business cases etc. With a smaller company, however, there can be more energy and vibrancy, and maybe more of an ethos towards innovation. So I would actually recommend exposure in both types of company.
Elva Bannon: Both large and small companies have their own benefits, and these can be important for training or career progression. But something that might be more relevant is to find a company doing work or research you are interested in.
If you have some of your own ideas, see if you can get relevant experience and training from a company to help you if you do want to go out on your own some day.
Remember that you don’t have to stay in the same company for ever, and you may only know the type of company you wish to work for after you have tried somewhere else.