Blog Article 18 Jun 2015

A Smart Future in Technology

This post contains thoughts prior to the CAO “change of mind” deadline on 1st July 2015 from IDA Ireland’s Head of Technology, Leo Clancy (who is himself an engineer). In Leo’s role he sees the key trends in technology employment from inside the industry.

As a Leaving Certificate student 25 years ago I most wanted to be a vet. Knowing the points would be a challenge I hedged my bets and went with a few choices in Electronic Engineering. The reason for that choice was that two cousins had done so – I knew that one had made a lot of money in his own business over the previous years and the second had a great job in a technology company.

I didn’t have Honours Maths (took the pass paper on the day!), but studied for a Diploma in Electronics & Telecommunications at Dublin Institute of Technology for 3 years, worked for a year and came back to DIT to complete my degree. Both courses were hugely interesting – problem solving and creating were a daily focus – most of all I learnt how to think.

I’ve had great jobs including 13 years at Ericsson working on design, build-out and operation of new mobile phone networks across the world from Oman to Jamaica. I also worked in different roles, changing job within Ericsson every 2-3 years, all within the same company – these ranged from hands-on engineering to consulting, project management, people management running substantial businesses. Aged 25 I was leading a team which included 5 other engineers and by 32 I had responsibility for 300 people and over €100M p.a. business delivery. I then spent four years with e|net in Ireland running an advanced fibre optic communications network. I now work in marketing in one of the finest client-focused organisations in the world.

Why tell the story above? Well, because there are a few myths about technology careers which prevent people from entering technology:

Myth 1 – only Honours Maths geniuses need apply

Wrong. I did a Level 7 course because I didn’t have Honours Maths and got a great job. Maths is critically important and will be tough but there are opportunities to get in at a level where you can build knowledge over time and find the right fit for your stage of development. People skills and ability to learn are as important to success as technical ones.

Myth 2 – engineers are geeks who sit in cubicles all their working lives

This can be true … and some engineers prefer it that way; however, I’ve found that to be true of many other professions also. Most engineers I know are outgoing problem solvers who work best in cohesive teams – my time as an engineer was spent getting stuff working collaboratively with clients and colleagues. The companies I work with now want thinkers, not drones!

Myth 3 – engineering won’t get you into business & entrepreneurship

It’s actually the opposite – I’ve had a very broad experience in my roles and the story is changing faster with each passing month. Most of the companies I meet are led by smart people who have started with an engineering qualification. In 2012 a study by data and analytics company Identified found that, of founders who have advanced degrees, 3,337 have an advanced engineering background compared with 1,016 who have MBAs. The biggest risk of generalising is that of having no relevant skills to offer companies and not being able to get started on the ladder – a tech qualification will get you into the ecosystem.

My work with IDA puts me in daily contact with some of the best technology companies in the world. Computer Science and Electronic Engineering are the most sought after skills, not just in Ireland but globally. Good engineers and programmers can command high salaries from the start and have a lot of choice in their future careers. This is a full employment industry..

If I was back at Leaving Certificate stage today thinking about a change of mind after my exams I’d encourage my (much) younger self to think hard about Computer Science or Electronic Engineering.

Find out more about a Career in Technology

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