Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked Paul Dowling from Teagasc to give some advice for people considering this job:


Paul Dowling



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  Paul Dowling
Ideally, try and get a job in the industry for a summer, or get a bit of experience before you go into it. You have to be happy with working outside, and doing physical work. If you are not prepared to work hard or are looking for a soft job, don't go into Landscaping. Design is very sexy at the moment, everyone wants to be a designer, a Landscape Designer. It's different on the ground, you have to be out there on sites in all weather and you have to make sure projects are managed well and you're able to muck in with everyone else. Biology is most important for anyone going into Horticulture or Landscaping as it covers propagation and helps with the identification of plant names, species and families through the universal use of Latin. Chemistry is also helpful as the use of various chemicals is a constant in horticulture. The chemical content and dangers of fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides in use in Amenity Horticulture needs to be understood anyone going into this business. Geography would be a relevant subject as well. Also, the simple things like having a full, clean driving licence, which can make you a lot more employable if you are trying for a job with a Landscape Conractor. This indicates that you are more mobile and can also drive a company van if needed. Be sure you're happy with the outdoor life. Having taken a Horticulture course will give you an advantage. However, it's possible to take a job first and study later, e.g. in IT Blanchardstown it is possible to study at night. I think you cannot beat doing the Diploma Course in the National Botanic Gardens because it is a good practical course which also covers all the theory and is invaluable for gaining plant knowledge.

Administrative people are interested in work that offers security and a sense of being part of a larger process. They may be at their best operating under supervisors who give clear guidelines, and performing routine tasks in a methodical and reliable way.

They tend to enjoy clerical and most forms of office work, where they perform essential administrative duties. They often form the backbone of large and small organisations alike. They may enjoy being in charge of office filing systems, and using computers and other office equipment to keep things running smoothly. They usually like routine work hours and prefer comfortable indoor workplaces.
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Claire O'Hara - Civil Engineer

Claire O’Hara tells Smart Futures about her work at Arup.

What does Arup do?

We design everything from hospitals to motorways. It is one of the biggest consultant engineering firms in Ireland, with about 380 engineers and planners here, but 12,000 staff globally.

Describe a typical work day?

I’m currently managing a tunnel project in Sweden. Our design team is in the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK and Dublin. A typical day might involve video conferencing, travel, teleconferences and email, as well as staying on top of technical issues.

What are your favourite parts of the job?

Every day is different and the technical challenges are never the same. You might think of engineering as technical, but communication skills are really important. The knowledge you need is in people’s heads. I love that every day is different and also that people part.

What’s most challenging?

The most difficult is probably the nicest part too: working with so many people. Somebody always has the answer for a technical issue, but it is about finding that person. Why did you choose civil engineering in NUI Galway? I’d wanted to be a civil engineer from age 13. But when I was 18 I wasn’t 100% sure. I chose non-denominated engineering for first year, which gives you a flavour of all types of engineering. By April I knew civil engineering was for me.

Which parts of the course did you enjoy most?

I liked the numerical analysis and geotechnical engineering. Concrete is man-made and there is a formula behind it; working with soil and rock is more unpredictable. I did two years research on it in NUIG after my degree. What was your first job after university? I was a graduate engineer in Arup’s geotechnical team. After 18 months I went to work in our Australian office in the oil and gas industry. The work was really exciting.

Who most influenced your career path?

I really liked maths, physics and sciences. My cousins were in engineering and their jobs seemed to match what I liked. My parents helped me a lot in deciphering what I wanted as a career. What advice would you give students considering civil engineering? Study honours maths and applied maths for the Leaving Cert. It will make life easier in college.

Why did you do an MBA in the UCD Michael Smurfit Business School?

I was always interested in business and economics. I wanted to learn more so opted for an MBA. What do you do in your free time? I run, play Gaelic football and sweat it out at bikram yoga.

Article by: Smart Futures