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 Deirdre Lavelle from St. Michael's House to give some advice for people considering this job:


Deirdre Lavelle

Care Assistant

St. Michael's House

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  Deirdre Lavelle
It can take time to get to know people with learning disabilities, patience and good listen skills are very important.

Realists are usually interested in 'things' - such as buildings, mechanics, equipment, tools, electronics etc. Their primary focus is dealing with these - as in building, fixing, operating or designing them. Involvement in these areas leads to high manual skills, or a fine aptitude for practical design - as found in the various forms of engineering.

Realists like to find practical solutions to problems using tools, technology and skilled work. Realists usually prefer to be active in their work environment, often do most of their work alone, and enjoy taking decisive action with a minimum amount of discussion and paperwork.
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Niamh Kelly - Ink Chemist

Niamh Kelly found it difficult to choose between her favourite subjects at the end of school, but found a rewarding career in HP as an Ink Chemist.

Niamh Kelly loved Chemistry and Music when she was in school, but has no regrets about choosing science at third level. “I liked logical subjects like Maths and Science in school but I also loved music. I was torn between Chemistry and Music which is kind of a funny mix. I thought that choosing science in college would keep more options open as I could keep music as a hobby – I was never going to have Chemistry as a hobby.”

Niamh didn’t have a particular idea of what career she wanted and had a wide range of subjects to choose from when she started studying science at Trinity College, Dublin. “They make sure you keep your options quite broad in first year. So then in second year, you can narrow it down and I specialised more into chemistry and maths.” It was in fourth year that Niamh got a clearer picture of the opportunities in Chemistry.

During her project work she found that she particularly enjoyed research and development, but needed a further qualification to work in the field and went on to do a PhD. “If you want to stay in a lab, running instruments as a technician and specialising in that way, a degree is the right qualification, but if you want to do into R&D you really need a further qualification.”

Finding a path in industry

After completing her PhD, Niamh knew that she wanted to work in industry rather than staying in academia. “I was very definite that I wanted to go the industry route – it’s what really pushes you. In industry you can be working on a project and in two years it’s on the shelf and it’s being sold. I learnt a lot from the PhD but I definitely wanted to work on something that was a bit more fastmoving and that’s what drove me to industry.”

Niamh spent a year working in Henkel Loctite – “a real R&D hub” – before she heard about an opportunity in Hewlett Packard. “In HP you don’t come in just as a chemist – there are really diverse career opportunities as well. You can go into project management. It really interested me, because you’re not being pigeon-holed.”

Seeing a project through from start to finish

Niamh now works as an Ink chemist, developing new inks for printers. She loves the process of a developing a product and seeing it arrive on the shop shelves. “You’re really exposed to the business behind what you’re doing. So for me, you’re not just in a lab, which was already a big development for me, you’re building the business case, you’re understanding your customer needs, you’re integrating in the team – you’re one part of a very complicated system.

“Here, working on a big team is core to the job. You’ve so many different roles. You might be one chemist on a team of fifteen engineers. That was brilliant for me.” Niamh has enjoyed watching her work come to fruition.

“In my first three years here, we were working on Integrated Print Head printers – integrated print head – and they’re on the shelf at the moment. So for me, that was a big buzz.” She says the company also allows for lots of career development, and allows employees to take an active role in their futures.

“HP has a philosophy that you own your own career so they’ll do whatever they can to enable your different decisions. They’ll give you the opportunities you need, and help you work towards what you want, but it’s up to you to decide where to go.” Niamh says that she would have loved more contact with industry when she was choosing subjects for college – particularly about the range of careers that are available. 

Article by: Smart Futures