Voices from ... Science

Wednesday, 21st October 2015
Written by: Jessica Trick

In this week’s “Voices from…” event, representatives from the science sector shared their knowledge and insights on the industry. The speakers were from three organisations: Pharmachemical Ire, the Irish Medical Device Association and tech start-up Energy Elephant.

All three speakers have experience across a range of jobs within the science sector, as well as academic backgrounds. However, all speakers stressed how valuable science graduates are without any further post-graduate education, as often this allows people to adapt more easily into a working environment – which is good news for those of you who don’t have the funds or passion for further education right now! Michael Gillen, Senior Executive at Pharmachemical Ire, who has a PhD, gave this advice to his daughter when she graduated, ‘work for three years and if you then want to do a PhD you will have experience from the industry.’ Gillen emphasised the importance of the skills you gain whilst completing a science degree, for the workplace. Science develops your ability to think in a certain way, this is what makes you valuable to companies.

Experience was something repeated consistently throughout the event: work experience is critical in finding a job in this sector, and indeed any sector, today. All the speakers agreed that having work experience and a lower class degree was more valuable than a first class degree with no experience – employers want to see evidence of your work ethic and ability to self-motivate! If you can’t get a part-time job try and get some work experience, or at least take part in extra-curricular activities like sports or choir that require teamwork so that you are able to demonstrate to employers that you are personable and a team player.

In terms of the more entrepreneurial side to the sector Joe Borza, CEO of Energy Elephant, had plenty of advice to give. First and foremost, learn to code! Joe explained that coding is logical, not as difficult as it is made out to be, and should come fairly easily to those with a maths background. He uses code every day and emphasised that science and engineering graduates should have this skill as more and more jobs will require these skills in the future. His advice, be ahead of the curve.

For those of you who are interested in starting a business, the advice was that now is the time to try things out. There are more opportunities for start-ups at this point in time, the personal risks are lower when you’re younger (without children, a mortgage etc.) and there is funding available from various organisations, such as Enterprise Ireland. However, Joe did point out that starting a business is HARD – be ready for that. If you are thinking about starting a company try using this four step approach that Joe was told about when he started out:

  1. Is there a problem?
  2. Will the customer pay for a solution?
  3. Will they buy from you?
  4. Can you build it?

Enda Dempsey from the Irish Medical Devices Association spoke about the importance of using social networking site LinkedIn to give yourself a better opportunity of being head hunted and improving contacts. He also suggested that students contact companies in the sector for work experience – don’t be afraid to do so! If you can’t get a job straight away after graduating then start thinking about internships or free courses such as those run by Skillnets, which will ensure you don’t have gaps in your CV. Enda did also mention that for anyone interested in polymers or polymer research, the plastics industry is lacking graduates and, therefore, jobs are often well paid.

Some key points to take away from the speakers:

  • Lower your expectations when you first leave university – this is only the beginning of your education, you don’t know everything but you aren’t expected to!
  • Open your mind to different jobs within the sector, you might be surprised at what you enjoy and where it could lead to
  • Find a part-time job (but don’t work in your final term!) or work experience
  • Learn to code – at least have an understanding of how code looks
  • Find a mentor when you are working, particularly in your first job, and learn from them
  • Ensure that you are friendly, enthusiastic and passionate when going for interviews
  • Don’t forget to share things with people that you work with, even if you are the youngest and least experienced – there is a good chance that you will be able to teach more senior colleagues about new technologies and apps that could prove valuable to the company
  • You are going to be working for a long time, but see this first step on the career ladder as an opportunity to learn every day in a field that you are passionate about


The speakers suggested some resources that they personally find helpful:

TED talk – Your body language shapes who you are

According to Michael Gillen this talk by Amy Cuddy about the ‘Power Pose’ is a must-watch before interviews.

Find it here: https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en


Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Series

Joe Borza recommended these podcasts from Stanford University, citing that he listens to one every day.

Find them here: http://etl.stanford.edu


Other links and resources:


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