Having worked as a chemical engineer in the Pfizer plant in Ringaskiddy, Caroline Barry now works in another pristine office out in the Cork countryside.
Catherine Foley reports.
Engineers "rarely get their hands dirty", explains Caroline Barry. From a squeaky-clean office environment in the middle of the countryside in Innishannon, Co Cork, she sets the scene.
Minds are whirring away, focused on solving problems, devising plans, coming up with ideas. Computers, phones and diaries are the tools of her trade.
Sometimes she has to visit a site and wear a hard hat, hobnailed boots and safety glasses, but usually it's about "attending meetings and workshops, dealing with people", managing projects, taking conference calls and generally "being able to solve problems".
Barry is a chemical engineer at the multinational pharmaceutical company, Schering Plough (Brinny), in Cork, which is 10 miles outside the city. Her day starts at 8 a.m., and finishes at 4.30 p.m.
"I've a brilliant opportunity to travel," she adds, mentioning that she travelled to Canda to attend "a conference for generating ideas" since she began working with the company four months ago after graduating from Cork Institute of Technology. There will probably be chances to visit the company's plants in New Jersey, Singapore and Puerto Rico in the future too.
The best part of the job, she says, is that "it's very challenging the whole time. You're always thinking about improving and optimising. We're trying to save money at the end of the day. You are constantly thinking from a safety point of view and an environmental point of view.
"You have to be creative, you are bringing new facts and methods together to solve problems. You have to be responsible, complete assignments in a dependable way." Being a problem-solver is crucial, and also communication is "another big one: sharing your ideas and getting along with people" is important.
She's currently working on a new project "to ensure that all our manufacturing sites operate in compliance with current good manufacturing practices". This will involve "the establishment and maintenance of quality systems", she says.
"The good thing for me is that this project goes across all the sites, all the areas - quality assurance, materials management, facilities and equipment, laboratories and production. I'm getting to see a vast range of areas. I deal with the managers and supervisors in the areas, they are the people who know." The project will "probably take three years to implement", she says.
Organisational skill are vital, she says. "I'm co-ordinating and planning on the day-to-day running of it."
The Cork IT chemical and process engineering degree course helped prepare her for working in industry, such as meeting deadlines -a key part of her job. "There's a lot of co-ordinating deadlines," she says. At Cork IT, "which were drilled into us."
While at school at St Mary's Secondary School in Mallow, Co Cork, she spent time investigating the types of courses available to her. She gained insight into the different types of work by spending time as a work- experience student in the medical laboratory of Cork's University Hospital, in CMP Dairies and with Mitsui-Denman on Little Island. She choose the Cork IT course because "it combined the parts of physics and chemistry that I found most interesting", she says. The course at CIT was "very, very broad. At the end of the day it's a brilliant degree to have. You could still go into a lot of different areas - financing, IT, engineering economics, safety."
Her appetite for industry was further whetted when she had a chance to work in her third year at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals in Ringaskiddy for three months. Here she worked on a project which was "at the commissioning stage, a very hands-on stage" and " so we were checking that everything was complete. We came across lots of things." She then returned to complete her final-year experiment project, commissioning of a filter system, at Pfizer.
"It was a great experience," she says. She saw what each pump, chilller, heat exchanger and filter did, and began to put all the theory into practice. For Caroline Barry, industry is the place to be.