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Celebrating International Women's Day - Tatiana Ryan shares why she became an engineer


Establishing Ireland as Europe’s STEM leader by 2026 is an ambitious goal but one which will certainly have a positive impact on the Irish economy.  A survey for The Irish Times, which focused on the top performing 1,000 companies, looked at global revenues and found that the top 10 firms were dominated by STEM firms, which certainly is promising towards achieving this goal. 

In addition, according to the Central Statics Office there are 117,800 Irish citizens who work in STEM; however, less than 25% of the workforce are women.  Therefore, it is important for businesses involved in STEM to encourage more females to become interested in STEM careers, in order to address the gender imbalance. 

As part of International Women’s Day, and Engineers Week, Fastnet – The Talent Group® is proud to shine the light on inspiring female engineers.  We recently caught up with Tatiana Ryan, a project manager with a leading biopharma company, who shares with us why she became an engineer, who inspired her and why she believes engineering is a great career. 

Did you always want to be an engineer? 

Yes, I was always interested in math, science, and chemistry. I was continuously driving my mother crazy with a new contraption I’d created or by showing her how to create a slow-burning candle from items in my chemistry play set (which she promptly prohibited!). 

I always thought I would be an engineer although I often changed the type of engineer. When I was younger, I wanted to be a civil engineer like my grandfather, then later an aerospace engineer (maybe I could go to the moon!) until I settled on chemical engineering. True to form, I have kept evolving and have recently finished a Master’s in Bioengineering with a specialisation in Tissue Engineering.  Engineering is like magic; it makes the impossible, possible.

Describe a typical day for an engineer

Depends on the type of engineer! There are as many varieties as there are other disciplines; there’s even law degrees that leverage engineering to contest patents. There are engineers based in a lab conducting experiments, or designing parts in a computer, or building roads in remote areas. Most people think that engineers are usually stuck in a lab and are boring but anywhere there’s a real-life problem, there usually is an engineer trying to solve it. I had a friend whose job was to design roller-coasters at Six Flags. In my field I think a regular job is a combination of lab work and computer modelling.

What do you enjoy most about your career?

What I have enjoyed the most is that AH-HA moment that comes from solving a problem. My latest achievement was to formulate a solution to transporting cells across continents at room temperature without using any harmful chemicals.

Have you faced any challenges based on you being a female engineer?

Once in a while you meet people who assume that you are not the lead engineer because you are a woman, but I find this happening less and less as the engineering field has a growing population of women. Another challenge is achieving a good work-life balance, but that is not specific to women.

You worked in the Defence industry in the US. What was that like?  

I worked for a Defence Contractor and worked on helping design different types of radars and armoured vehicles. There were several cool projects that we looked into like the possibility of a paint that could act as a solar panel or self-healing materials.

Who inspired you to become an engineer? 

My grandfather was the smartest person I knew, and I always wanted to be like him. He was a civil engineer and always told fun stories of adventures while building roads in faraway places.

What advice would you give to those who don’t think STEM subjects are ‘cool’?

Recently there has been a culture-shift in what constitutes a nerd or what is cool; as embodied by previously nerd-culture films becoming main stream (Star Wars, Star Trek, etc.). STEM fields can be perceived as boring but if you enjoy them, it is your job to change people’s minds. I have used molecular gastronomy in the past to prove to people that chemistry can be delicious; prove to them the cool things you can do with STEM! 

When asked if Tatiana would recommend engineering as a career choice her answer was very insightful. “Engineering can be paired with any field and adds a level of challenge that is exciting. If anyone is interested in a specific career, I challenge them to seek out or even create a novel engineering field related to that!”.

Fastnet has several engineering roles with our Life Science clients.If you are interested in learning more about these opportunities, please contact Martha O' Donovan today to have a confidential discussion.

About the author:

Laura Curtin is Marketing Manager with Fastnet – The Talent Group®, a member of the Marketing Institute of Ireland, and recently was accredited by the Digital Marketing Institute.  She is a graduate of Cork Institute of Technology, Institute of Technology Carlow, University of Limerick and NUI Maynooth.  Laura has over 20 years’ experience in Marketing and Corporate Communications.  She has worked for global organisations including Cadbury, Kraft Foods, Aramark, Glanbia, Musgrave, and Flex developing and managing the Marketing, Corporate Affairs, Internal Communications, and CSR functions in many of them. She is a highly skilled and well-trained communications professional.

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