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Engineers Week 2021- Robert O Meara, Graduate Engineer


With Engineers Week 2021 currently underway, we caught up with Robert O Meara, Graduate Project Engineer.  Last year, Fastnet assisted Robert with his career search and were delighted to secure him a position with our client, Alcon, the global leader in eyecare, based in Cork.

Robert tells us about the challenges of joining a company during a global pandemic and how his engineering career is progressing.

  • Why did you choose engineering as a career?

I loved Science in school and knew I wanted to do something based on science or engineering in college. I did a year of Applied Science and, while I found most of the course interesting, I excelled at Physics and Maths. I loved running experiments and analysing data. When we moved onto the basics of electronics I was fascinated, and my tutor suggested I look at engineering courses in the third level so I applied for Electronic systems engineering and was accepted. While being demanding, engineering is also very rewarding. There are excellent career prospects and once you start to think like an engineer lots of industries start to open up. A solid foundation in engineering can be a springboard to a wide variety of possible career paths.

  • You started with Alcon in 2020 as a Graduate Project Engineer. Why did you apply for this role?

I applied for Alcon because it ticked several boxes when I was looking for a new challenge. I had just finished a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt course and was looking for ways that I could apply my skills. Alcon offered me the opportunity to learn more about Validation which was something I wanted to do since college and the fact that they were a large Medical Device company only made the position more attractive.

  • What was it like to join a company during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Naturally, it was difficult. I spent the first three days on-site training, where I got to meet my manager and was given the equipment required to work from home. It was difficult getting to know people when you haven’t met in person. The pandemic stopped all the usual first day things that we all take for granted, such as a tour of the site, being introduced to people or just shaking someone’s hand. It can be an isolating experience, but I had catch-ups every morning with my manager and the team would also catch up every day.

  • What appealed to you about this company?

Alcon appealed to me because it was a new challenge. They are a large multi-national Medical Device producer and I felt like I would have room to grow within the company. The location was a big plus for me also, I went to college just around the corner so I know the area well and it’s not that far away from home so I didn’t have to consider relocating in the middle of a pandemic. When I was looking for the next step in my career I wanted somewhere that would allow me to learn and develop lifelong skills. 

  • What new engineering speciality skills have you developed during the past year/ are you learning/developing?

I have learned a lot about problem-solving these last couple of months. Alcon have pushed me to constantly learn new skills. Throughout the pandemic, I and members of my team have had to become the eyes, ears and hands of the experts who cannot travel to work and it has led to us being more knowledgeable about aspects of the project that we would not normally have been exposed to. Coming into Alcon I knew very little about Validation but over the last year, I began to understand the process and have completed validation activities on multiple aspects of the project. The more experienced validation engineers on my team have been patient and have taken the time to answer any questions or lend a hand when necessary. 

  • What advice would you offer to those thinking of a career in engineering?

Get proficient in all aspects of Office. I cannot stress enough how fast some jobs become by just knowing the right command in Excel or knowing how to properly format something in Word. It’s one of those skills that often gets overlooked by engineers and it’s the one I use most often. 

Another piece of advice: prepare to ask for help. Engineering can be complex and difficult to understand and half the time I think engineers are speaking a different language but the first step in being able to solve a problem or come up with a solution is knowing where to start and who to ask to point you in the right direction. 

Thanks, Robert. Wishing you and the team at Alcon all the best for 2021.

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