When I sat my Leaving Certificate quite a few years back, only 30 per cent of students went to university. At that time, a much smaller percentage of that figure were women who went on to study third-level education, and even smaller again were female students who studied subjects like science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem).
As it happens, I was one of them. In fact, I was the only one of two women in a class of about 40 students who went on to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering from my wonderful alma mater, NUI Galway.
Thankfully, so much has changed since then and these days almost 60 per cent of Ireland’s population gets a shot at further education. Today, there are wide and varied choices for Leaving Cert students to help chart the course of their future. However, this seemingly endless amount of decision-making can bring its own challenges.
For readers of this Change of Mind supplement, you may be seeking some guidance to help select the correct path for your own third-level studies. Or, maybe it’s to help someone you know make a similar decision. I’d like to help by highlighting some of the reasons why a career in tech could be the answer.
Firstly, close your eyes and think about your typical day. It’s likely that you wake up in the morning to the sound of your alarm on your mobile phone.
Maybe you start to read the morning news and turn on the hot water (both via your phone), or go for a run before you have breakfast and start checking your emails. You listen to music, message your friends, host virtual meetings, make a reservation, watch your favourite show, shop online, listen to music, track your health stats. . . pretty much all of your day is impacted in quite a significant way by some incredible software running on ultra-modern technology. Let’s take a moment to remember that much of this tech was created by those who work in Stem-based careers.
There have never been more entry points to a career in tech, and all people from all walks of life can excel in tech if they wish. There are a multitude of excellent colleges and universities offering an incredible array of technically focused courses, including NUI Galway and Ireland’s newest Atlantic Technological University, also in the west. The University of Limerick is the latest university to launch a new integrated master’s in immersive software engineering, which aims to give students an in-depth experience over a two-year period.
Post-study, there is a well-documented global shortage of tech talent, so graduates can expect lucrative opportunities to work on some tricky and technically challenging initiatives – both of which are sure to set up a newly graduated engineer with a wide and varied career longer term. In a world that rewards innovative thinking to solve problems, those with ambition to make change happen can often carve out the career path of their choosing.
The technology sector is always evolving so it is highly unlikely to become a dull, boring or repetitive career choice. Some of the biggest companies in the world didn’t exist 10 years ago. Some of the next tech unicorns – billion dollar companies – are only early stage start-up ideas right now. Imagine what’s around the corner.
Geographically, technology is also a seriously great career opportunity. Ireland is a wonderful place for technology graduates, as there is so much support and many world-class opportunities to study, start and scale a tech career. In my case, I work at Rent the Runway, a successful fashion tech business that rents apparel to thousands of people every day in the United States. Our team develops and builds the core technology foundations used by the business to disrupt the trillion-dollar fashion industry, and we look out on Galway Bay as we do it.
Equally for anyone who wants to travel and work abroad, a career in technology will offer incredible global opportunities to live and work anywhere in the world. In addition, tech is, in many instances, suited to remote working which can offer the best of both worlds. Live in one place, work in another. It’s possible in tech, because of tech.
Technology is creative and tech opportunities are for everyone. Graduates can choose to work in an area they are passionate about – fashion, sustainability, telecoms, music, entertainment. . . the list is quite literally endless. All sectors now look to our existing and future engineers to create, evolve, advance and grow. Technology is the path that will get them there, and you can be a major part of that journey.
So, I would ask – what could be more exciting than a career in tech?
Dorothy Creaven is vice president, managing director and site lead at the Rent the Runway in Galway. She is an electronic engineering graduate from NUI Galway, and has 20 years’ experience in enterprise software, tech start-ups, management and leadership for SMEs and multinationals alike.
Rent the Runway has joined forces with the University of Limerick to support its first of its kind, world-class four-year undergraduate with integrated master’s in immersive software engineering programme. The highly-competitive programme will commence in UL in September 2022. software-engineering.ie