Sean Hehir

R&D Engineer, Marvao Medical

Degree subject BSc (Hons) Science, NUI Galway; MASc Enterprise Systems, NUI Galway
Job title R&D Engineer
Employer Marvao Medical

I went through two interviews with my company before being offered this job as a quality/R&D engineer. The subjects I’d studied as part of my masters proved to be very relevant to the position, including quality/regulatory affairs, quality management, quality engineering, and product design and development. The masters also helped develop my communication and interpersonal skills through team-based course projects and team-oriented workshops. As a result I was able to talk confidently and assertively about myself and my relevant skills in the interview.

The key skill that has helped me enormously in industry is creative thinking which, in turn, aids problem solving. In the day-to-day manufacturing of a medical device, you are constantly looking to improve your product and process and this requires a certain level of ingenuity and thinking ‘outside of the box’. This has helped me solve countless manufacturing problems and has also led to the redesign and improvement of different features of our device.

It’s possible to develop creative thinking through industry experience but the teamwork and knowledge I acquired from industry peers has also helped me hone my problem-solving skills.

One of the biggest highlights of my career so far was being the project lead on a US surgical device trial, during which we had to implant and evaluate the product over a 40-day period. I was responsible for the project design, device manufacturing, sterilisation and overseeing of the surgical device’s implantation. I’m pleased to say that the trial was a total success and the device is currently being submitted for FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval in the USA.

Another career highlight for me was standing in on an operation where our device was implanted in our human-use clinical trial here in Galway. It was amazing to see something that I had been working on being used for the first time.

Meeting project deadlines is always a challenge! Team-based projects in university helped me develop the necessary people skills to get everyone pulling in the right direction to meet these deadlines. Another critical factor is to have suppliers that are of good quality and work efficiently. Good supply-chain management is becoming increasingly essential in today’s fast-paced medical device industry.

Good communication and social skills are essential, especially when you need to work as part of a team and are involved with industry collaborations – a major part of today’s working environment. Equally, the ability to anticipate problems and avoid delays is vital in industry. Finally, it’s beneficial if you can use and build upon any relevant life experiences as these can be help provide engineering solutions for manufacturing problems.

Advice for graduates

The best piece of advice I could give is to be persistent when you’re applying for jobs and only apply for ones that are relevant to your degree. People have a tendency to get handy jobs locally that are unrelated to what they studied and then get stuck as their degree becomes more irrelevant as times goes on. However, don’t be afraid to look for unpaid or underpaid work experience in your field as this can develop into full-time paid positions; our company has taken on students who had collaborated with us on work projects for their final-year dissertation.

Sean was interviewed for Ireland's 100 leading graduate employers 2012/13