Ciara Phelan, Seconded National Expert (Innovation Policy), European Commission
What is your role?
I work on innovation policy. You have thematic areas that might look at research and health, transport, energy – various different areas. We deal with the innovation brief for all of those topics.
What is your typical day?
There is absolutely no typical day. Generally I would check my emails first thing. We do a lot of briefings for our commissioner, which have to be completed quickly. I have number of files I’m following and might attend meetings about those files.
What’s the best part of your job?
It’s such a broad brief that you really have the opportunity to follow things you’re interested in. My colleagues are very open, friendly and knowledgeable. It’s a nice working environment; everyone is hard working but also fun and supportive. You learn a lot about how the EU functions. When you go to Brussels and attend meetings it gives you a much better insight on how to interact with the commission.
What skills are required?
Language is a challenge. All of my work is done through English but you’re surrounded by people with a minimum of three languages so it’s an incentive to learn a second or third. You need to work to a very high level and have a lot of knowledge of the EU scene. I think you need ‘get up and go’ to take yourself from your home country and go somewhere else. You have to be willing to learn and be open, and good with other people because there are a lot of cross-cultural issues.
What advice would you give to students?
Make sure you know what sort of jobs you should be applying to. Talk to everyone you know who might be able to help you, be they commissioners or Irish civil servants so they can put you in the right direction.
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