#GradStories Stephen Finn, Civil Engineer, Office of Public Works

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What does your job involve?

The main project I’m working on is a large flood relief study. My role is to map the current flood risk in a number of urban areas and come up with solutions to reduce that risk.

How did you get into your job?

I studied civil construction engineering at Cork Institute of Technology and completed my masters in civil environmental engineering, where I focussed on flood risk management, an area of particular interest to myself. I applied for the graduate programme with the Office of Public Works through Engineers Ireland, completed two years of that and I’m now a full-time civil engineer with the OPW.

What skills are required for success?

The core skill is good technical knowledge. Communication skills are essential in our job as we engage a lot with the public, so we need to be able to present flood risk solutions in a clear and concise manner, in technical and non-technical terms. Problem-solving is crucial. We can’t just look at the hard structural solutions; we need to look at soft engineering solutions such as public engagement and flood forecasting.

What do you love about your job?

The variety. No two days are the same. One day we could be out on site following a major flood event assessing maps for solutions; the next we could be in the office reviewing maps, drawings, reports, or representing the organisation at public consultation days or meetings, or providing briefing materials for a minister.

Why did you want to get into flood risk management?

When I was growing up a lot of towns near me were flooded in the big 2009 flood, so it was obviously an area I was interested in. Helping to protect these areas and reduce the flood risk in these towns was my motivation.

What advice would you give a first year student?

Engineering is a broad sector, so don’t limit yourself to just one aspect of it. Find what’s right for yourself, be it civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, environmental etc. While it can be overwhelming, don’t ever be afraid to ask questions, as there’s no such thing as a stupid question. Take the opportunities college provides you with and push yourself outside your comfort zone, not only to develop your career, but yourself as a person.

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