Dr. James Carton is a technology director for Energy, Automotive & AeroSpace Ltd. Here he tells us about working in the Space sector in Ireland.
What are the main tasks, responsibilities and skills required?
I develop technology for the Energy, Automotive, AeroSpace and Space sectors. I also act as a consultant, in relation to manufacturing methods, research and development, modelling and simulation methods, structural and fluid analysis, computer aided design, electronic design and development, and biomimetic design.
Describe a typical day?
The majority of my day to day work can be completed on my computer, from anywhere in the world.
Emailing, phoning and meeting clients, partners and new customers takes up a large part of my time.
The rest of my day I concentrate on specific projects, solving technical problems, making prototypes and researching new technologies, generating drawings, models, reports and presenting my findings.
What are the things you like best about the job?
There are many things I like about my work, sometimes I call it my hobby, not work!
I travel to other countries and meet similar people working in the area, which can be very refreshing. But the best thing about my job is that I like being involved at the cusp of the creation of new technology, learning how it should work and trying to apply it, to solve problems for humanity.
What’s not so cool? What are the main challenges?
Every job has the mundane things, such as paper work, that must also be completed. In addition, I can be involved in projects where I get very dusty and dirty, but the rewards overshadow these menial tasks.
Who or what has most influenced your career direction?
My family have been very supportive since I was a kid in primary school, even when I left home to work in the US for NASA.
Work experience is very important and work colleagues and friends can give very good advice. This is certainly true from when I was working for EnBio Ltd and through projects with the European Space Agency.
My drive however has always come from my personal desire to achieve my dreams, aiming high and being satisfied by my achievements.
Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?
Life-work balance is very important. It is for every individual at certain times in their careers to be selfish and work hard to achieve their own personal goals, even at the expense of other things.
I have been lucky as I and have been supported by my family and friends all the way. I like outdoor activities and these allow my mind, on occasion, to relax from intense work routines.
What subjects did you take in school and did they influence your career path?
I always choose subjects I liked and dropped subjects I did not like. Because of that logic, some of the subjects I liked most were drawing, physics, geography and biology.
This opened me up to engineering/biotechnology/environment career options, which I later became involved with.
I would say some of the teachers were supportive, rather than subjects influenced my actions. My physics, geography and biology teachers were great and my mentor in transition year was very supportive.
What is your education to date?
I have a certificate in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering; diploma in Mechanical Engineering and a degree in Manufacturing Engineering. I also completed my PhD in Mechanical Engineering.
What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?
My education path has been very specific and each course building on the last. This has allowed me to progress my career in a number of steps. Depending on clients, my PhD and publications from it are very relevant, but for other clients my industrial experience is as important. I hone and adjust my CV accordingly.
What advice would you give to someone considering this job?
Education is vital and you have to prove yourself to get any job, this is life.
The more specific and the fewer people in the world with your education the better chance you have to get what you want. Therefore to work in research, in Energy or Space sectors, PhD qualifications are advised.
Whenever I interview candidate for a job I look more at the person, than the individual’s CV. I try to understand how this person is motivated and if they are willing to work hard.
Companies sometimes like to recruit a person they know rather than a stranger with a nice CV. So be social and meet and talk to people in jobs that you would like to work in someday.
What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?
If you are a secondary school student in Transition Year and up, and you want a career in the Energy Sectors, Automotive Sectors or the AeroSpace – Space sectors, you need to work hard and you need to start now.
I would advise you to go on the Internet and apply for as many science exhibitions and events that you can participate in. Look at both national and European events.
Apply for internships and summer schools with companies that do things that you are interested in. Let this give you a taste of your potential future career, if you don’t like it, do something you do like.