Career Profiles: Niamh O’Keeffe

Questions about your career and its development

 

1.What is your name?

Niamh O’Keeffe.

2. Where do you work and what is your role/job title?

I work as a project manager with Mallon Technology, on the Land Parcel Identification System project with our client, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marin.

3. What were the main ‘career decision’ milestones in your life so far?

I think it was to continue working after I had children; a person’s career can start to become more challenging (and interesting!) once you are moving into the phase of life which seems to be when one becomes a parent! I studied science in university and think it was a fantastic platform from which a person can move into various sectors.

4. Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?

I had brilliant science teachers in school who encouraged curiosity. I went to UCC which back then was quite a small college and the lecturers were very accessible. I also found my lecturers in UCD (where I did a post grad) to be very supportive. Another less obvious influence was an aunt who held an administrative job in the Science Gallery, London, she always used to post promotional material back home from the exhibitions so I learned at an early age about space exploration!

5. Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?

As a working parent, any job outside the home requires juggling a lot of different things and it is something to constantly review but ultimately I am very happy with my lifestyle.

Questions about your current Job

 

6. How did you go about getting your current job?

I applied for a graduate level position and worked my way up into management.

7. Describe a typical day.

It varies so much I rarely have one day the same as another but I enjoy variety. I spend most of my time in communication with my team, who are a large diverse group of geospatial professionals.

8.What are the main tasks and responsibilities?

Leadership to a large technical team is my main responsibility. I am also involved in business development where I contribute to driving the company forward and I interact with different people in sales and marketing.

9.What are the main challenges?

In the technological sector, you have to keep moving forward. I enjoy taking online courses and attending workshops to learn what is emerging, but convincing others of where the trends are heading is not always easy!

10.What’s cool?

My area is more concerned with the downstream applications such as using satellite imagery for mapping changes in land cover so it is great to combine the traditional sciences of cartography with data from satellites.

11. What’s not so cool?

Administration, but it needs to be done. Keeping good documentation is a part of communication.

12.What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?

Having a background in ecology and then land use management, I have a good grasp of the background to the policy decisions in agri-environmental schemes. I combine this with keeping up-to-speed with developments in e.g. ESA; future missions will be very useful for a project I am involved in concerning wildfire detection.

Questions about education and training

 

13. What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?

I took a mix of science subjects (Biology and Physics) with arts subjects (History and Art) as I was quite undecided about a future career.

14. What is your education to date?

I took a science degree at University College Cork, after the first year where we covered the fundamental sciences I went on to study Applied Ecology with Geography and Zoology. I did a post grad course in University College Dublin which covered remote sensing amongst a variety of subjects. I have recently completed an online course at www.edx.org (a great resource, check it out!) on the history of space exploration. I am hoping to commence another online course which looks at food security (an issue I am very interested in and one where earth observation will have a role in managing).

15.What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?

A solid primary degree will set you up to pursue postgraduate studies which is crucial in the science and technology sector.

16. Have you undertaken, or do you plan to undertake any further training as part of your job?

I have done training in more practical areas such as project management, managing people and training.

Questions about yourself

 

17. What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?

I often work with people when they are just out of college and quite young so it is very rewarding to see them gain confidence and experience through their career. We have some exciting projects commencing which utilise data from the ESA Sentinel programme. I am involved in organising an annual conference for geospatial professionals and I like bringing in people from the space sector as the synergies between these disciplines are interesting

18. What personal qualities do you have that help you in your career?

I like to look at the bigger picture, to see how things can be connected, to facilitate others who may prefer to work in a more specialised and focused way.

19. What is your dream job?

There are days when I love everything about my job and the days when I don’t are getting fewer as the years go on. I believe in taking control of your destiny and that education is the key to changing not just what you do but who you are.

Advice for people thinking of this job as a career choice

 

20. What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

Technology changes fast, it’s important to know how to think and problem solve.

21. What are the three most important personal characteristics required for the job?

Leadership, problem solving and communication.

22.What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?

Internships are a great way to get experience and also to see if a sector really is for you, try to get some practical work experience as early as possible. Try to balance your CV with practical skills like management training.