Career Profiles: Elaine Kelly

Questions about your career and it’s development

1. What is your name?
Elaine Kelly

2. Where do you work and what is your role/job title
MOOG Dublin – Mechanical Design Engineer

3. What were the main ‘career decision’ milestones in your life so far?
There’s been a number of decision milestones that stand out in my career. Choosing engineering as a degree was an obvious huge milestone. I never explicitly wanted to be an engineer but I was always fixing things and figuring out how things worked so it seemed like a natural choice. Completing my MSc in Bioengineering also opened a lot of doors for me, due to the strict quality requirements demanded from the industry. Surprisingly also, completing an internship in the summer of third year also increased my chances of being chosen for an internship at NASA and the Florida Space Authority following graduation.

4. Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?
A large number of my mum’s family are engineers, so I think she recognised the signs early on. She encouraged me to go for engineering and I’m very grateful as it was never a career that was encouraged in my (all-girls) school. Thanks Mum!

5. Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?
Definitely. My job is very flexible which is fantastic. If there is deadline you are expected to work overtime, however it is never a problem as the work is so enjoyable that you want to see it succeed.


Questions about your current Job

6. How did you go about getting your current job?
I applied to a job opening and went through the interview process. I was lucky in that I was working at a world-class manufacturing site in Cork at the time, and the skills I had learned from working at a site with such a high focus on quality were skills that MOOG were looking for. This was my third industry changed (I had previously worked in oil & gas in London and medical devices in Cork) and I think the variety of skills I had learned in these industries helped me in my application.

7. Describe a typical day?
As we work in a number of areas within space, it is hard to describe a typical day as it depends on the design phase we are in. Currently, a typical day for me involves drafting of project documents, checking in with suppliers on progress and lead times, and completing detailed design work.

8. What are the main tasks and responsibilities?
Main tasks include detailed design and analysis of components, completing test plans, reports and other project documents, and input into costings while dealing with suppliers. I am also heavily involved in fracture control analysis with other MOOG sites.

9. What are the main challenges?
The challenges for me are dealing with suppliers. I am used to controlling what I do and having a strict goal, and when dealing with third parties who have their own challenges and company goals, it can become difficult to work as a team.

10. What’s cool?
Completing design analysis and testing. Seeing a product that you have brought through the design phase, through the manufacturing phase, and then successfully completing the test phase is awesome!

11. What’s not so cool?
Documentation. Filling out the large number of necessary project documents can be very repetitive.

12. What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?
I really enjoy the design work I do and I think I am skilled in that area. I enjoy problem solving and seeing results and that kind of project doesn’t really seem like work to me!


Questions about education and training

13. What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?
My LC electives were physics, accounting and geography as these were all logical subjects without any risk of interpretation. Unfortunately, applied maths was not offered at my school and I do regret not studying it outside school. If I had studied applied maths at LC level like most of my college peers, it would have made it easier at 1st year college level.

14. What is your education to date?
BE Mechanical Engineering – UCD
MSc Bioengineering – UCD

15. What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?
The fundamental theory is incredibly important for my job, however I think the most important education is the on-the-job experience I have gained through different industries. I studied for my masters after 3 years working professionally in London and I was a lot more confident in directing my education than my peers who had just graduated from their undergraduate degree

16. Have you undertaken, or do you plan to undertake any further training as part of your job?
I think continuous upskilling is very important as the industry is constantly changing and you need to adapt.


Questions about yourself

17. What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?
Completing any kind of major deadline or design review is incredibly rewarding as you see your hard work over the past few weeks/months being accepted by the customer. You also get to close out that phase and move to the next one which is a very rewarding feeling.

18. What personal qualities do you have that helps you in your career?
It sounds cliché but I am easy-going and very much a people person. I like working as part of a team and understand that I both need help and can give help to others. I have worked with people with huge egos and it makes interacting very difficult, which ultimately makes their own job very difficult. There is always something you can learn from someone.

19. What is your dream job?
My dream job would be to work right in the centre of the action in the space industry – either for one of the primes or for ESA itself. However, there can be a lot of politics and red-tape involved as you can imagine, so it would have to be a role that retains a large amount of design involvement, while being exposed to the major decisions. I’m not sure such a roles exists!


Advice for people thinking of this job as a career choice

20. What advice would you give to someone considering this job?
You do need to be naturally good at maths and problem solving. If you enjoy that type of work, then try to get as much on-the-job experience as you can early on – either as a part-time job or through internships. If you want to work in an industry that is heavily involved in manufacturing – try to get internships on a shop floor to give you the fundamental understanding of the manufacturing processes. Studying is incredibly important but experience will give you an edge over your peers.

21. What are the three most important personal characteristics required for the job?
You need to be good at problem solving and be detail oriented. You need to be confident in your abilities and comfortable with responsibility as a lot of your decisions can have major consequences. You also need to be able to work as part of a team as you will constantly be interacting with other personalities.

22. What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?
In the space industry, focus on quality is a key factor. Working in an industry that operates with high levels of quality control (such as medical devices) will give you an understanding of the requirements necessary for the space industry. There is also a major focus on detailed design and design for manufacture. Experience in both of these will give you the fundamentals for a design position in the space industry. Of course, a keen interest in space will also give you the encouragement and motivation you need to break into this industry. It can be a frustrating industry due to the long lead times for programs and sudden direction changes of the industry so you need to be very determined and committed to the role to ensure that the product you developed reaches space!