When you start planning your future, figuring out your career is a big part of it. But deciding what you want to do is one thing, and achieving it another.
Maybe you want to become an entrepreneur, or a research scientist. Both laudable aims, but how do you make them a reality?
Inspirefest speaker Sinéad Kenny, co-founder and CEO of DiaNia Technologies, tells us how she got to where she is today.
What first stirred your interest in a career in research?
I had an interest in nature and how things are made. Possibly, living in two-channel land as a child, and a bit of Anything Goes and Make and Do with Mary, had something to do with this. My parents would also always ensure we had interesting toys like microscopes and chemistry sets.
What led you to the role you now have?
I was very lucky to have motivated, interested secondary and third-level science teachers, whose passion for the subject fed my own curiosity.
I wasn’t sure what career path I wanted to take, so materials science seemed to be a good choice with a majority of science subjects. I wrote the thesis for my degree on biomedical cements and found it so interesting that I managed to complete a PhD project with it.
I then started working in the medical device industry where I learned practical elements of engineering, especially in my role as design engineer in Creganna Medical.
What were the biggest surprises or challenges you encountered on your career path?
Working as an engineer when I had trained as a scientist was probably the most difficult pivot. However, I applied myself in the best way I could and, again, tried to find out as much as I could about the topic.
The biggest surprise was realising how much untapped potential there was for new materials in the medical devices space.
Was there any one person who was particularly influential as your career developed?
The supervisor for my PhD, Emeritus Prof Martin Buggy, was always a very motivating voice and never doubted my ability to achieve what I set my mind to.
What do you enjoy about your job?
I have to say, I really enjoy putting a theory to the test – great when it is proved correct, but sometimes more interesting when it has to be investigated further.
What aspects of your personality do you feel make you suited to this job?
Curiosity, determination, stubbornness and motivation.
How has DiaNia changed your career?
DiaNia Technologies is a start-up that I co-founded, and I have learned so much during the journey. It was the best thing I have done in my career to date.
What advice would you give to those considering a career in this area, or just starting out in one?
Grab every opportunity with both hands and learn the most you can in the particular area you are working in.
However, do not pigeonhole yourself. Ensure that you move on to other areas that would be considered outside of your comfort zone, as this is the best way to broaden your knowledge and skillset.
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