Padraig Ryan, digital design engineer at U-blox, Cork
Padraig Ryan, digital design engineer at U-blox, Cork

Digital design engineer left Ireland to see the world, but came home for the opportunities in tech

14 Jan 2016

Padraig Ryan, a digital design engineer at Cork-based U-blox, left Ireland in 2009 to see the world. After spending four years in Canada – and getting married – he moved back home for family, and for the career opportunities in tech.

Where are you from?

I grew up in the countryside of Co Wexford. Most of my extended family are involved to some extent in farming – although two of my siblings are nurses – but I’ve always been more interested in programming computers than herding cows.

Can you tell us about your background?

The silicon revolution that was happening in California might as well have been on another planet to a Wexford boy during the 1980s, but I knew that I wanted to be involved in some way, even if I didn’t have the language to describe it.

The internet was in its infancy at the time, so wasn’t available to me, but television was. Shows like Tomorrow’s World helped to spark my interest in any and all things technical.

My formal engineering training started with a diploma in electronics from Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT). I then moved to the real capital to do a bachelor’s degree in electronics engineering in Cork Institute of Technology (CIT).

After that, I worked as a research engineer (still at CIT), when I wrote my research master’s thesis as part of the project SmartSpectra, which was undertaken in collaboration with universities across Europe.

Directly after CIT, I moved to Drogheda to work as a digital design engineer with a start-up company called RedMere Technology. I worked with RedMere for five years before leaving Ireland.

When did you decide to emigrate and why?

I had progressed from student life to a working professional without a break and decided that it was time to venture out of Ireland to see some of the world. I thought if I didn’t do it then, it may never happen. So one rainy Wednesday afternoon in September 2009, the plan to go overseas was put into place, but it took another year before all the pieces were in place to make the big move.

Where did you emigrate to and for how long were you gone?

The initial plan was to visit the west coast of Canada, do a little skiing and then make my way to South America. However, as things turned out, I ended up working as a tour guide in the Whistler-Blackcomb rainforest where I took guests zip-lining between two ski mountains. I wanted to do something different from engineering and that certainly was!

I spent a year in Whistler before moving two hours south to Vancouver, British Columbia, where I returned to engineering. There, I worked in a design role for almost three years with a company called Teradici, which focuses on cloud computing. I was in Canada for four years in total.

What made you want to/decide to come back?

I married a Canadian last year and suddenly family became a very important part of my life. After each visit home, leaving to return to Vancouver became increasingly difficult.

Also, outside of ‘the Valley’, Ireland really does provide great career prospects in microchip design, with more options than many countries around the world.

Not to mention some of the most expensive property prices in the world are located in Vancouver.

It was a no-brainer to move back home.

How did your current role come about?

A former work colleague from RedMere recommended U-blox when I mentioned that I was thinking of moving home. After doing some research into the company and the role, I submitted my resumé and was offered a position.

What work do you do?

I’m a senior digital design engineer. The Cork U-blox office is focused on RF devices for use in U-blox modules, and those chips need to be controlled and the data signals processed using advanced digital methods. That’s where I come in. The work spans the full design cycle from specification, design and verification to support when the chip comes back from manufacturing.

What do you like most about your job?

Two of the main selling points of working at U-blox are the friendly, fun work environment and cutting-edge, challenging work. I get to work with some very talented engineers, which enables me to continue to improve my craft. The old saying holds true here: “Every day is a school day”.

How did this company make it easier for you to move back?

In many ways, from doing interviews via Skype, helping with relocation costs from North America, and flexible start dates and work hours. I guess they just understood the logistical difficulties of moving country. This gave me the security of knowing that I was starting with a good company with an employee-focused outlook.

How did your time working abroad make you better suited for your job, if at all?

It gave me a sense of diversity. From a company culture perspective, it’s interesting to see the different approaches taken by companies outside of Ireland and in different industries. From an engineering point of view, the designs I worked on were very large digital system-on-chip.

What is the best thing about being back in Ireland?

Aside from a good pint of Guinness, all the reasons I had for moving home still hold true.

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