Meet the Team: Blessing Nwachukwu
1. Describe your job as if you were explaining it to a five-year-old.
I work with cool technologies and provide innovative solutions to problems!
I am a systems engineer and I work on new technologies and digital tools, including technologies related to augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality. I also work on automating workflows that provide the transition from manual workflow (paper) to automated and seamless workflows (digital).
2. What types of projects are you working on at the moment?
One of the projects I am working on is a digital Teams structure where Teams can have a structured way of following the lifecycle and assigned tasks of a project. I am also working on mixed reality tools like HoloLens and digital platforms to achieve a digitalised solution that increases competency and enables the remote support and maintenance of manufacturing equipment.
3. How did you get into the industry?
I always knew I wanted to study engineering while I was in secondary school. I had to stay focused and was determined to get into an engineering course in Romania where I studied marine engineering. I studied Mechatronics at the University of Limerick where I acquired my Masters degree. I then applied for so many jobs and got an interview with SL Controls.
My proudest achievement is how I have integrated well with a community outside of my home country of Nigeria. I have my church community here in Ireland, and they are very good people. I also have my work community which is an area where I can demonstrate creativity and innovation. It’s the freedom to be who I am and be able to demonstrate my competency and acquire new skills.
4. What’s the best advice you could give to someone thinking of coming into this industry?
You need to know for certain that engineering is what you want to do. You need to have passion and you need to trust yourself that you can achieve it. My message is don’t be scared, especially for females thinking it’s a male-dominated field. It is, but more females are also needed, and it is not a scary job. When you get to the start and reach the finish line, you will know you have done it successfully even if you were afraid at the beginning.
This sector is an interesting field that, if you have a passion for it, you will be able to explore the potential of what the industry can achieve. It is an ever-evolving industry.
5. Outside of work, what are you most passionate about?
I am a Christian and I am involved in some church activities like singing. I grew up around farmers (my dad and grandpas) and that intensified my love for farming. I appreciate the advancement of agricultural mechanisation and I look forward to utilising and exploring the technological developments. I research the integration of science and engineering and how it can influence farming methods.
I have a knack for planning events, and I am looking into event planning, maybe cross-functional into engineering events planning. I love exploring new ideas, trying new things, and I love exploring the art of cooking.
6. What’s the best thing about working for life sciences customers (pharma, MedTech, etc)?
Listening to the problems and finding digital solutions that can solve the problems. It’s the ever-evolving solutions that we work on and develop for our customers. The solutions enable creativity and innovation, and they are always intriguing.
7. What is the best thing about being on the SL Controls team?
It is a community, and the people are highly intelligent and brilliant. I don’t feel like I am siloed because teamwork is highly encouraged and there is always an open door so I can approach my colleagues. Whenever I have a question, my colleagues are always there to listen and support me with what I might require.
There is also encouragement to be innovative and there is always an avenue to voice your opinion about new ideas.
Workplace Wellbeing Week 2023 at SL Controls
This week is workplace wellbeing week at SL Controls. We have a series of events planned throughout the week, culminating on Friday 28 April, the official IBEC National Workplace Wellbeing Day.
According to IBEC, National Workplace Wellbeing Day is “Ireland’s biggest celebration of workplace health and wellbeing”.
Shauna Ryan, SL Controls Director of People and Culture, said: “We are proud to be signed up to IBEC’s promotional activities for workplace wellbeing, as good physical and mental health in the workplace is important to us at SL Controls.
“We have a range of activities planned throughout the week and we are encouraging all members of our team to get involved. Most of us work remotely for the majority of the working week at SL Controls, so a lot of the activities will be virtual. But we also have days during the month where we encourage employees to come into the office, and Friday is one of those days. There will be work to do, of course, but there will also be a focus on National Workplace Wellbeing Day and our own health and wellbeing initiatives and activities.”
Series of Workplace Wellbeing Activities
We have a range of activities planned throughout SL Controls Workplace Wellbeing Week. Some highlights include:
- Lunchtime walks each day.
- Focus on key topic areas each day, including mental wellbeing, heart health, and fitness.
- Daily Lunch and Learn events on various health and wellbeing topics.
Keith Moran, CEO of SL Controls, said: “Promoting good health and wellbeing is one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals that we have committed to at SL Controls. Good workplace health and wellbeing has also been a focus for our company for many years, as we have well-established physical and mental health programmes – Live Well at SL and Think Well at SL.
“As a company, we believe a happy and healthy workforce is good for business and it helps to nurture a closeknit and supportive team environment.
“Like other businesses, it can get busy as we deliver projects for our clients. When that happens, it is easy to let our physical and mental health slip, whether it is working through lunch rather than taking time for a walk, or not talking to someone about increased feelings of stress.
“Therefore, it is important to continuously renew, refresh, and reiterate the importance of workplace wellbeing and the support, advice, and practical help that is available to members of our team. Our Workplace Wellbeing Week and IBEC’s National Workplace Wellbeing Day are ideal opportunities to do this.”
Meet the Team: Eamonn McManus
1. Describe your job as if you were explaining it to a five-year-old.
I am an operations manager in SL Controls, so I am responsible for ensuring our portfolio continues growing through existing and new clients. I work with the commercial team to onboard new projects for our engineers to work on.
2. What types of projects are you working on at the moment?
I am currently working on an MES implementation for one of our longest-running customers. The project is to eliminate manual paperwork in the creation of pharmaceutical batches, instead capturing all the data in an electronic format. Alongside the client, we are designing and formatting the MES recipes, and we are working with them on everything from requirements gathering to system development to implementation and testing.
3. How did you get into the industry?
I graduated from Sligo IT in 2008 and was lucky enough to join SL Controls on its first graduate programme. It came about by complete random chance. I had finished my degree and was in the process of closing down my email account for the last time when I received an update email from the job’s website Monster. The email showed current open roles, and I saw SL Controls was hiring for systems engineers.
To be honest, I put in my CV not thinking I would get far. But I got a call that evening to come in for an interview the next day, and I started in the job the next week.
It was great and by joining SL Controls at that time it meant I was exposed to many different industries throughout my 15 years of service.
4. What is your proudest moment (work life or personal life)?
Beyond anything, it is becoming a dad to my children and now having the ability and time to see them grow up.
5. What’s the best advice you could give to someone thinking of coming into this industry?
The advice I would give is to push your boundaries and constantly try new things. Try not to become complacent as things in this industry are constantly evolving and changing. You need to evolve with them to stay at the top of your game. So, keep pushing and educating yourself as much as possible.
6. Outside of work, what are you most passionate about?
I live in Galway City, so where I live is close to the sea. I love going into the sea for a swim, to relax in the water and semi-meditate. At all times of the year too – I love the cold water.
7. What’s the best thing about working for life sciences customers (pharma, MedTech, etc)?
It’s the new challenges every day. There is always a push from our customers to improve productivity, processes, or methods. This allows us to be constantly innovating and coming up with new technologies to solve those problems. It’s not a stagnant industry as it is ever-changing, so it is always interesting.
8. What is the best thing about being on the SL Controls team?
Even though we are in excess of 100 employees now, it still does have a small company feel where you can approach your manager very openly. They are very supportive which allows us to have honest conversations. You also know your opinion is taken into account and is used to drive decisions.
There is also a great sense of camaraderie in the team. There is a lot of support too. If somebody is having a tough time on a project, everyone is willing to jump in and help.
Embracing Equity at SL Controls on International Women’s Day
SL Controls is proud to support this year’s International Women’s Day theme, Embrace Equity. It’s an especially important message to get across in engineering as the sector seeks to attract more women.
The International Women’s Day theme of Embrace Equity is about going beyond equality, where equality is the goal rather than the approach. After all, an equal approach doesn’t take into account an individual’s personal circumstances. That is achieved through equity, where resources, support, and opportunities are tailored to the individual.
Equity in Engineering
Shauna Ryan, People and Culture Director at SL Controls, said:
“The Embrace Equity message is very powerful and it’s one we should all be aware of. At SL Controls, we support equity both in theory and practice, as we work hard to treat everyone as an individual.
“Looking more broadly at the engineering sector as a whole, it is clear there is a problem. Even with the best management, recruitment, and HR practices, it remains incredibly difficult to recruit female engineers. The sector has known it for years, but the needle hasn’t really budged on the issue.
“It’s something we are acutely aware of here at SL Controls. For example, we proactively seek applications from females for the engineering vacancies we advertise. We do this using a variety of strategies, but we always receive more applications from men than women. We also know there are fewer women qualifying as engineers than men because fewer women are enrolling on engineering courses.”
What the Figures Tell Us
Official figures back up Shauna’s comments:
- In March 2022, Engineers Ireland reported figures from the Higher Education Authority that indicated 23 percent of engineering graduates were female.
- Across Europe, only 34 percent of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) graduates were female.
- In the UK, just 18 percent of engineering and technology students are female.
How to Get More Female Engineers
The question of how to get more women into engineering is one that industry, the education sector, and governments have grappled with for many years. To contribute to the discussion, we recently ran a poll on our LinkedIn page asking what can be done to get more girls and young women interested in engineering. We offered four options:
- Option 1 – Increased levels of Government-led and industry-supported formal and informal STEM education in primary schools.
- Option 2 – Increase the promotion of STEM careers in secondary schools, with a particular emphasis on female students.
- Option 3 – Employers adopting more flexible and equitable work patterns.
- Option 4 – Campaign to change gender perceptions of engineering, focusing mainly on parents, teachers, and career guidance counsellors.
Promoting engineering in secondary school was the most popular option, followed closely by formal and informal education in primary schools.
“The result of this poll is very interesting, and it confirms something we have believed in at SL Controls for a long time. That is the fact you need to introduce young people, including girls, to engineering at a young age. The aim should be to spark their curiosity and get them thinking that engineering is something they could consider.
“This is why we are involved in the STEAM initiative. We have done two so far, one in Sligo and one in Limerick, where two of our engineers go into a primary school class once a week for 10 weeks to do fun and engaging engineering-related activities.”
The school in Limerick where SL Controls engineers Oonagh Wynne and Gary Collopy delivered the STEAM engineering education programme was Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh in Roxborough. It was a 4th class, and its teacher is Ceiline O’Meara.
“From a big class of 32, with only nine girls, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the girls responded to engineering over the past 10 weeks. It has inspired the girls in my class to be creative, and it has given them confidence to choose engineering as a career in the future.
“It is hard to believe that women only represent 13% of engineers. Many girls, and in particular, in primary school don’t get access to engineering. However, we here in Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh were fortunate enough to get this opportunity and it was a huge success amongst the class, but particularly with the girls.
“Learning engineering from a young age can help to build skills in lots of other subjects, such as science and maths. Not only this, but engineering can help children to understand real world technologies and problems, thus allowing them to make connections with the wider- world.
“Over the past 10 weeks, the children in my class engaged in different projects and activities. These projects were hands on, fun, and encouraged the children to use their creativity and imagination. The children looked forward to their lesson each week and thoroughly enjoyed learning new skills.”
According to Shauna, it is important that more children, including young girls, get similar opportunities to the 4th class in Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh:
“The reaction you get from the children is amazing, so the more we can do things like this at all levels of industry, the education sector, and society as a whole, the better.”
Engineering in a Box Lessons for 4th Class Pupils at Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh, Limerick
Encouraging the next generation of employees and entrepreneurs to consider engineering is important to us at SL Controls, so we jumped at the opportunity to get involved with STEAM Education again. Last year, two of our engineers had a fantastic experience teaching children in a Sligo primary school about engineering topics and concepts.
This time it was the turn of SL Controls engineers Oonagh Wynne and Garry Collopy. They have been teaching a one-hour lesson once a week to 4th Class Pupils at Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh, Limerick. The programme, called Engineering in a Box, lasts 10 weeks and is designed to teach the children about the basic concepts of engineering in a fun way that sparks their enthusiasm and interest.
“One thing I remember from when I was in 4th class is we did this science exercise with our teacher that involved electrical circuits,” said Oonagh. “I remember doing that and it really stuck with me as something new. As I went further through education and into my career I can see how it really impacted me, by introducing me to magnets and electronics. When this opportunity with STEAM Education and SL Controls came up as an option, I thought it would be a great thing to do with the kids.
“I want to inspire them about engineering, and even though I don’t want to encourage one gender more than another, it would be great to get more girls interested in engineering and encourage them to study it.”
Range of Topics
There is a different topic and task in each week of the 10-week course, with the topic areas covering everything from infrastructure to water to energy to the environment.
Garry said: “To give you an example, one of the weeks involved building boats using various arts and crafts materials. The kids had to first make boats that could float in water, then they had to see how much weight their boat could take.
“All the kids in the class are very enthusiastic. Whenever we arrive at the class each week, they are always asking us what we are going to build, what we are going to do. They are a great bunch of kids, all helping each other, and all still interested week after week.”
Oonagh added: “It’s also amazing how much the kids already know. They are learning, but they also know so much, particularly about environmental issues and topics.
“Before we started the kids did a survey about what they want to be when they get older. There were mixed responses, but they included those you would expect like becoming a footballer or baker. I think we are opening their eyes about engineering, and they now know more about what engineers do.”
Garry says it has been a rewarding experience for himself and Oonagh too: “I have kids in 5th and 2nd class and I am learning things that I can pass onto them. It is very fulfilling. I’ve also had experience lecturing, but it is much more fun teaching the primary school class, especially when you see the enthusiasm, and when they ask what you have to do to become an engineer.”
Meet the SL Controls Team at Explore Engineering 2023 in Clare
The SL Controls team is looking forward to the annual engineering showcase, Explore Engineering. It takes place this year on Thursday 2 March and it’s back to its former home, Shannon Airport.
Explore Engineering is aimed at students, teachers, and parents with the goal of showcasing the career opportunities that exist in the engineering sector throughout the Mid-West of Ireland.
Going by previous years, it is set to be another fantastic event, with cutting-edge technologies on display from some of the most exciting engineering companies, organisations, and educational institutions in Ireland.
Frank Quinn, Business Development Associate at SL Controls, said: “Our footprint at SL Controls stretches across Ireland, so we get invited to a lot of careers events like this. Explore Engineering stands out, though, as there is always a buzz and loads of energy. So, we are looking forward to it.
“We are also passionate about the core messages of Explore Engineering. Those messages include the fact there are fantastic career opportunities in the engineering sector in the Mid-West region. We are also keen to communicate the fact that there are multiple pathways into engineering for young people to explore. Engineering is for everyone, so we hope to see you there.”
SL Controls Announces 100 New Highly Skilled Jobs in Ireland
SL Controls is proud to announce the creation of 100 new highly skilled jobs in Ireland, helping us achieve our growth objectives and our plans for further expansion in target markets around the world.
The new jobs will bring the SL Controls workforce to a total of 220. The roles will be based in Ireland, but many of them will be location independent to meet the needs of our growing list of clients across the globe.
Keith Moran, SL Controls CEO, said: “Our turnover at SL Controls increased by 43 percent over the past three years and our projections for the next three years see our rate of growth increasing even further. This growth is creating new, highly skilled jobs at SL Controls that we will need to fill between now and mid-2025.
“We are a specialist software company that delivers solutions for companies in the pharmaceutical and medical device sectors, but one of the great things about the people we plan to hire is that many of the skills we need can be transferred from other sectors. For example, we need software developers to join our team, so there are potential opportunities for people currently working in the technology sector.”
SL Controls is part of the global IT company, NNIT. NNIT has over 3,000 employees and offices in Europe, Asia, and North America.
Keith said: “Joining forces with NNIT has further enhanced our service offering to meet our customers’ global requirements for fully integrated solutions across the Operational Technology and Information Technology layers. This has led to an increase in both clients and the level of work across Ireland, the US, and Europe.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the SL Controls team who have enabled this strong growth and we look forward to welcoming new team members over the coming months.”
SL Controls Shortlisted for Innovator Excellence Award
We are delighted to have been selected as a finalist for the Innovator Excellence Award at the upcoming Sligo Chamber of Commerce Excellence Awards. We are one of three finalists for the award, which is sponsored by Atlantic Technological University.
Keith Moran, CEO at SL Controls, said: “The Innovator Excellence Award category this year is focused on new product innovations that facilitate circular economy processes and workflows. This is an area that is important to us at SL Controls as we develop solutions that transform manufacturing operations in highly regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
“Being shortlisted as a finalist is an honour and we are looking forward to celebrating these really important awards that recognise the efforts of the fantastic business community that exists in Sligo.”
Meet the Team – Shane McLaughlin
Describe your job in 5 words
Trusted partner delivering technology transformation.
What is a cool thing you are working on right now?
Can’t tell you (client confidentiality and all)… but it’s cool.
The tech is cool too. A lot of tech that I’m currently working with the SL team wouldn’t have seen. I’m working a lot with NNIT (SL Controls’ parent company) at the moment, and I’m seeing the new stuff they are working on. New technology and new clients.
In the past, you knew everybody in the company, and you knew what everybody did. Now working in NNIT, I am always meeting new people as it is a much bigger business. I was over in Germany in the summer as well, meeting some of the folks there.
The alignment is good between the two business units – we do level two integration at SL Controls, and they do level three and level four. So, it’s all about how we can sync up, where are the synergies, how can we create more business, and all that is very interesting.
All that said, 70 percent of what I do is still with current clients, but I’m even looking at them in a different light now as we have different services that the NNIT team can bring.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up and why?
A vet initially. I come from a farming background, and we had a B&B when I was growing up at home. So, it was all about customer service and farming.
I’ve also always had an interest in fixing things. That led me to my career. First, it was refrigeration on large boats and then onto maintaining technology with Hewlett Packard. I then went back to university to get an Honours degree as an engineer.
How and why did you get into business development?
I spent 15 years in engineering and engineering management, but I always had a high interest in commercial growth and forging partnerships, so it seemed like a natural progression for me in doing more of what I enjoy.
If you could swap jobs with someone for a day, who would it be?
Vladimir Putin… It would be a busy day with a fair few changes to turn things around from what we are all facing today.
What is the best thing about being on the SL Controls team?
The people – that’s the obvious one. I’ve also always been interested in what drives and motivates people and businesses.
What do you like about working in the life sciences sector?
At the end of the day, it is about health and happiness. You do get to see some of the end results where drugs or medical devices have improved people’s lives. This could be in clinical trials, and I have been to India where I got to see some of the medical devices that we were involved in being used in the field.
I was lucky enough to get that real-world experience. I’ve seen the products in the factories that we help to modernise. But when you see the end results, the patient outcomes, that’s a different game.