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SL Controls Raises Money for 2022 Darkness Into Light Fundraiser

Employees at SL Controls took part in the Darkness Into Light fundraising event over the weekend. The money raised across Ireland as part of this event is for the suicide and self-harm prevention organisation, Pieta House.

SL Controls has taken part in Darkness Into Light for several years, including the curtailed events that took place during the lockdowns of the pandemic. This year is the first time since 2019 that in-person events have taken place.

Darkness Into Light involves heading out before dawn to run or walk 5km as the sun comes up. The event this year took place on Saturday 7 May.

A number of employees took part, both individually and in small groups. The money employees raised was then matched by SL Controls to increase our contribution to this essential cause.

Norma Mulligan from SL Controls said: “Darkness Into Light is a fundraising initiative that we have a history of supporting at SL Controls, but this year we felt it was more important than ever. The work that Pieta House does is as important today as it was before the pandemic, but the lockdown period curtailed the ability of organisations like this to raise money. We wanted to do what we could this year.

“The response from the team was great, and it was fantastic for the company to double our overall donation by matching the amount of money raised by employees.”

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Come and See Us at the Explore Engineering 2022 Showcase in Limerick

The Explore Engineering 2022 Showcase event in Limerick is just two weeks away, and we are looking forward to attending. We have been at the event before when it was known as Limerick for Engineering, although this is the first time it has been held since the Covid-19 pandemic.

What’s it all about, though? The Explore Engineering 2022 Showcase is an industry-led initiative to promote engineering as a career in Ireland. It has the support of local education and training providers. One of the main aims of the event is to highlight the opportunities that exist in the engineering sector.

At least 46 companies and other organisations from the Mid-West of Ireland will be at the event, including us at SL Controls. You will get to see cutting-edge technology and you can meet engineers to discuss what engineering is like as a career. You can also find out about the opportunities that exist in engineering in Ireland, particularly in the Mid-West region.

The event is aimed at leaving cert students, but it is open to anyone, including parents, teachers, and other students. Here are the details:

Aoife Burns, SL Controls Talent Acquisition & Onboarding Associate, said the event is an excellent experience for any leaving cert student thinking about a career in engineering. Aoife said: “Based on previous years, we highly recommend coming along to Explore Engineering as you will get to see how the engineering sector is thriving in the Mid-West of Ireland.

“So, if you have an interest in engineering and are considering it as a career, come along to the event. If you do, make sure you visit the SL Controls stand to talk to our team and find out about what we do and the opportunities that exist in our company.

“We hope to see you there!”

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Meet the Team – Adam Barriger, SL Controls Systems Architect

What do you do at SL Controls?

I am a Systems Architect. My role involves working with the technical and engineering leadership teams in the business to deliver solutions for customers.

Describe your job without using the words engineer or engineering.

Making stuff do stuff, so the stuff is the right stuff. And fixing stuff because the stuff wasn’t the right stuff for the stuff. It’s complicated, but it’s what I do.

Seriously though, I work on developing technical solutions for customers, and I work on strategies for the technical side of the business. This includes helping SL Controls employees build up their technical skills. I work within a team that looks at projects from a higher level to assess feasibility and deliverability, and what the resource requirement will be for those projects. This involves knowing each member of our team, their unique skillsets and experiences, and how best to utilise their talents to ensure project success.

I do still get involved in the nitty-gritty of programming and on-site support, working with pharma and MedTech customers. But my role is also a position where I use my experience in the industry to help guide the day-to-day decisions that need to be made.

Junior staff need advice, and those junior staff look to people like me for support, as nothing teaches as well as experience. With the experience level I have, I can help with the overall picture. So, not just focusing on one thing in a large and complicated project, but the overall picture. It’s also about understanding how each piece fits into the bigger picture.

What made you want to build your career in engineering?

Since I was a kid, I have always been interested in how things work. I’ve always been tearing things apart as soon as my dad gave me tools, so I could see how they work and how I can put them back together.

Engineering was all I ever looked at, so I went to university to get a mechanical engineering degree. I then started doing some automation work and that’s where I am today. Nearly everything I’ve ever done has been automation-type work.

What is it about engineering that gives you the most satisfaction or that you are proudest of?

The best satisfaction comes when a customer has a machine or line that needs some improvement, and we make those improvements. So, it’s when my work improves the everyday operation of a line or process, including when our work makes it simpler and more efficient for operators. That’s a big thing – making life better for the people that work on production lines.

I am very interested in technology, too, so I’m always looking for new and better ways of doing what we have always been doing. The argument “that’s the way we’ve always done it” never sits well with me. I believe if you’re not growing, you’re dying, and the same applies to tech advancement. If you’re not learning the new things, you’re left with nothing as the old things eventually go away. I have a real passion for learning new things.

What was your first day working at SL Controls like?

I hadn’t changed jobs in a good number of years. For me, it wasn’t just a job change, either, but a location change as well. It was also a new job in a new industry area – pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

The move to a new country was a complete change-up in my life, but the SL Controls team made me feel at home, and the guys in the Limerick office welcomed me in. I have been there for two-and-a-half years now, and it feels like I’ve been there forever. It’s a good environment to be in.

Is there anything about SL Controls that makes it stand out from working at other companies?

There’s good comradery at SL Controls, and it’s a good team of people that really work well together. There are always a lot of people that are willing to jump in and help you whenever you need it. There is always someone to call if you have a problem.

It’s a good company business-wise and technology-wise too. It’s a great team of people as I said, but there is also a good focus on the employees from a company level, such as getting the right work-life balance. The company is very supportive.

It’s a challenging field to be in, and occasionally there are some long hours and tough challenges to deal with. But there is a good team backed up by the higher levels of the company that look out for you and help you develop your professional abilities while maintaining that work-life balance.

What advice would you give to people interested in joining SL Controls?

I’d say get on the website, have a look around, and see what we do. That’s what I did before I applied, and I am happy with my experience here based on the knowledge I got from my research. Then, get in touch with the recruitment team, as once you get into the technical interview round, you’ll get an engineer’s perspective of what it is like to work here. I found that really helpful.

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SL Controls Commits to Sustainable Development Goals

At SL Controls, we firmly believe in the collective responsibility of everyone to build a sustainable future for the planet. Continuous improvement is a core part of our business, and that translates through to sustainable development where we are fully committed to continuously working to improve how we operate.

To achieve this, we have set five core sustainable development goals. We have modelled these goals on the Sustainable Development Goals set out by the UN in its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development initiative.

In defining our sustainable development goals and priorities, we have selected those where we can have the most impact in our day-to-day operations, and where our long-term corporate strategy can make the most difference.

Keith Moran, SL Controls CEO, said: “We all have a role to play in making a difference with climate change, to change the gender imbalances that exist, and improve how people are treated. At SL Controls, we want to do our bit to feed into making these changes.”

Keith explains the thinking behind each of the sustainability goals that SL Controls is focusing on.

Good Health and Wellbeing

Sustainable Development Goals - Good Health and Wellbeing

“We have been proactive in SL Controls on the topics of health and wellbeing for several years now. This includes having well-established physical health and mental health wellbeing programmes that encourage healthy lifestyles. However, there is always more we can do.

“Health and wellbeing are really important topic areas for companies like us at SL Controls, as our team is largely made of up roles where most of the work is completed at a desk in front of a computer. There isn’t a need to get up and move very often.

“But everyone has to move, so we promote this fact by regularly highlighting that not moving is detrimental to everything from physical health to stress levels to blood flow. It’s important to continue this focus on health and wellbeing because of the type of work that we do, and to continue building on the good work we have done over the years.

“We also believe it is very important to include high-quality healthcare in the benefits package that we offer to employees. We are passionate about providing these extra benefits and making sure they are as good as possible.”

Quality Education

Sustainable Development Goals - Quality Education

“Given the type of work we do at SL Controls and the qualifications that new recruits to the company must have, it’s important that we promote quality education with local colleges and training providers, and to help drive the further development of education in those areas.

“We believe it is also crucially important to provide continuous education for our employees so they can be the best they can be and achieve their potential.

“We have extensive experience working with educational institutions in Ireland in the field of engineering. Historically, our employees have been based here in Ireland, so we also have a lot of experience in providing continuous professional development opportunities to those Irish-based employees.

“We are committed to extending this push for quality education beyond these shores, particularly in parts of the world where there aren’t as many educational opportunities for qualified and aspiring engineers.”

Gender Equality

Sustainable Development Goals - Gender Equality

“This is an area that all of us here at SL Controls are very passionate about. It is also important that a company like SL Controls steps up to the plate, especially in the sector we are in – engineering.

“Previously, engineering was male-dominated and that was the end of it. That is changing, but it needs to change faster.

“We all need to promote engineering to everyone in the population and the wider world. We’ll be doing our bit in a number of areas, such as bringing engineering into schools to get children – males and females – excited and interested in what engineering is about.

“We want to promote there is equal opportunity to become an engineer and we want young people, particularly girls and young women, to realise there are good careers and opportunities available in engineering. We also need to make sure there is absolutely no bias because of gender.

“In many parts of the world, including here in Ireland, we are breaking away from those biases, but gender equality is an area we must constantly promote. We are committed to doing so here at SL Controls.”

Decent Work and Economic Growth

Sustainable Development Goals - Decent Work and Economic Growth

“The experience of the pandemic resulted in us carrying out a major review of our operations here at SL Controls. That review led to the company moving to a hybrid working model, rather than getting people back into offices.

“This is just one example where we are working to provide a decent working environment for our employees. By working from home for at least part of the week, our people don’t have to commute as much. This results in fewer carbon emissions, while being better for the individual too.

“Hybrid working helps our employees achieve a better work-life balance, for example. Also, our hybrid working model feeds into local communities as our staff spend more time at home contributing to their local economy and region.

“There are benefits for us as a company, too, as our hybrid working model provides us with a broader availability of talent. This demonstrates how having sustainable development goals really is good for business.”

Responsible Consumption and Production

Sustainable Development Goals - Responsible Consumption and Production

“Responsible consumption and production is an area that we are committed to doing whatever we can. This includes maximising our recycling activities, optimising paper management, and generally reducing the waste we produce across the organisation. We’ve also looked at our lighting and heating, and we’ve started to introduce electric vehicles into our fleet.

“We continue to explore opportunities in all these areas and more to see how we can implement improvements to make our business more sustainable. Wherever we see there is wastage, we will make a change.”

Continuous Improvement

At SL Controls, we are aware that all five of our sustainable development goals are important to build on over the long-term. So, while we are already actively involved in each of the areas mentioned above, we will continuously review our position and plans for the future to ensure we are always making progress.

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SL Controls Engineers Introduce Engineering to Primary School Children as Part of STEAM Initiative

Talk to any business leader in the field of engineering and they will tell you we need more people to enter the profession, particularly from under-represented groups like women. So, when the opportunity came up to participate in a STEAM initiative, we were excited to get involved.

STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Maths. It is an organisation that works to inspire children about these subjects through a range of different initiatives. One of those initiatives is for companies like SL Controls to engage in a 10-week co-teaching programme with a class of local school children. Given the work we do, our specialist subject would be engineering.

We put the message out to our engineers and received a number of enthusiastic responses, including from SL Controls Validation Engineer Fiona Chung and Systems Engineer Philip Nicholson.

“Teaching is something I have done before,” said Philip, “so I am familiar with what is involved. The STEAM programme looked like a fantastic opportunity to bring the principles of engineering to a group of young people in a way that is fun and engaging.”

Fiona said: “I was really keen to get involved, too, as I think all children should get the opportunity to learn about engineering to see if it is something they want to pursue further as they continue their education.”

SL Controls was paired with a 5th class in Strandhill Primary School. Fiona and Philip will be co-teaching for one hour a week alongside Strandhill National School teacher Stephanie Collins. The first lesson took place on Friday 25 March.

 

SL Controls delivering STEAM engineering in a box lesson at Strandhill National School

 

Co-Teaching Engineering to Enthusiastic 11-Year-Olds

Reflecting on the first lesson, Fiona said: “I was buzzing from all their energy, and they were great kids. They loved the activities, and they were really enthusiastic. It was fantastic that they all got involved.

“They asked lots of questions and some of them knew the answers to the questions that we were asking them. Things like what is the strongest shape – many of them knew already that the strongest shape is a triangle.

“So, they had good knowledge, and they thrived on the activities to the point where they were challenging themselves beyond the initial task. The main task was to build a bridge using various different materials and the aim was to make the bridge support a water bottle.

But some of the kids started challenging themselves to make their bridge support more than one water bottle.

“There was also a lovely team of girls who had added extra support to their bridge, and they added tape to make it look prettier. I told them how good their bridge was, both for the extra support they added and for making it aesthetically pleasing, and they were thrilled with that feedback.

“All the kids got a lot from the feedback we gave them, and they really wanted to learn and do more.”

Each week in the 10-week programme covers a different engineering topic. Examples include engineering and energy, biomedical engineering, and electronic engineering. At the end of the 10-weeks, the pupils will present a project based on what they have learned.

The topic for the first week was an introduction to engineering with the theme of infrastructure. The pupils had two tasks during the session:

  • Building a tower using two sheets of paper
  • Building a bridge with lollipop sticks

 

Strandhill National School pupils and SL Controls engineers building bridges with various materials as part of STEAM lesson

 

“STEAM had sent a big box to the school,” said Philip. “There are 10 bags in the box, one for each of the 10 lessons. When we opened the bag, all the bits and pieces were inside for the kids to do their main task of the lesson – building a bridge. To be honest, I think I was more excited than the kids opening the box!

“We said before the lesson that we thought the hour would be up before we even knew it, and that’s exactly what happened. It was full-on for the full 60 minutes, and the kids were great.

“We explained at the beginning about engineering and how engineers are involved in everything – roads are built by engineers, buildings are built by engineers, the pyramids were built by engineers.

“For the kids, they were really eager just to start building. It was almost like the more talking we were doing, the more we were holding them back from getting stuck in and getting their hands on. For us, that was great, as that is what engineering is about.

“Once we put the items in front of them, they took off. For the first task, we gave each of the children a sheet of paper to build the tallest tower they could. They were enthusiastic even for something as simple as that.”

Continued Involvement

Shauna Ryan, SL Controls HR Manager, organised the initiative with STEAM. Shauna said: “We are delighted to be participating in this programme as we have seen how successful it can be. We are also really happy to be working with Strandhill National School and to be given a chance to influence these bright young students to consider pursuing study and a career in engineering.

“Our CEO is part of the parent’s association at the school, and he says the feedback on the initiative has been really positive, and that’s great to hear as well.

“It’s a privilege for us to give back to the community like this and to create awareness of what engineers do and how it is a great career path to choose. Promoting education is also one of our sustainable development goals as a company.

“And you know what – it’s a really fun thing to do too!”

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SL Controls Sponsors Connacht Rugby U10 Blitz

SL Controls are proud to have sponsored the Connacht U10 Blitz at Sligo Rugby Club’s Hamilton Park on Saturday.

Over 420 enthusiastic under-10 players from 20 different clubs took part in what was a perfect day for playing rugby.

Keith Moran, SL Controls CEO, said: “We are proud to have been involved in this fantastic event and I would like to say congratulations to all the children who played in the blitz.

 

SL Controls-sponsored Connacht U10 Blitz

 

“The whole day was brilliantly organised by Sligo Rugby Club, and it was great to see such commitment from the players, coaches, parents, and everyone else involved with all the clubs that took part. The weather was excellent, too, which also helps.

“I think we all missed events like this when they couldn’t happen because of the pandemic, so it was good that everyone could come together for a day of fun, energetic, and sociable children’s sport.”

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Meet the Team – Michael Duffy, SL Controls Quality and Validation Engineer

What do you do at SL Controls?

I am a Quality and Validation Engineer working on projects for large multinational pharmaceutical companies. My role involves reviewing quality documentation for quality systems and documentation for the validation of facilities, utilities, and equipment. The documents I review include user requirements, design specifications, performance qualifications, etc.

Describe your job without using the words engineer or engineering.

I receive documents from the client I am working for, and I review them for completeness and to ensure they meet quality requirements. I also ensure the documentation is compatible with ISO standards and FDA guidelines to help keep the company in complete compliance with regulations.

What made you want to build your career in engineering?

I didn’t set out to go into quality and validation. Being a validation engineer is not something I chose, but it is something I have become. I started in mechanical engineering before moving to precision engineering and design. I then got an opportunity in validation, and I continued with this area of engineering when I joined SL Controls.

As for engineering, I knew I wanted to use creative skills and my ability to think outside the box. I have always been interested in how things operate and how things are made, and I have always been hands-on. This was even from a young age when I played with Lego, Meccano, and similar toys. I was interested in getting to know machines, equipment, processes, and how they all work.

With validation, it’s as if you are taking things apart in your mind in order to validate them. When I review documentation, I look at the piece of equipment and I take it apart in small sections, section at a time, to validate it. It’s almost like reverse engineering.

What is it about engineering that gives you the most satisfaction or that you are proudest of?

Definitely the creative part and the need to think outside the box. Working as part of a team is rewarding, too, and working with different departments with everyone aiming towards the same goal. But it is the creativity that gives me the most satisfaction.

Also, I like the fact that every day is about learning, and every day is different. I am constantly learning new skills.

What was your first day working at SL Controls like?

That was 3.5 years ago, before the pandemic, so my induction was in the Sligo offices. Within two days, though, I was out in the field, which was great.

With SL Controls, getting settled into the new job was very easy. We had everything laid out in front of us, and everything was well explained. I also got a feeling of the team culture straight away, and I quickly got to meet people from different areas and different sites.

I joined with other people at the same time, so Keith [Keith Moran, SL Controls CEO) came in and did a presentation too. That also made you feel you were part of the family.

Is there anything about SL Controls that makes it stand out from working at other companies?

I like the way they really look after their people. Their number one priority is their staff and making sure everybody is happy. You really are not just a number here at SL Controls. You are always treated as a person. Also, nobody is too big to answer a question or help. Compared to other companies, there is also more of a family feel to working here at SL Controls.

What advice would you give to people interested in joining SL Controls?

My advice would be to take it with both hands and don’t be afraid to ask questions. What you will find is that any concerns you have, most things are achievable, and help is available.

There are also plenty of routes to progress your career, and the company looks after you with advice, training, etc. So, grabbing the opportunity with both hands would be my advice.

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Women Should Break Free from Perceived Norms to Create their Own Path into Engineering

There are lots of different paths you can take to become an engineer, so don’t just follow the traditional route of going to college to get an engineering degree.

That’s the message from Fiona Chung on International Women’s Day. Fiona is a Validation Engineer at SL Controls.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is Break the Bias, where we are asked to imagine a gender-equal world, “a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination”.

“Not Even Out There”

While the perception of engineering being a career for men is changing, it remains male-dominated in many fields and industries. From an employer’s perspective, one of the reasons for this is there are fewer female engineers available compared to men.

“We’d love to hire more female engineers,” said Shauna Ryan, HR Manager at SL Controls. “Our problem isn’t that women are not getting through the recruitment process. Our issue is they are not even out there. We don’t get the applications for the roles we advertise.

“I think the issue is getting women to take courses that can lead to a career in engineering.”

While things are changing, there are still significantly more males than females enrolled in many engineering courses.

“My sister did an engineering course in university,” said Fiona Chung. “She was one of only three girls in her class, and she didn’t have a nice time. There wasn’t overt bias, as such, but the large group of males on the course compared to females meant the culture was naturally more male-dominated. This made it more difficult for the females to make friends, for example.”

“Loads of Ways”

Fiona herself took a different path to get to her current role as a Validation Engineer. She believes her experience can be a blueprint for others.

“My story doesn’t even start with engineering,” Fiona said. “I didn’t always want to be an engineer and, growing up, I didn’t know anything about being an engineer. My parents were immigrants to Ireland and they opened Chinese restaurants, so my family encouraged me to go into the hospitality field as that was the family business.

“That wasn’t for me. I wanted to go into a medical field or laboratory work, so I ended up going to GMIT to study biopharmaceutical science. It was a STEM course, but it wasn’t engineering.

“I then got a job working as a microbiologist and analyst. It was a good job, but I felt it was very repetitive, which doesn’t suit my personality.

“Then, by some stroke of luck, a validation role opened up in the medical device company I was working in. I went for it and got it. Now I am a Validation Engineer at SL Controls.

“For me, validation is the best of both worlds. It involves practical things, like writing up protocols, but there is also a lot of using my head, problem-solving, and developing ideas. It suits me perfectly.

“Things are always different too. At SL Controls, for example, no two projects are the same.”

Fiona’s story of becoming an engineer is different from most, so what advice does she have for girls and young women thinking about their future careers.

Fiona said: “I use myself as an example. The course I did was 75 percent women and 25 percent men. It didn’t have engineering in the title, but the job I have now shows there are loads of ways to become an engineer.

“The narrative around engineering is changing, and we need to keep working to break the bias. But there are lots of ways you can achieve your goals.”

“Go for it”

HR professional Shauna Ryan echoes Fiona’s viewpoint. Shauna also believes society needs to provide even more encouragement to young women and girls to explore engineering.

Shauna said: “If you go back to when I was young and you were driving past roadworks, there was always a sign that said, ‘men at work. Thankfully, those signs are now gone, but it does show that generational changes are happening, and those changes will break down biases.

“I don’t think young women and girls are being discouraged from anything. They are being encouraged, but they are being encouraged to go down routes other than engineering.

“My advice is that engineering is a good, exciting, and rewarding career. If exciting and rewarding is the type of career you want, engineering is a good choice. There are so many aspects to engineering – more than you can probably imagine when you are at school. Also, some people might associate the term engineer with somebody like a civil engineer standing by the side of the road, but there are so many different disciplines within it.

“I would really echo what Fiona says. This is something I’ve been passionate about for some time – there are so many routes as to where you want to go. Sometimes it is linear, but sometimes it’s not. If it’s what you think you want to do, go for it.”

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Meet the Team – Fiona Chung, SL Controls Validation Engineer

What do you do at SL Controls?

I am a validation engineer. I work with clients to ensure their manufacturing systems are compliant with industry-specific standards and regulations.

Describe your job without using the words engineer or engineering.

My role is to plan, create, and execute tests that check if a company’s manufacturing system produces products that meet performance and quality standards, and industry-related regulations.

What made you want to build your career in engineering?

I started off as a laboratory analyst. It was a great area to be in, but it didn’t offer me the variety of experience I was looking for.

I get bored easily once I’ve understood a concept, so I need to be frequently challenged, either by learning something new, finding new ways to apply learned concepts, or taking on more difficult tasks. This is where engineering is a good fit for me because there’s always something new to learn and new puzzles to solve.

I find engineering to be one of the most dynamic roles to be working in as new innovations are being introduced every day.

What is it about engineering that gives you the most satisfaction or that you are proudest of?

As mentioned earlier, engineering to me is full of puzzles and there’s so much satisfaction when you finally get that click. The click of ‘Oh. I understand it, that’s how it works, I’ve solved a puzzle!’ That ‘ah-ha’ feeling is very addictive.

What was your first day working at SL Controls like?

I started during Covid-19 when we were all still in the midst of pandemic-induced isolation. Norma, from our HR team, gave me an induction and although we could only interact via an MS Teams video call, I felt welcomed immediately. Norma was very organised with the induction but also very personable, warm, and good craic.

My manager, Alan Loughlin, also made me feel welcomed on my first day. We got straight into the good stuff – CSV projects that I would be working on! There wasn’t a long lag period of training, set-up on platforms, or waiting for access to systems. I got the chance to look at a project’s requirements and deliverables on the first day which made me feel like the company trusted my abilities from the beginning.

Previous companies I’ve worked for make you wait a long time until they give you anything substantial to do. This can make you feel like you’re being sussed out first, and that can make you feel more like a commodity than a real person. My first day at SL Controls was far from that.

Is there anything about SL Controls that makes it stand out from working at other companies?

Yes, I always feel like a real person working at SL Controls. You’re not just some staff number or some tool the company uses to make money.

Of course, as a business, the company needs to make money, but they don’t do it at the expense of an individual’s needs, interests, time, or health. They’ve been financially transparent and do share the wealth with everyone in the company. I don’t feel like I’m being taken advantage of, it’s quite a people-orientated company.

What advice would you give to people interested in joining SL Controls?

I’d give the same advice a colleague gave me when I was first interested “Apply, and just be yourself”.

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