Dynamic Learning Week – CPD at SL Controls
This week is Dynamic Learning Week at SL Controls. Dynamic Learning is our Continuous Professional Development (CPD) initiative where we support our employees as they enhance their skills. The aim is to foster a learning culture that is dynamic, pushes boundaries, and facilitates innovation.
During Dynamic Learning Week, we are hosting a series of events to ensure all employees are aware of the CPD opportunities and support that is available. We will be sharing information to encourage employees to decide on the learning path they want to follow and that aligns with the needs of the business.
Shauna Ryan, Director of People and Culture at SL Controls, said: “The knowledge and skills of our people are what sets us apart from our competition and helps us build long-lasting relationships with our clients in the medical device, pharmaceutical, and technology sectors.
“However, we also work in an industry that is incredibly fast-moving, with rapidly evolving technologies and new innovations around every corner. The ability of our people to upskill and continuously learn, from junior levels up to and including our CEO, has been essential to our success and will continue to be essential in the future.
“Our Dynamic Learning programme is a high priority for us as a company, so we plan to make the most of the coming week. I would like to see everyone in the company take advantage of the CPD opportunities, resources, and support that are available.”
SL Controls Staff Attend First Aid Training Course
A number of SL Controls staff attended a first-aid training course over the summer. The training days took place at our Sligo and Limerick facilities, and they were well attended by a broad section of the team.
Senior Systems Engineer Conor Davey was one of the organisers of the training. He said: “I was happy to set up the training course because of the stories I have heard personally, including a friend who was able to help another person who was choking. My friend knew the Heimlich manoeuvre so was able to make a real difference in that situation.
“Logistically it was a bit of an issue, but we found a single supplier, Safetech, who was able to do in-office training sessions at both our locations on the same day. We could have done it online, but we thought in-person training would be much better for the staff involved.
“A large part of the training session involved learning how to use a defibrillator, so it was really valuable. We covered what to do if you find someone in an unresponsive state or not feeling well and the situations you should call an ambulance. We also learned about the different numbers you can ring which I don’t think many people know about.
“We also covered CPR, allergies, and what to do if someone is choking, including how to deal with all these situations with people of various ages.”
Systems Architect Volker Winhausen also helped organise the training. He said the technology aspect was particularly informative: “We covered the functionality on modern iPhones and Android phones that lets you enter medical information that can be accessed by paramedics and others in emergency situations. Things like medications you are on, things you are allergic to, conditions you have, and your emergency contacts. I think the more people who know about this common feature on our mobile phones, the better.
“We also went through the What3Words app. It is an app that you can put on your phone that has the world sectioned into grids. So, instead of needing to know your address or Eircode in emergency situations, you can give the emergency services the three words from the app on your phone, and they can then use those words to locate you.”
Conor added the feedback from the training was very positive.
He said: “All the feedback we have received was that the training was interactive, enjoyable, and informative. It also gave individuals a chance to ask questions. It was also the fact that we were able to run through emergency situations in the controlled environment of the training session to help us know what to expect if we ever encounter a similar situation.
“All in all, it was a very worthwhile exercise, so we are looking at running further sessions for interested members of the SL team in the future.”
Meet the Team: Jisa Varghese
1. Describe your job as if you were explaining it to a five-year-old.
I write programs or sets of instructions to create applications used in medicine-making factories or hospitals.
2. What types of projects are you working on at the moment?
The current project I am working on involves creating a development environment to configure test plans to test the flow charts executed in controllers. These are mainly used to test production lines to check various scenarios and confirm the expected behaviour is met.
3. How did you get into the industry?
I graduated as a computer science engineer from college and started working with Siemens right after. During that time, I learned a lot about industrial automation, a new domain for me. I loved working with hardware, and I was able to attend hackathons that helped expand my knowledge, but I’ve always wanted to work in life sciences since childhood.
I moved to Ireland for my Master’s degree. I then found an opportunity to work with SL Controls where I could make use of my knowledge gained from Siemens and achieve my dream of working in the life sciences industry. I like to think my current role in SL Controls is a perfect example of a technical career in life sciences.
4. What is your proudest moment (work life or personal life)?
Two of them are when I participated in a hackathon when working at Siemens, and also when I single-handedly deployed a project for a large life sciences customer while working with SL Controls.
While the Hackathon was a new experience of meeting like-minded people and trying to create something novel, the SL Controls project gave me the confidence to create software and make decisions without being part of a team. Having always worked as part of a team, the project gave me ample opportunities to research and take ownership from requirement gathering to deployment.
5. What’s the best advice you could give to someone thinking of coming into this industry?
Choosing a career in tech can be a bit overwhelming if you are not sure of which way to go. Do your research on each of the roles and choose the one that aligns with your goals rather than just following the bandwagon.
Constant learning and adaptability are two important skills to develop in this field. It is also important to expand your skillset when it comes to programming. To be a software engineer in this industry, it is beneficial to be confident in any of the legacy programming languages like C#, and Java, as well as SQL. It will be a lot easier to expand to Python, R, Scala, and others later if necessary.
Another important key is to stay up to date by reading technical blogs, participating in technical conversations, and trying new projects on your own, even if they are completely new to you.
6. Outside of work, what are you most passionate about?
I have a wide variety of hobbies including playing badminton, reading, and taking up DIY home décor projects. I have also taken up a new mission to finish reading a minimum of one book per month. Fingers crossed!
7. What’s the best thing about working for life sciences customers (pharma, MedTech, etc)?
As previously discussed, what I find most rewarding in working with life sciences clients is the seamless integration of technology and pharma. It is interesting to develop new tools and applications as this field is constantly evolving and has lots of potential. It is also exciting as there are different varieties of technologies I get to work with. The field also provides me with opportunities to strengthen my R&D skills and achieve steady career growth.
8. What is the best thing about being on the SL Controls team?
Being part of a team of highly experienced members is very helpful. Discussions related to features and development issues always offer something new to learn. Another added advantage is resolving issues together and discovering different ways of solving the same issue.
Promoting Healthy Living During Fitness Month at SL Controls
We ran a Fitness Month at SL Controls this summer as part of our Live Well at SL programme. It brought out some friendly competitiveness as the participants were split into teams to earn points by walking, running, cycling, or swimming.
Those taking part in the competition used the Strava app to record their activity throughout the month, and there were additional prizes along the way. As it is the summer, Ireland wasn’t the only exercise location, as some of the participants recorded their exercise activities while away on holiday.
The winning team was Catch Me If You Can who narrowly beat Ireland’s Fittest Fakers to claim the top prize. Well done to Hitesh, Brian, Norma, Liam, and Shauna. The Fittest Individual prize was claimed by SL Controls Commercial Director Darragh McMorrow.
Shauna Ryan, Director of People and Culture at SL Controls, said: “Well done to everyone who participated. At SL Controls, we strongly believe in the health benefits of exercising regularly and promoting the healthy living message across our team.”
Meet the Team: Josh Morris
1. Describe your job as if you were explaining it to a five-year-old?
I work on machines to get them to a point where they’re running well and making the products they are supposed to be making. I also find all the little problems with them and make them run better than they were the day before.
2. What types of projects are you working on at the moment?
At the moment, the big project I’m on is bringing in new manufacturing lines to one of our large clients. I just returned from Japan where I was testing the new machines before they are brought to Ireland. We’re going to be doing the installation of those brand-new machines here.
3. What was it like in Japan?
I was in Japan for a month. Obviously getting to work over there was one thing, but we had the evenings and weekends to ourselves. We were able to go off and experience the culture and try all the food, for better or worse, I suppose. Believe it or not, Italian food in Japan is top class. We did all the usual touristy stuff; it was an excellent experience.
4. How did you get into the industry?
Well, I’ve always been into computers and electronics, anything technology related, ever since I was a kid – I was typing on keyboards since I was two. When I was doing my application for college, it’s recommended you list multiple options, but I only put down two as I knew I wanted to do Electronic and Computer engineering at the University of Limerick.
I did the four years of Electronic and Computer engineering. When we started doing more automation and robotic stuff, that’s when I really kind of came into my own and I absolutely loved every module I was working on.
I then saw the Mechatronics Masters in UL and applied for that. Honestly, it was the best thing I ever did. I loved every second of the course. I found it really fitted in with what I wanted to do and what I enjoyed. It was there that I met two SL Controls employees who were teaching the course. I was able to ask them questions about what they did, and it sounded like something I would really enjoy doing. One of them then referred me for the job at SL Controls.
5. What is your proudest moment (work life or personal life)?
Probably completing the Masters. Before starting it, I didn’t really feel like continuing in university or didn’t think I would like it or get on particularly well. I decided to give it a go and ended up really enjoying it, it came easy to me as I was very interested in the topics we were learning. That achievement of actually putting my mind to something that I really enjoy doing and being able to work on that and see it through to the end made me proud of the achievement. White water kayaking through the Alps is a close second though.
6. What’s the best advice you could give to someone thinking of coming into this industry?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I get a lot of messages on LinkedIn from people that are thinking about doing the Mechatronics course in Limerick. They see that I’ve done it, so they ask my thoughts and about my experience. Like that, no one’s ever afraid to answer your questions in this industry.
Also, don’t be afraid to get stuck in and try to figure something out. Whoever you’re working with will always appreciate the fact that you tried. You can always ask them a question and there’s never been any pushback or I’m too busy. For me, it’s always been I’ll drop what I’m doing now, and I’ll come to help you or we’ll figure it out together.
It’s a constant learning experience, but there are hundreds of people around you that are more than happy to answer any questions you have, whether you know them or have just met them.
7. Outside of work, what are you most passionate about?
I love space, so I watch all the documentaries and I do astrophotography – taking pictures of the moon, planets, and galaxies. I apply to every astronaut programme that comes up, ever, just because you never know when your time might come.
I love watching movies, I do clay pigeon shooting, and I’m a level four white-water kayaker. I’ve been kayaking in the French, Italian, and Slovenian Alps a few times.
8. What’s the best thing about working for life sciences customers (pharma, MedTech, etc)?
Every day is something different. You always come in and, while you know what you’re working on, you don’t know what the problem of the day will be. Something that was working yesterday might not be working today and you have to figure it out. I love troubleshooting – it’s probably my favourite part of the job. I just love investigating and trying to figure out what makes it tick or why isn’t it working.
Working in the life science industry, especially when we’re putting in new lines or working on new projects, nothing is established. So, you always have to dig a little deeper to find out why something is not operating the way you want it to. Even when you’re working on similar projects, if you move from one to another, you might think, all the problems will be the same on this one, but they end up being all completely different as well. So, it’s always something new, exciting!
9. What is the best thing about being on the SL Controls team?
Everyone is so friendly and helpful, and I can reach out to anyone with any questions I have. I could text someone that I have never spoken to before and I could ask them a question and they are always happy to respond.
When I was preparing for Japan, someone told one of the SL Controls employees who works in Florida that I was going. He actually reached out to me asking if I had any questions. I had never talked to the fella before in my life. So, everyone’s there to help you and make you feel part of the team.
SL Controls Launches Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policy
SL Controls has launched its first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policy, reinforcing our commitment to nurturing a workplace environment that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion. The aim of the policy is to create an open and inclusive culture where everyone feels valued.
Shauna Ryan, SL Controls Director of People and Culture, said: “Diversity, equity, and inclusion are central to how we work at SL Controls – they are values that are core parts of our ethos. The publication of our new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policy documents and formalises our commitment, priorities, and expectations.
“In the past, the focus would have been on equality, as opposed to equity. While equality, treating everyone the same, certainly plays an important role, shifting our lens to equity is a move that enhances our ability to do more. Equity takes into account the ways in which we are all unique, and we therefore adjust our treatment according to the individual needs of the person. In an equitable world, the end result is equal for all, as opposed to the treatment or support being equal.
“For me, diversity, equity, and inclusion are not topics to be discussed sporadically throughout the year. Instead, it’s about calling out our commitment to them every day. Also, it’s not always about the big things. The big things are important, but it’s about the little things as well.”
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives
The launch of SL Controls Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policy is one of a series of recent initiatives in this area. For example, we provided staff with pronoun training last month as part of Pride Month. Shauna said the feedback on that training was great: “People said they found the training valuable as they didn’t know much about the topic, but they really wanted to learn.
“As a society, we are generally more aware and accepting with a greater understanding and empathy for people in diverse groups. Arguably we are all in diverse groups. But most of us are also on a journey with many of these topics, so education is beneficial.”
Ensuring Everyone Feels Valued and Included
Shauna added that another key priority in launching the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policy is to ensure everyone in the company feels included and valued.
“We are all in diverse groups but particularly for those people who feel in a minority, highlighting and emphasizing our approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion is important. It could be women in engineering, for example, as there are so few of them. It could be someone from a different country, from a different socio-economic background than the majority, someone with a neurodiversity like dyslexia. It’s important that all of those people – everyone – feel included and valued.
“And it is important to remind everybody else to include and value others. As a company, we are in a good place with a very accepting team. But we all have to remain continuously aware.
“When I think about it, the world has changed so much, and we have come so far in terms of acceptance in this country. For the current generation of workers, diversity, equity, and inclusion are important topics to focus on but when our children enter the workforce in the future, I don’t think they will be talking about them as much because it will be so natural. I find it so encouraging and exciting seeing where it is going.”
Celebrating SL Controls Female Engineers on International Women in Engineering Day 2023
Today is International Women in Engineering Day, so it is the ideal opportunity to celebrate the female engineers in SL Controls and the fantastic contribution they make to the company. We have women engineers working in a range of roles across all parts of the business.
Days like International Women in Engineering Day also bring into sharp focus the unequal numbers of women working in our industry. We are not immune to this here at SL Controls. Despite proactively encouraging women to apply for the vacancies we advertise, our workforce remains male-dominated.
We have an ongoing commitment to play our part in changing this situation across the entire engineering sector. To that end, we asked some of our women engineers what advice they would give to girls and young women thinking about their future careers.
Blessing Nwachukwu, Systems Engineer:
“Engineering is ever evolving and allows for creativity and innovation. It is not boring but interesting with unique digital technologies to work with. Don’t shy away from it. Go for it, be prepared for it, and the sky will be your starting point.”
Patricia Cowley, Validation Engineer:
“I’d like young women to know that their personalities and strengths are required and valued by the best engineering companies. Diverse experiences and backgrounds really do promote innovation.”
Fiona Chung, Senior Validation Engineer:
“My advice to all women thinking about engineering or their careers in general is not to listen to any stigma surrounding the profession and have a vision for your career. You don’t need a detailed plan and you don’t need to fear failure as careers are usually not linear anyway. Your career is like visiting a foreign country. You can have an itinerary but you’re open to things that happen along the way.”
Jisa Varghese, Systems Engineer
“My advice for young girls interested in engineering is to have a clear vision and just run with it. There will be lots of noise, with people trying to put the fire out in you and burdening you with societal norms. Always remember that all the people you see in engineering now once felt like how you feel today – not sure and confused. Consistency and determination can go a long way and that is not bound to any gender, and neither is a technical career. As long as you find engineering and technology interesting and are ready to stay updated, it’s all a piece of cake. All the best to my sisters.”
Advice From Those Who Know
Shauna Ryan is SL Controls Director of People and Culture: “We ran a poll on LinkedIn earlier this year to get the industry’s views on how to get more girls and young women interested in pursuing a career in engineering. The most popular responses involved activities in primary and secondary school, including STEM lessons and promoting engineering as a career.
“I think this really speaks to the need for girls to have engineering role models from a young age – role models to look up to, to follow, and to seek advice. The female engineers on the SL Controls team are the perfect role models for the women engineers of the future, and the advice they have given here on International Women in Engineering Day is fantastic to see.”
SL Controls Urban Adventure and Viking Cruise – 2023 Company Outing
The SL Controls company outing took place over the weekend as the team headed to Athlone last Friday. Despite the storms in parts of the country, the weather held up as we were split into teams to compete in an Urban Adventure competition.
Armed with iPads, the teams set off to find various hotspots around the town of Athlone. Once in the hotspot location, trivia and challenges were unlocked, and tasks were completed, with photos and videos taken as proof. All the while, curious passersby wondered what was going on!
The winning team, the Aimoneers, took a clear lead and collected their first-place medals back at the barbecue in the Radisson Blu hotel.
We then boarded a Viking ship for a cruise on the Shannon. Our thanks to Dynamic Events, Radisson Blu Hotel, and Viking Tours Ireland for organising/hosting the activities.