What do you do at SL Controls?
The easiest way to put it is if something is broken on a production line at a client facility, I try to fix it.
Most of the jobs we work on come from customers who are not happy with their current production processes, they want something improved on the line, or there is a new regulation that has to be met. Our job is to design the solution, code it, implement it, and make sure it works.
I am a Systems Engineer at SL Controls based in our office in Florida in the USA. I work with control systems on manufacturing lines in the pharmaceutical and medical device sectors, which means I make sure they run as they are expected to run.
Describe your job without using the words engineer or engineering.
My job rolls into a lot of different areas. Some of the team at SL Controls are project-based, so they stick with a very defined project. I’m different as I am based at a client’s manufacturing facility as an extra resource within SL Controls’ area of expertise. I’m there from the time the line hits the ground in the installation and commissioning phases to when they are producing product on the line in scale-up manufacturing mode. I make sure the client I’m tasked to gets the support they need.
What made you want to build your career in engineering?
I originally studied to become a teacher, but after three years I decided teaching wasn’t for me. When I came out of college, I was looking at various options – I was teaching technical subjects at the time. I love figuring things out and thought if I can do that without being in a classroom environment, it would be ideal for me. I came out of it all with a Bachelors in technology.
I knew engineering was what I wanted to do with my career, so I went to my lecturer about doing a masters. I didn’t have the grades to get in, but I pleaded my case and promised to do the work.
On the Masters course, I met Shane Loughlin (SL Controls Co-Founder and Chief Digital Architect). Shane piqued my interest in equipment systems integration, and everything clicked. He took me under his wing, and I ended up with a job at SL Controls.
What is it about engineering that gives you the most satisfaction or that you are proudest of?
The biggest thing for me is solving problems and overcoming challenges. I could get a call that a production line is down. I then start to figure out the issue, going through a step-by-step process to identify the cause and find a solution. So, seeing something that isn’t working, finding the problem, and making it work. I was even like that when I was a kid working on Meccano sets.
It then goes further, too, because when I get deep into code, I often realise there are things that you could do to make the line and equipment work better. I get great satisfaction at that level of the process too.
What was your first day working at SL Controls like?
I had a funny first day at SL Controls compared to a normal first day starting a new job. It was the day a government minister came for the official opening of our office in Limerick. Even with all that happening, the first thing that struck me was it wasn’t your average office. The team in there – you could tell from the start that things were a bit different. There was no competitiveness. It was all about getting the job done and being supportive. Everyone has your back, and everyone is open to sharing knowledge.
I was taken under the wing by a senior colleague at the time who was teaching me the fundamentals of the company and what we do and helping me develop my soft skills.
So, the whole experience was a bit of an eye opener. I learned quickly that you can have a small company working environment, but you can still get the job done for major global customers in the pharmaceutical and medical device sectors.
Is there anything about SL Controls that makes it stand out from working at other companies?
As well as the above, there have been two occasions where I have approached the company about a move to a new position. One I didn’t take, but then I approached about Jacksonville and made that move. Now I am in the US office in the new position.
Both times I approached the company about a new position, they were very receptive about what I wanted to do with my career. I think that’s different from other companies.
It’s always important to get a balance between what the company needs and what you want to achieve. But SL Controls is very receptive to your individual needs.
What advice would you give to people interested in joining SL Controls?
If you are thinking about applying to SL Controls but have questions, my advice is to meet someone from the company. You can hit them up on LinkedIn to have a discussion, and you might even get a referral.
I also have advice for anyone moving to the US office of SL Controls from Ireland. It is exciting for someone Irish coming over here. When you are doing a good job and you get settled, you will find there are lots of opportunities over here socially. In Florida, particularly, you’ll get invited to barbecues every other weekend. So, my advice is to get health insurance that covers sun cream, especially if you are a redhead like me. And join a gym, as you can balloon very quickly over here!