Career Blogs

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SL Controls Employee Stories: Volker Winhausen

At SL Controls, we employ engineers with a variety of backgrounds. The growth of the company, as well as the sectors in which we operate, are some of the reasons why people choose to work with us. The training and support we offer engineers who move from other branches of engineering to positions with us also helps people to make the switch.

Of course, there are other reasons, including achieving a better work-life balance. There is also the company structure at SL Controls.

Moving from a Multinational Corporation

Many members of our team have moved from large corporate environments to a position with SL Controls. One example is Volker Winhausen, a German national who joined SL Controls in 2014. He previously worked in the Middle East for the Swiss-based multinational corporation ABB. It’s the large engineering company that is involved in everything from robotics to energy to heavy electrical equipment. The company operates in 100 countries and has around 132,000 employees.

Volker Winhausen

Volker worked for ABB as a Commissioning Engineer in electrical distribution in the company’s Abu Dhabi operation. He worked there for four years, during which time he met his wife – Kathleen from Rhode, Co. Offaly in Ireland.

Volker and Kathleen decided to move back to Europe – specifically Limerick and a position as a controls system engineer with SL Controls. The role was a perfect fit for Volker’s skills, presenting him with the opportunity to get a much more in-depth knowledge of automation systems. The transition to the new job and the change of country went well, though, not least because Volker prefers the way of life here in Ireland as well as the people.

A Different Company Structure and Culture

Apart from the cultural differences between Abu Dhabi and Ireland, and the variations in job role, the biggest change Volker faced when making the move is the different company structure that exists at SL Controls. It was a change for the better.

Volker moved from a global engineering corporation with huge numbers of employees to a team of less than 100 at SL Controls. He likes the new working environment, though, and thinks it’s a big advantage over what he did before.

“Working at SL Controls is different to ABB,” Volker said. “Obviously, the work is different, but it’s a huge corporate structure at ABB. It’s a good – and successful – company, but I prefer my role now at SL Controls.

“I know all the senior management team and have conversations with them at various company events. You simply can’t do that at a company like ABB as everyone is more distant and detached.

“Also, SL Controls is growing fast, the projects we work on are varied, and there are excellent opportunities for career progression.”

Volker is currently working on designing concepts for new code implementations at the SL Controls Limerick office.

He said: “My time with ABB was an essential part of my career, but the move to SL Controls is the most important and beneficial I’ve made so far.”

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SL Controls Pathways Programme – Helping Engineers Grow Their Careers

Engineering talent is a core driver of success in SL Controls. We are not unique in this as industries in almost all sectors become more automated, technologically advanced, and data-driven. To fully harness the potential of our engineering talent, we have put in place a structure to ensure our engineers can grow their careers and be properly rewarded. We call it the Pathways Programme.

The programme has multiple elements that discard traditional thinking about career development and instead focus on the individual engineers in our team and the specific needs of our business.

Our Approach to Engineering Career Development

A crucial aspect of the SL Controls Pathways Programme is we don’t just want engineers to move into management. This traditional vertical career trajectory (moving up the career ladder) is right for some people but not for others. Of course, we want to facilitate as much as possible those who want to go the management route. This shouldn’t be the only option, however.

In other words, we believe that considering the vertical career path as the only or even the best one to follow as being outdated. So, we moved away from the linear approach of starting as an engineer and working up the ranks to senior management. Instead, we take a non-linear approach with multiple career pathways, loops, and endpoints.

This means giving our engineers the opportunity to grow their careers horizontally by enhancing their knowledge, acquiring new skills, and becoming thought leaders in the industry.

Each member of our team already does great work, but we want them to become even better, to delve deeper, and to have even greater influence on the projects we deliver for clients. We also want them to widen their scope of influence even further, developing new products, concepts, and ideas that become recognised in the wider industry.

These career paths come with suitable financial rewards meaning we don’t just give managers higher salaries.

In addition, for engineers working at SL Controls, promotions are more personally meaningful. In other words, as engineers move along their career paths, they:

  • Master new skills – increasing the amount of influence they have on projects
  • Become more autonomous – making their own decisions
  • Gain recognition – through new job roles, project participation, project influence, and more
  • Receive enhanced compensation – the increase in value added to the company comes with structured financial rewards

The SL Controls Pathways Programme for Career Progression

The primary aim of the Pathways Programme is to help our employees identify the skills and abilities they need to progress their career.

The programme has three core elements:

  1. Employee job classifications and grades – for salary purposes, we classify together positions in the company that have similar impact and scope. This ensures pay equity as well as enabling us to transport salaries when employees add value to projects by delivering new skills or knowledge.
  2. Competency framework and career progression model – this defines the knowledge, skills, and attributes the company needs from our employees. It ensures transparency and lets employees map out a career progression route.
  3. Salary bands – SL Controls regularly reviews salary bands to ensure they remain competitive and reflective of current market conditions.

Benefits of the Pathways Programme

  • Gives employees a clear career progression path to follow based on the needs of the business
  • Ensures all employees receive customised training and professional development
  • Ensures SL Controls has the necessary skills to deliver for our clients
  • Helps with employee recruitment and retention
  • Improves performance evaluation
  • Enables fast identification of skill and competency gaps
  • Improves the efficiency of change management processes

Finally, the Pathways Programme at SL Controls benefits our clients too. After all, continuous professional development within our team keeps us at the leading edge of the industry.

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A Day in the Life of a Pharmaceutical Engineer

Pharmaceutical engineers are involved in all aspects of pharmaceutical manufacturing. This includes designing and operating machines, determining product presentation, designing packaging labels, and more. They can also have roles designing, building, operating, and improving pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities. Pharmaceutical engineers also design, build, and operate pharmaceutical research facilities too.

The job is a rewarding and challenging one. After all, the products you are responsible for developing or manufacturing as a pharmaceutical engineer help save lives. There are serious responsibilities that come with this too in relation to patient safety and regulatory compliance. Every day, however, the jobs that pharmaceutical engineers do have a positive impact on society’s health and wellbeing.

What Do Pharmaceutical Engineers Do?

In manufacturing, pharmaceutical engineers are involved in the processes that convert chemical and biological materials into pharmaceutical products and therapies. Healthcare providers or individuals then buy these products to treat a range of different diseases and medical conditions.

Due to the nature of the products that pharmaceutical engineers help develop, they often work in state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities. Those facilities use the latest equipment, processes, and software solutions to ensure the products produced are profitable, safe, and regulatory compliant. There is intense competition in the pharmaceutical industry, though, particularly in relation to research and development. As a result, the only people who often get to see inside these facilities are pharmaceutical engineers and others involved in their design, management, and operation.

Specific Roles

The manufacturing processes that pharmaceutical engineers can be involved in include:

  • Product conception, although this is often in laboratories and research facilities rather than manufacturing plants
  • Designing the product, a role that, again, often takes place in a laboratory
  • Scaling up production capabilities, a role that is crucial to the financial success of the pharmaceutical company
  • Manufacturing the product
  • Labelling the product and ensuring compliance
  • Packaging the product to optimise distribution

One of the key responsibilities of a pharmaceutical engineer whatever their job role is the elimination of risk to patient safety, i.e. the people who ultimately take the medications and other manufactured products.

In addition, pharmaceutical engineers also have a responsibility to eliminate risks to staff working in product manufacturing and distribution. They have a responsibility to protect the environment too.

As already mentioned, there are stringent regulatory and compliance issues that apply to pharmaceutical manufacturing. As a result, pharmaceutical engineers must have detailed knowledge of all these issues. In some situations, a pharmaceutical engineer will need to be aware of regulations in multiple jurisdictions.

As a result of the regulatory and compliance aspects of the job, pharmaceutical engineers are involved in:

  • Validation Assurance (VA)
  • Quality control
  • Maintaining GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) compliant facilities
  • Serialisation
  • And more

What Is a Typical Day Like?

A pharmaceutical engineer’s typical day will depend on the company they work in and the role they do. Those roles include:

  • Research of new drugs as well as drug delivery methods and systems
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturing
  • Labelling and packaging
  • Manufacturing facility design
  • System and process automation
  • Management
  • Compliance
  • Sales and marketing
  • And more

So, pharmaceutical engineers can do a varied range of jobs plus there are multiple career paths available. In all situations, however, being a pharmaceutical engineer is a satisfying, financially rewarding, and personally fulfilling career to pursue.

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Benefits of Permanent Over Contract Working

As an engineering, IT, or programming professional, you have the choice to get a job as a permanent employee with a company or to become a contract worker. While there are advantages to both, the benefits of being a permanent employee far outweigh the benefits of contract working.

We look at some of the main benefits below but before going into those, let’s deal with some common misconceptions about the comparison between permanent and contract working.


One of those misconceptions is salary, i.e. many people believe you will get a higher salary as a contract worker than a permanent worker. This is sometimes the case but it is not a hard and fast rule. In fact, many permanent employees in technical roles in Ireland earn the same or more than contract workers. In addition, your earnings over time will be higher as you will spend less time out of work, you can potentially receive more benefits, and it can be easier to progress your career.

Another misconception about contract working is it is more flexible. After all, you can leave permanent employment at any time so there is equal flexibility. You may have to honour things like non-compete clauses and notice periods, but these are likely to be part of fixed-term contracts too.

Benefits of Permanent Working

Here are 11 reasons why opting for a permanent contract is better than working as a contractor:

1. Employee Rights

In general, contractors should get the same rights as the permanent employees in a company. The reality is not as simple as this, however. You may have to work a set number of hours per week to be entitled to join a work pension scheme, for example.

2. Career Development Opportunities

You will have more opportunities to advance your career in a permanent position. This includes upskilling opportunities as well as other training to refine and enhance your skills. You can also take on greater responsibilities to gain further experience.

3. Easier to Follow a Career Path

Following on from the last point, you are likely to find an easier to follow career path in a permanent role as there will be more promotional opportunities available.

4. Job Security

As a permanent employee, you will have long-term job security. This is a weight off your mind plus it makes it easier to plan ahead.

5. Income Security

Following on from the last point, having job security means you also have income security. After all, as a contract worker, you could have periods of time when you are between contracts and not in work. This doesn’t happen when you are a permanent employee.

6. Work Instead of Job Hunting

Staying with this theme, as a contract worker, you must spend time job hunting, particularly as your existing contract nears its end. As a permanent employee, instead of job hunting, you can continue working, earning, and advancing your career.

7. Easier to Obtain Credit

In some situations, it can be easier to prove your income as a permanent employee. This can make it easier to obtain a mortgage and other forms of credit and/or you may get access to more favourable credit deals.

8. Don’t Have to Worry About Tax

As a contractor, you will have to pay your own taxes through a self-assessment tax return. Your employer handles paying your taxes, however, when you are a permanent worker. This saves you time and possibly the expense of hiring an accountant.

9. Easier to Plan Your Personal and Family Life

Having job and income security makes it easier to plan your home life – buying a house, deciding on a school for your children, etc.

10. Enhance Your CV

Some employers value commitment and loyalty when assessing potential candidates. This can be harder to demonstrate on your CV or in an interview when you are a contract worker, particularly if you move about a lot. Being a permanent employee demonstrates loyalty and commitment.

11. You’ll be Part of a Team

This one should not be underestimated as being part of a team can make you feel more valued and content with your career. The camaraderie of being part of a team also makes work more enjoyable.

Of course, there will still be some people who swear by the benefits of contract working. As you can see, however, there is a compelling case and significant advantages of moving into a permanent position.

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