To celebrate International Women in Engineering Day, we reached out to Patrice McVeigh Sustainability Associate on what it’s like to be a female in the world of engineering, what it’s like to work at OCSC and how OCSC has contributed to her journey.
What is your current role at OCSC?
I am an Associate within OCSC M&E, managing the Sustainability department, and working as a sustainability engineer on a number of leading-edge projects in Ireland and the UK. I am also on the Board of Directors for the Irish Green Council. I am a couple of weeks short of my 8 year anniversary with OCSC – it’s hard to believe where that time has gone – time flies when you’re having fun as they say!
When and why did you become an engineer?
I didn’t grow up wanting to be an engineer, I sort of fell into it. When I was younger, I wanted to be a vet, but discovered that my love for animals didn’t extend to performing surgeries and other necessary tasks that might be required. In school I enjoyed geography, and as I got older, I had a keen interest in the environment and had dreams of becoming a climatologist and ‘saving the planet’. In real life, what happened was, that I studied a master’s degree in Environmental Engineering at Queens University Belfast, and from there I worked in contaminated land for a few years, before moving to Sustainability. A short while later, the crash came, and so I took the opportunity to go to Australia travelling. When I returned, I was offered a job at OCSC, and it was at this point my real passion for Sustainability Engineering emerged working alongside our M&E engineers on some of the most sustainable projects in Ireland; and little did I know, I would be in a senior management role as an Associate three years on. It’s been a challenging but very rewarding journey so far…
What would you say has been your most rewarding experience as an engineer? Adding to that what has been your most challenging experience as an engineer?
Though question: It’s hard to narrow it down to just one, as a few stand out. I was the BREEAM Assessor on the Central Bank of Ireland which achieved one of the first BREEAM Outstanding Certifications in Ireland, as well as two of the first LEED Platinum Certifications for Cumberland Place and DAA Hob Building in Ireland. As a whole, our team, have certified over four million square foot of office space under LEED Certifications, and we are very close to securing the largest LEED V4 LEED Platinum Campus Certification for Ireland.
When it comes to challenging, I would say it’s been difficult to get people to take sustainability seriously, looking back, I remember I would go into meetings and there was eye rolling at the very mention of the word, but now it’s very different. The world is changing and sustainability and ESG is at the top of everyone’s agenda. It has become the major focus for all of our clients, which is really great to see and to be a huge part of.
How can we encourage more women to pursue senior leadership roles in engineering?
As with any job or career path, I feel that in order to pursue Senior Leadership roles you need to be ambitious and passionate, not only in the area of engineering you specialise in, but you also need to enjoy working with people and assisting in their progression. Senior leadership moves beyond the everyday intricacies of engineering and is about developing the next generation of engineers.
It is key, to have a good support network within a company, where there is room to grow, I have always been supported by upper management at OCSC (and previous companies), and have received excellent guidance, advice and mentorship in relation to my career progression.
What advice do you have for females interested in becoming an engineer?
If you are interested in a career in engineering, my advice is to go for it. It is a fast-paced environment, no day is the same, which leads to many diverse and exciting experiences.
If you are currently studying or considering a change in career, I would highly recommend getting experience in an engineering practice, such as a summer internship, which will expose you to hands on experience and will also help you, narrow down the type of engineering you may want to pursue.
Work hard, take opportunities that arise, and keep learning. Engineering is constantly evolving!