Sinead Hanlon, a Donegal-based Chartered Electrical Engineer and techno DJ, tells us how a career in science can spark a world of opportunities.
The Leaving Cert this year will see a usual imbalance in the number of boys and girls studying STEM subjects – 94% of candidates studying Engineering are male, 84% of physics students are male and boys are more heavily represented in applied maths, agricultural science, design and economics, according to the Irish Times.
So why is engineering and STEM still not exciting young women?
Donegal Woman talked to Sinead Hanlon, a young Dundalk woman now living in Donegal who is a live spark of energy and knowledge about the engineering world.
Sinead is programmed to think tech in so many ways – she is a Chartered Electrical Engineer by day but an underground techno DJ by night.
Sinead is aiming to get young people, particularly girls, tuned in to see how engineering and maths are cool and so essential for the way the world works.
The electric substation designer has this year had a paper published by the IET – one of the world’s largest engineering institutions. Her article centres on Powering London and the challenges for maintaining 24 hour power in the city.
“For me, engineering is such an interesting and vital part of life which is why I wanted to write that article. Every day exciting solutions are being created by engineers and needs to be acknowledged,” Sinead said.
Sinead is part of a major minority of women to have works published – just 1% of the 800 editorial board members serving across the IET’s journal portfolio are female.
Throughout Sinead’s decorated career she has been employed by major companies including Mitsubishi, Toshiba, ESB and UK Power Networks. She has worked on power system projects including a wave generator Strangford Lough and a Microsoft data centre and designed grids in Tanzania and Bahrain. As her work connects her with projects all over the world, she sees a common link as she is usually the only woman on a team.
“ A lot of sectors in this day and age are male dominated. The point is that engineers design the world; we produce things that make lives easier.
“It’s not about women either; it’s about talent. Yes it’s tough; you need to work twice as hard as a man to get the same respect but seeing things happen, building things, seeing how technology is progressing is so exciting.
“Engineering isn’t just about maths; its project management, people engagement, business. Also, engineers leave a legacy – think of Nikola Tesla, think of Kay McNulty (a pioneering figure in computing from Creeslough). Engineers make the machines that make clothes of Magees Donegal, maths is behind Primerica, etc…”
Sinead sees a world where robots are replacing people for jobs, but maintains that engineering is an essential human skillset.
Since moving to Donegal, Sinead has been visiting schools and colleges as a STEM Ambassador to inspire students to see how engineering roles have endless opportunities.
“Engineers can be a self-deprecating bunch so aren’t as hyped up or as obvious as the loud people. But they are the ones that make the difference. Look at Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates – they were never cool, but they were clever.”
Sinead has based herself in Donegal as an engineering consultant but she also expresses her electrical experience in music form as DJ Atlantica. She played trad from a young age on the accordion and began Djing two years ago – having performed in Gigalum, London for a year before bringing her sets, most recently, to the Coach House in Donegal Town.
DJing is never just about pressing play, she says, but it’s an element of engineering which syncs beats together to make sound. She is also looking into mixing music with technology to create visual art for music.
DJ Atlantica plays every type of genre as she looks to strengthen her signals further in the industry, from house and techno to Rhythm and Blues at bars, private events and parties.
Whether it’s through music or career achievements, Sinead has a message to share for all young women thinking about their future now –
“If they want to get ahead in life, if they want to stand out and be seen and be the next CEO of Facebook or Twitter or Youtube or even start their own company, pick Honours Maths and Engineering next September and go for it!”
You can connect with Sinead on LinkedIn here: www.linkedin.com/in/sinead-hanlon
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