It doesn’t end with what you studied in college – it doesn’t have to stop after the 4 years’ – career advice from University of Limerick Mechanical Engineering graduate David Osterloh.
He’s keen to spread the word about the value of a college course that opens doors. David was considering a variety of ideas as he approached the end of secondary school. Business and German was in there, as was teaching. To try and make his final selection, he asked his Guidance Counsellor what options he would have at the end of each undergraduate option on the shortlist.
He finally chose Mechanical Engineering, reasoning that if he wanted to study business or teaching after that, he could cover it in a year’s postgrad. Going back to Mechanical Engineering would put him at the start of a four year course all over again.
The University of Limerick course included an eight-month internship, which David feels was a highly valuable part of his time there. He took a placement with machinery and engineering giant Liebherr in Germany. David worked in a variety of departments, but it was during his time in the Design division that he found a love of working as part of a team, which he has brought to his more recent jobs too.
He’s full of praise for the intern system in Germany, and believes the Irish colleges could learn a lot from it, particularly the flexibility: ‘In some cases, students can choose to work with a company as well as studying… say, six months on, six months off, so what you’re studying is being brought into the company’
And he sees it as a two way street, because the company has a ready stream of new talent:
‘If i came into a company straight after four years in university I might not understand how a company works, but if you’ve already been there you have a good understanding’.
David’s Dad is from Germany, and although David had conversational German already, working in Liebherr was another opportunity to polish it up to business-standard, adding another string to his bow when it came to job hunting.
‘Accenture was my number one choice… I didn’t know where I was going to end up when I got in but I was very, very happy when I found out’.
David was placed on a team that was working for Eirgrid on a new energy market. That’s where he got to learn the coding language SQL:
‘It’s a language that queries data from databases. Data’s very topical at the minute – who should get access to it. When it’s stored, it’s stored in a database, and the way to look at this data is through the SQL language’.
After nearly two years in that role, a recruiter decided he’d be a good fit for Looker, a data platform company that was founded in 2012 in Santa Cruz, California and has its EMEA headquarters in Dublin. David bravely tried to explain to me what the company does:
‘Looker helps companies become more data driven, by providing more people with access to data. Looker’s platform enables companies to get real value from their data by harnessing the power of SQL, so that when end users want to ask questions of data, they can just point and click. Say for example, I work in marketing and I want certain sales metrics. The typical way to do it is to go to the data analyst and ask ‘Can you extract this?’ – he’d have to go away and write the script, extract the data and send it back.
If there are ten people coming to the data analyst with questions, he’s totally overworked and the people at the end don’t get the information they need… so (with Looker on board) people can just ask questions on their own and get what they need, without knowing SQL themselves’.
His college internship’s paying off in this job too, as it’s a German speaking role. He gets to visit clients in Germany once a month, for a day or two at a time.
I ask David about the differences between working for a massive global company like Accenture, compared to a relative newcomer like Looker. In Accenture, he was one of around three-to-four hundred thousand employees. In Looker, he was employee number five-hundred-and-something, and there are 60 people in the Dublin office.
He’s keen to stress he was really happy in Accenture, although the new experience in Looker is also very enjoyable – and sociable.
‘The company had a sports day in the summer, we had Thanksgiving dinner here in Dublin last month with food brought in which was great for the Americans working with us, it’s nice to include everyone’.
He’s also spent some time at the Looker headquarters in the US: ‘they bring you over for a week of training in Santa Cruz. they put you up in a hotel, you get a bit of California lifestyle, see how everything works. I was over in October, it was nice to get some sunshine at that time of year’!
During his training week, David got to meet the Looker CEO, and CTO, which he found really useful when it came to getting a handle on what makes the company tick.
He’s so positive about the firm and his role that when I ask what are the challenges or parts he dislikes, he draws a blank: ‘I’ve nothing yet… what they told me in the interview is exactly the job i have now.
I have a mentor, a manager, I’ve the whole team around me… my manager is great for saying ‘just keep asking questions’.
‘People see tech companies with things like free food and a gym, but at the end of the day, they’re only perks, but trust is a massive one, my manager has a lot of trust in me.
But it works both ways, if you’re doing nothing you’ll be found out.’
I’m curious about whether David feels the Mechanical Engineering degree really did open as wide a range of opportunities for his class as he had hoped:
‘When i joined Accenture there were 4 people from my course who joined at the same time, there was a total variety then – some people went to a local engineering company, some went to Canada, Australia, England, for jobs in biomedical, pharmaceutical, mechanical, aeronautical industries. Some work for well known brands like Jaguar, Rolls Royce, Land Rover. Plenty more went into data analytics, and so many are travelling the world.
And with the CAO deadline looming early in 2019, David’s keen to reassure students that the future can be very bright for those who choose to study Mechanical Engineering: ‘Definitely, even with the way things are going now, it’ll become more and more sought after’.