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Career Story: Programme Manager, IPIC

David McGovern

Job title
Programme Manager
Company
Irish Photonic Integration Centre (IPIC)]
Industry
Photonics Research
Experience
6 years
Education
  1. Degree in Chemistry, Trinity College Dublin
  2. PhD in Chemistry, Trinity College Dublin
Favourite subjects in school
Chemistry, French
The best thing about my job
Developing contacts and negotiating contracts and projects with companies.

Volunteer or apply for anything that you feel will improve your skills.

Third level education is one of the rare environments where you can get world leading experience without having to apply through an outside programme.

My main tasks

I work with researchers and companies in order to develop collaborations with industry and academic institutes to deliver excellent science that can also be used to create products and services. I help to scope out projects, negotiate contracts and work to manage the relationships between the industry partner and our researchers to get the best result for both parties.

I am also the co-ordinator for the first ever IPIC Photonics Bootcamp which is a entreprenurial programme aimed at people who work in the photonics industry. This is just one of the many courses available to you at third level and one of the benefits of going onto third level is that you get access to so many different areas of life and work.

What I like

Developing contacts and negotiating contracts and projects with companies. This is a real challenge but is very interesting. It involves getting a good understanding of your customer needs, the resources you have to deliver it and being focused on reaching your targets.

Challenges

Some elements of getting research projects started can be difficult because the needs of a customer does not match the experience or approach of the university and matching the two expectations can be challenging.

Industry partners all operate in different ways depending on the size of the company and on the industry they are working in. This can lead to challenges in matching their needs with what a university can offer.

Work/life balance

I really like my job and its gives me the flexibility to work on different aspects of the job and not just the one thing. There is also room for growth, a proper work-life balance and for training which I really feel is needed if you want a varied career.

Who influenced me

My interest in business is very influenced by my post-PhD qualification. I have had so many mentors throughout my career that its difficult to pick one who influenced me the most. I have been lucky to have had a great academic supervisor during my PhD but also in all my roles in commercialization, technology transfer and industry.

I have always found that there are people that are available to help you to drive your career in an exciting direction if you are willing to try out new things and work on expanding your experience. What I would say is to combine your skills and training with your interests as it gives you a dimension that others may not have.

Most useful aspects of my education

The general scientific approach to things that my education has provided has shown to be useful in almost all elements of my career. I was also a lecturer so this has helped me to communicate scientific topics clearly to an audience who may not have as much knowledge as others.

My time in industry was invaluable and it gives you a great appreciation for meeting targets and for accepting responsibility. Industry can be a fast-paced and tough environment but it gives you skills that are useful in all aspects of your life even if you change careers.

Useful work experience

I would suggest working with a researcher who is trying to turn their research into a business. Any role in a startup is an amazing experience for people and is one of the best free training programmes you can go on. 

Also,if possible set up a small venture selling little products that you or maybe your friends make. Doing this can give you excellent experience in starting a company, accounts, working for yourself and how to be your own boss.