Spotlight on Siona Daly, Energy Engineer at ActionZero

Tell us about your career to date?

I was extremely fortunate to find my true calling in Sustainable Energy Consultancy very early on in my career. I have worked with incredible people, collaborated with brilliant organisations, and built relationships with wonderful clients. My career has taken me from small social enterprise work in Tipperary, to working in the energy services business in Western Canada in a major multinational and then back to Ireland developing energy performance contracts with major hospital groups, local authorities, hospitality sector etc.

I am a true advocate for decarbonisation and climate action. My current role with ActionZero (AZ) is a natural progression in my career journey – years of advocacy, policy development, strategic consultation, energy management and capacity building are now being transformed into action. With AZs patented decarbonisation solutions tied with strategic consultation expertise, it is a perfect fit. I am confident that AZ is going to be one of Ireland’s leading decarbonisation solutions deployers across the industrial sector, public sector and commercial sector enabling an economically viable transition away from fossil fuels.

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?

I really enjoyed Science and Maths in school. I studied Physics for my Leaving Certificate and loved the subject. At that age, I had no idea what an engineer did. However, my parents and Physics/Maths teacher encouraged me to consider an engineering degree. When I researched the Degree courses, I was quite drawn to the environmental aspect of engineering even as a teenager. I completed a Mechanical Engineering degree and graduated in 2004 with a First Class Honours from UCD.

What led you to a career as an Energy Engineer?

When I graduated there was no such thing as an Energy Engineer. The main industry at that time was Pharmaceutical and initially I worked as a process engineer. Around 2007, I remember reading the newspaper about a new rating system that was being introduced for houses. This was the first Building Energy Rating (BER) course. I was so excited by the article that I signed up to do the course in Limerick Institute of Technology on a part-time basis. I was likely one of the first certified BER assessors in the country and within a year of the course, I had transitioned into the Sustainable Energy Consultancy business.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?

Stay true to your personal values and ethics, be confident in your abilities and don’t let undermining behaviour ever affect your own confidence or self-esteem. Be sure to ask for help if you find yourself in a difficult work situation and be prepared to leave if support is not forthcoming– love what you do, but remember a job is just a job, a tool to enable your life goals.

What are the key challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated industry?

One key challenge that I believe a lot of female professionals’ face and not just engineers face is that their needs change as they go through different life stages. When I was in my 20s, I would be the first with my hand up to jump on a plane and head to some cool city in Europe for an EU project meeting or go to the head office in Chicago for a week of training. It was awesome and I would generally tag on a weekend of sightseeing to the trip. However, when I started my own family in my 30s, being available in the evenings for my young children (and husband) became my absolute priority. When I was recently changing jobs, choosing a company that offered me this work-life balance was top of my list. I am so fortunate that ActionZero embraces female engineers and offers a flexible working arrangement, part time options if desired and remote working.

What would you say to young women considering a career in engineering?

For those young women, who are studying STEM subjects at school, the beauty of engineering is that engineering is changing all the time. As I said earlier, the job I have been doing for the past 15 years didn’t exist when I graduated. I have alumni friends working in such a broad spectrum of engineering – food, water, manufacturing, climate adaptation, electrical, marine etc. There really is a role for everyone. If you are drawn to subjects such as Physics, Maths, Applied Maths, Chemistry, Design & Technology, an engineering degree will open doors you could never have imagined.

For those that are already in Third Level and are deciding their career path, my advice to any graduate, not just female graduates, is not to have your future planned out when you leave college.  You are too young at 22 or 23 to know and your life to date has been influenced by your family, your peers, and your teachers. Spend your 20s figuring out who you are as a person without all those external influences. Establish your personal values and then find a company that aligns with them. Engineering is an exciting career path, that offers you global job prospects. Just embrace it and go with the flow.

What does the future of engineering look like to you?

The future of engineering in Ireland is a diverse one. I believe that to fulfil the Governments ambitions of a knowledge economy, the engineering companies that will survive and prosper are those that embrace diversity. Diversity that embraces different genders, cultures, ethnicities, and sexuality. I have been fortunate to work with engineers from around the world in my career to date – Chinese, Indian, Canadian, American, Australian, Europeans and Mexicans. Such an incredible career so far and the best is yet to come!


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