Meet Deirdre Neff: Chartered Engineer

Deirdre is a senior member of Roughan & O’Donovan’s transportation team.

Her most recent projects have included the €50m Dublin Port road network improvement scheme and the €4.0m New Street in Dublin’s North Lotts.

Deirdre graduated with an MSc in civil engineering from Trinity College Dublin, after completing her undergraduate studies at University College Cork.

What is the best thing about your job as an engineer?

For me, the best thing about my job is the feeling of making a difference in society.

As an engineer working in transportation, what I do affects everyone, so I need to put myself in the shoes of people from all walks of life – from the person in a wheelchair to the able-bodied person, the pregnant cyclist (we exist!) to the confident cyclist. 

It forces you to think outside the box and really use your imagination, which is my favourite part.

What did becoming chartered mean to you?

Reaching that milestone felt good, as it was something I had always wanted to achieve.  It hasn’t changed my day to day attitude to working though; I still have a desire to continue learning new skills.

What specific challenges have you faced as a female working in the engineering industry?

Personally, the only challenge I face is being told I look a lot younger than I actually am.  

When I tell clients that I’ve been with Roughan & O’Donovan for 7 years, I get a lot of confused reactions – but I tend to get taken a little more seriously when they realise I’m more of an old hat than I look!

Can you offer any practical advice to young women considering a career in engineering?

When I interviewed for my job with Roughan & O’Donovan, one of the directors told me that every engineer should challenge the status quo and it stuck with me.

So, my advice is to be bold and challenge the status quo!

You are about to go on maternity leave. What can employers do to ensure returning mothers have the skills to propel them into management positions?

That’s a tough question because, clearly, a mother is just as capable of holding a management position as someone who has chosen not to have children.

If, however, there was a perception that, as a mother, I may not want a management level position or be able to carry out that function, then that would be challenging.

Honest and open communication between senior management and returning mothers should ensure no such misunderstandings exist.