Limerick engineer wants more women to follow her lead

Lisa Cogan, Regional Delivery Lead with Uisce Éireann.

LIMERICK-based Lisa Cogan is a passionate advocate for a career that has brought her to the other side the world and back again.

It was relocating to Egypt as a teenager that built the foundations for what has become an enduring love of engineering and led to her current role as Regional Delivery Lead with Uisce Éireann.

Perhaps there was a sense of inevitability that Lisa, the daughter of an engineer, would follow a similar career path to her father. However, it was the importance of the work and how it was viewed by those who would benefit from it that caused Lisa to give a deeper consideration to a career in engineering.

“I spent my teenage years in Egypt. My dad was an engineer responsible for the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant in Cairo. I didn’t really understand what my father was working at, and at 13 I had very little interest in what he was doing!

But when I used to hear him being called Engineer Richard by the local people, I became curious as to what that meant and what kind of a job he did. Dad would bring me round the sites where we would meet men and women working on the projects and I was so impressed by the work being done and the esteem that engineers were held in in Egypt,” she explained.

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“I could see clearly that being an engineer held an element of prestige. I noticed the respect for the work from people who had a full appreciation of having a good sanitary system and the importance of having good quality drinking water.

“It really appealed to me, so I returned to Ireland to do my Leaving Cert. I worked hard to get a place on a course that would mean after four years I would be able to get a job as soon as I finished!”.

And get a job she did. After graduating with a degree in Civil Engineering from UCD, Lisa’s career brought her to England, Scotland, Australia and back to Ireland before she joined what was then Irish Water in 2015.

Ahead of International Women’s Day, Lisa said she is proud to be part of an organisation that is a diverse and inclusive place to work and one that develops and grows female talent by supporting employees in their career progression.

Lisa joined the company as an Infrastructure Specialist and has progressed to Regional Delivery Lead, responsible for the Munster and South Leinster regions. It is a busy role, but one she relishes.

A native of Kilkenny City, Lisa lives in Limerick City with her husband Brendan Gill and their daughter Robyn, who turns three next month. One of the first projects she was involved in for Uisce Éireann was a significant one for her adopted city.

“Soon after I joined, I worked on the Bunlicky Wastewater Treatment Plant here in Limerick which we were upgrading for a customer who is a significant employer in the region. We installed two new digesters and delivered the project on time and budget; I was proud to be part of the team involved in such an important development.

“Seeing the tangible results of what we’re achieving gives everyone involved a real sense of pride. It’s all about teamwork and a lot of people pulling together to deliver these really important projects,” she said.

Lisa is very passionate about encouraging more women into engineering and science. She believes the benefits of undertaking a course in engineering are wide-reaching.

She is also conscious of developing herself professionally and has gone on to attain two post graduate diplomas from Trinity College Dublin, one in Environmental Engineering and another in Project Management.

“I feel we need more women working in the sciences. I’d love to see more women working in this area but not because they do things differently to men necessarily, but because balance is so important. Even if you never end up working as an engineer, doing an engineering degree is really worthwhile.

“It’s a great way of learning how to solve problems. I see it our house all the time! My husband is a solicitor and has a completely different way of thinking to me. We’re probably a good balance! Certainly, if my daughter were to show an interest in what I am doing, I’d fully support it, just like my parents did with me,” she added.

Having worked with Uisce Éireann for close to eight years, Lisa takes pride in the work being carried out across the business and of the variety of skills and backgrounds of her colleagues.

“I know most people will associate Uisce Éireann with water and wastewater, but there are so many different departments. It’s not just an engineering firm. That diversity is one of the biggest advantages of working here,” she added.

Lisa Cogan is passionate about encouraging more women to consider careers in engineering