Career Pathways - Getting to Know Shannon O'Neil

When we talk about pathways into the engineering industry, apprenticeships and degrees may be two of the most popular routes, but there are far more options for people who want to gain the skills, knowledge and experience needed to make a success of their careers.

To celebrate International Women in Engineering Day we sat down with Shannon O'Neil to discuss how her journey took her from College to Vital Energi via a Merchant Navy Cadetship.

Tell us a little about your career…

I joined Vital Energi as an Operations and Maintenance Engineer after leaving the merchant navy and have been with the company for a year and a half now. My job calls for me to maintain and oversee the sites, making sure they perform safely and efficiently to provide heat whilst maintaining their parameters. I schedule and undertake maintenance; perform inspections and monitor the system and I absolutely love it. There are many similarities in the role comparing with the navy that I massively enjoyed, whilst being able to come ashore and live a more sociable lifestyle.

I’ve been here one year and a half and I like how everyone is eager to help and I am gaining more experience and learning every day.  I love working with experienced engineers who talk me through new tasks, expand my knowledge in engineering and are keen in working together to help each other out.  The diversity within O&M has been so beneficial to me as I am constantly learning new skills and ways to work from them.

Shannon Pic 4

Shannon outside the Queens Quay energy centre - One of the projects she provides maintenance on.

Solution detail

Why did you enter the heat network industry?

We cover various sites, the main site of mine is Queens Quay. This is similar to what I was doing onboard ships in terms of the controls and how the plant operates allowing me to transfer my skills. Ships tend to take their heat from engines to heat their domestic water so the CHP’s we also work with operate very similar. I undertook engine overhauls on the ship so I was intrigued with the annual boiler inspections and the work that goes into stripping, rebuilding and testing them.

My merchant navy career took me to some far-flung places and saw me sail through the Panama Canal and spend time in South America amongst other places.  After 6 years however, I was ready to end to the two-months-on two-months-off routine and applied for a job at Vital Energi.

Shannon Pic 2

Shannon's career path saw her spend 6 years in the Merchant Navy before joining Vital Energi.

Solution detail

How did you enter the industry?

I initially did a HND at college in Electrical Engineering. With this I was planning on going to university but I was more so interested in the practical work and getting experience. The cadetship offered 8 months of experience with getting the qualification so it was an easy decision for me to make and it turned out to be the most amazing experience.

I was in the merchant navy for 6 years and the knowledge and experience I gained really positioned me well for finding another job and the green energy industry looked like a great place for me to use my skills.