Declan O’ Connor- BSc (Hons) in Quality Management and Technology (Online)

Name:  Declan O’Connor

Job: General Manager at Reinforcement Steel Supplier

Can you share your career path to date? 

I studied a Level 6 course in Construction Technology in DIT Bolton Street. After graduating, I went straight into employment and have been working in the industry for the last 25 years.  

What does your current role involve? 

In my current role, I am general manager of a reinforcement steel supplier to the construction industry. We cut/bend the reinforcing steel that is used in concrete elements of buildings/structures. I am involved in all aspects of the business including Commercial/HR/Operations/Contract Management and manage a team of 3 office and 19 production staff. Duties related to Quality management would make up about 40% of my weekly workload. 

What motivated you to start studying?  

Over the years, I have been interested in going back to College and progressing my studies. It was a daunting prospect and I contemplated it for a good while before finally pushing ahead and taking the next step. The Construction industry has changed considerably over the last 25 years. There is a huge emphasis on standards & compliance. In my role, I was taking responsibility for Quality and had led our team to gain ISO 9001:2015 certification and I felt I needed the academic qualifications to really give me confidence.   In this day and age, it is vital that construction businesses are equipped with the knowledge and expertise in quality standards of ISO14001 and ISO9001, particularly when tendering for contracts.  

Why did you choose this course from ATU Sligo? 

The online delivery was one of the main reasons, I choose to study with ATU Sligo. I already work full time so being able to come home, have something to eat and then go into my home office and start studying straight away. No extra commute or parking to consider. I dedicate about 6 – 8 hrs per week to study, which works out at about 2 evenings per week.  The modules available on the programme were also a good fit for what I was looking to achieve. 75% of the course covers general Quality and areas like IS09001 are covered in detail.  

How did you find the process of studying online? What elements did you find helpful? Were there elements you found challenging?  

It was surprisingly easy to get up and running. I settled in quickly to the Moodle system, where the timetable and assignments are there for you.  You can watch the live lectures or watch recorded ones are there for when you can’t make it. I wasn’t able to make the On Campus induction, but it didn’t hold me back.  We’ve had a few opportunities to meet up, so along with WhatsApp group and online message boards, we also had a 2-day residential in Semester 2 of the first year. It was a hands-on practical lab session at the Campus and a field trip to visit a local company, touring verification and calibration operations.  I’ve developed a network of friends from this and it’s been great to have that support as we’re all in the same boat. If there are messages going around about assignments or exams, it encourages you to get into the books.  I haven’t felt any negative impacts from the lack of face-to-face contact. Lecturers are only an email away and sometimes we can arrange skype calls for more detailed discussions. I’m from Dublin and there is an Exam centre located here. That eases the stress around exam time too.  

 In terms of your employer, were they supportive of your decision to study? Were there elements of the course that were particularly relevant to your current employer?  

I am self-funding my studies – it’s my own personal motivation to complete the course and build on my qualifications. I’ve been paying the fees in instalments, meaning we can plan for them and spread the cost over the 2 years.  

What advice would you have for anyone considering studying online? 

It is good to be disciplined and keep up with the lectures. Returning as a mature student has been a much more enjoyable experience for me. I have been surprised at how much I am enjoying it.   

In what way has studying online with ATU Sligo benefitted your career? 

One of the modules on the course is Managing People. I’ve been managing staff for years, and by completing this module, it has given me the confidence in my approach to managing staff. The standards and compliance module is also very relevant to my role.  The course will give me an academic qualification that will be recognised by potential employers too in various industries. If for instance there was a downturn in construction, the course has given me a great understanding of quality, compliance and regulation in the pharma & medical device sectors. 

Did this course provide any unexpected benefits to your career? 

It’s essential for my role that I have a complete understanding of the latest thinking on Quality Systems. We frequently have external audits from suppliers and certification boards so being fully prepared and knowing the correct procedures are vital for our business to perform well and stay ahead of the competition.  I am currently researching Level 9 qualifications as I really do feel that I can continue to benefit from taking my education to the next level.  

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