Olivia Donnellan- PG Dip in Connected and Autonomous Vehicles

Name: Olivia Donnellan

Job Title: Global Software Manager in Automotive Tier 1 Company

Course Studied: Post Graduate Diploma in Engineering (L9) in Connected and Autonomous Vehicles

Can you share your career path to date?

I graduated initially with a BE(Hons) in Electronic Engineering at UCD. My first job was in the telecoms software industry, developing software for leading-edge mobile network technology. I held various positions in software development across multiple domains until I eventually moved back to Academia to pursue research in Digital Signal Processing while lecturing in parallel. I found digital signal processing extremely interesting so when a Software job in Vision Systems came up in a local automotive company I jumped at the opportunity. This was my door into the extremely exciting and challenging automotive world and I haven’t looked back since. I moved through the ranks over several years from Software Developer to Architect to Architecture Manager, Platform Manager and now Global Software Engineering Manager, with circa 600 team members distributed across the world, all working on state-of-the-art systems for Surround View Visualisation, Automated Parking and other ADAS functionality.

What does your current role involve?

My current role involves the overall management of software development, responsible for ~600 software engineers in various sites globally, ensuring budgetary, project delivery and quality targets for the product line are achieved. One thing I like about it is that it is very varied, no two days are the same. I could be involved in highly technical activities, strategic discussions, project planning sessions, product roadmap reviews, project status monitoring, headcount planning, quotations for new projects, reviewing quotations from outsourcing companies, recruitment, appraisals, team development, budget reviews, design reviews, quality reviews and anything and everything in between. Another nice aspect of the job is the people. Working with world leaders and experts every day, collaborating to find solutions to complex problems, and ultimately developing and delivering state-of-the-art ADAS products.

What motivated you to start studying?

As my role evolved from purely technical to a combination of technical and management, I felt I needed to do something to keep my knowledge current. Also, our products were evolving more toward the autonomous driving direction, so felt that it would be very beneficial to do some formal study in the area.

Why did you choose this course from ATU Sligo?

I had been involved in discussions with IT Sligo in a professional capacity and became aware of the course through that. The Connected Autonomous Vehicles programme is highly relevant to my industry and covers all the important areas. That along with a great lecturing team coupled with the online learning facilities made the decision very easy!

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

To be honest, the only way it would have been possible for me to do the course is online. I have a very busy job plus a family at home so being able to attend lectures from the comfort of my own house was helpful. The online learning facilities in IT Sligo are brilliant. The class sizes were small which allowed for some great interaction, and having access to the recordings and lecture notes was very helpful for the times when I couldn’t attend or coming up to exams.  The most challenging part for me was completing the assignments to the level I would have liked and submitting them on time while working a high pressured job and also supporting a family.

How did you balance work and study?

It is about time management and setting goals and priorities correctly. However, the lecturing staff were very supportive and understanding.

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?

My employer was fully supportive, as practically all aspects of the course were relevant. The lecturing hours and exams were all outside of working hours so it didn’t have any negative impact on my job, and the positive impacts were very beneficial as I brought up-to-date knowledge to the team.

What advice would you have for anyone considering studying online?

A lot of people think they can’t do it, but I would challenge that thought. I used to be one of those people. You just need to make a decision about what you want to achieve and then go for it. Many courses are structured in a way that you don’t need to commit to more than one year at any time. Think about how much you think you can bite off and chew, and then stretch it just a little more and go for it!

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

Probably the most positive impact for me was that I became more confident in my knowledge in certain areas, allowing me to be more effective in my job.

Did you find that the elements you were studying had practical relevance in your day-to-day role?

Absolutely. Everything about the course was both relevant and interesting.

What were the key skills you took away from your time studying at ATU Sligo?

Besides the enhanced knowledge from the course itself, it has proven to me that I still can study and learn and achieve successful results. I find myself delving into research more now than I would have done before.

Learn more about PG Dip. in Engineering in Connected and Autonomous Vehicles