‘Australian sun and beaches, and I ended up working in sewage’
Wild Geese: From Limerick, Diarmuid Woods is a process engineer with Australia’s largest waste water plant
Limerick engineer Diarmuid Wood, who has settled in Syndey with his wife, former Sydney Rose, Fiona and children Annie and Jack
Diarmuid Woods grew up in Glin in west Limerick, the eldest boy of seven children. “My father has a dairy farm and we all helped out on the farm. GAA and soccer were a big part of my life growing up and, with my parents being keen Kerry supporters, there was always great rivalry between Kerry and Limerick”.
Woods went to primary school in Glin and secondary school in Kerry and then on to Cork Institute of Technology to study mechanical engineering.
“I had to put something on the CAO and my friend’s brother had done engineering so I just put that! Going to college in Cork was my first time away from home and I remember being so homesick, I couldn’t wait to get home that first weekend.
“But I made some great friends in college who are still great friends today. Having left Ireland, I feel very proud of the Irish education system now. I realise how well recognised it is all over the world.
“My first taste of adventure was in 1999. I went to New York on a J1 visa. I thought I was living the dream, sharing a two-bedroom apartment in Queens with 10 Irish fellas! I worked in construction first and then through an Irish contact, I got a job in Arup, an engineering consultancy firm in Manhattan doing draughting.
“It was a brilliant experience and a great thing to have on my CV at such a young age. It was also a great example of how Irish people help each other out, especially when we’re away from home.”
When Woods returned to Ireland, he took a position in a German engineering company in Tralee, Beru Electronics.
“The company manufactured car parts. I was 21 at the time and I was working on one of the production lines there. It wasn’t long before I started to get itchy feet again. I had a sister in Australia so I thought I’d go out and see what it was like.”
Woods went to Australia in 2003. “I landed in Sydney in January 2003 and the first things that hit me were the smell of sunscreen and seeing old men wearing shorts. I had never in my life seen my father or any men of his age wearing shorts!
“There are a lot of Irish construction companies that work in the civil construction and pipeline industries out here and I had a list of them. So, I rang everyone until I got a job. It was hard work in very hot weather. We used to hide in the pipes to find shade. I met some great characters and I stayed with that company for two years.”
It was at this point that Woods felt it was time to decide whether to return to Ireland or to stay in Sydney. “I missed home but I wasn’t ready to go home. I loved the lifestyle in Sydney and I had made great friends out here. So, when I decided to stay, I looked for something in the engineering field”.
He returned to the manufacturing industry, taking a position in Diageo’s plant in Sydney. After two years with Diageo, Woods decided to make the move out of manufacturing again and he took a junior level position on the operations team with Sydney Water Company.
“The plant was in Palm Beach. It’s where Home and Away is filmed; it’s a beautiful part of Sydney. The plant is a sewage and waste plant and, at the interview, they asked me how I would feel about working in a sewage plant. I said ‘sure I’m around cow dung all my life. It wouldn’t bother me’. They told me when I got the job that that was the best answer they ever got to that question.
“It’s funny. When you think about Australia, you think about sunny beaches, great weather and I ended up working in sewage! But I loved the company, I really enjoyed the work and I progressed quickly in the company.”
I went out to watch Holland v Brazil and I came home having met my future wife.
Sydney Water Company run’s Australia’s largest waste water plant and provides safe drinking water to five million people across Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra. The company is currently undergoing a huge upgrade at its largest waste water plant, Malabar, as the plant becomes fully automated.
The waste gas produced from the water treatment process provides approximately 70 per cent of the plant’s energy demand and the company is renowned for its energy efficiency.
Woods has recently been promoted again and is now a process engineer at Malabar. In his current role, he leads the optimisation of the production environment, developing strategies that will guide the plant’s upgrade and ensuring its efficiency.
He married Fiona Woods (née Tuite) and they have two children – Jack aged three and Annie who is nearly two.
“I met Fiona in Sydney during the 2010 soccer World Cup. I went out to watch Holland v Brazil and I came home having met my future wife. Fiona was the 2000 Sydney Rose of Tralee. Her mother is from Armagh and her father is from Louth.
“I have a brother and a sister living in Sydney too so we have strong family connections here which is great.
“I came to Australia when Ireland was going through a boom, I wasn’t forced to come out. It was only a few years later that I saw the influx of Irish people coming out to Australia, who had to come out to get work.
“I think Sydney has been very good to Irish people. If you look at any of the top companies in Sydney, you’ll find Irish people in very senior positions.”