'Being Irish abroad helps greatly with getting people together'
Working Abroad Q&A: Darragh Rogan works in Helsinki as a management consultant in design
Darragh Rogan, who lives in Helsinki, with his wife Mirella and daughters Amelia (3) and Hanna (1) in the lap of the gods in Lapland. “I’m regretting not writing it down, but I think the reindeer’s name was Ari”
Working Abroad Q&A: Darragh Rogan, originally from Milltown in Dublin, lives in Helsinki in Finland, where he works as a management consultant in design and configuration. At the moment he is making a power plant safe.
When did you leave Ireland and why?
I was invited by an old friend in summer 2016, to work on a project that would never be possible in Ireland. It was also the right time as our daughter was then one, so not too many roots put down yet.
Where did you study?
Engineering in DIT Kevin Street. As part of the EU’s Erasmus programme, I studied in Vigo, Spain for a semester, where my wife and I met.
Your job is tricky to define, but can you try?
My background is in design engineering for industrial facilities. Right now, I consult for a utility company who are building a power plant. I originally helped set up their design management practices to coordinate their individually delivered buildings and systems. Now I help demonstrate to the Finnish energy regulator that the practices being followed work and are safe, I support the technical review of the plant’s system designs, and I’m product owner on some software development projects. But even when dealing with tough, technical topics, most of the problems I encounter are down to different teams not understanding each other - being Irish helps greatly with getting people together!
What does your day-to-day work involve?
Commenting on designs, composing training materials, leading (many) meetings, auditing work implementations, planning, planning, planning. A large part of the value from the work my colleagues and I do won’t be truly realised for a few decades. I’m usually in Helsinki, but often on a building site, or in various suppliers’s premises abroad.
Childcare facilities are affordable and excellent
What challenges do you face in your work?
I thrive in complex, fast-paced environments. The energy industry needs to be slow and cautious in order to fully achieve the safety society demands, which can slow down feedback on the efficacy of my work. What isn’t a problem is work/life balance - the Finns value this highly.
You have a YouTube channel. What do you do?
I review new consumer financial products such as Revolut or N26. I started so that I could practise my communications skills, and to my vast surprise, people follow me and comment. www.youtube.com/channel/UClt25f9gZu4_M3sxpAAJ4QQ
What difference has technology made to your life?
It has fascinated me from a young age. My folks lived in fear of finding things in a state of dismantlement - I remember taking a brakelight off my grandmother’s car when I was about four years old to see what it looked like inside.
What is it like living in Helsinki?
So safe. Sauna culture is great. And everything just works, including the public services which Finns respect hugely with a shared social conscience.
Housing is similar to current Dublin costs, albeit with higher quality apartments. Childcare facilities are affordable and excellent. There is always an exhibition or event on somewhere and cycling / public transport is fantastic (they bit the bullet on their BusConnects many years ago - the Irish can learn a lot from the Finn’s ability to make tough calls with long-term benefits). Shopping is a bit more expensive, and anything with service/labour is noticeably more.
Do the Irish fit in well in Finland?
Despite the stereotypical Finn being cold and distant (try living for four months or more in practical darkness!) once you get to know them they are great, and so sincere. Both countries have roughly the same population, have economically dominant neighbours with histories, and enjoy seeing how they’re portrayed in foreign media.
I’m the only Irish person in a large office of 350 people, with 25 nationalities, but there are some Irish in my social circle.
How do salaries compare?
Pretty comparable as a professional, however income tax is higher here. For blue collar workers, each industry has a union derived minimum wage, (which is liveable) so there’s not too much inequality.
Do you think working abroad has offered you greater opportunities?
Definitely. My mindset is broader, and I now realise that no matter where people come from, or what my prejudices are, people are people the world over.
Any advice for someone interested in a career abroad?
Do it. You learn so much, so fast, and gain confidence. Don’t feel held back due to language - many workplaces are English-speaking.
What do you think your future holds?
For now Helsinki. Maybe solo consulting around Europe in the next decade.
Is there anything you miss about living and working in Ireland?
Family and friends, grey areas (which sometimes Finland could adopt from Ireland) and chicken fillet rolls.
If you work in an interesting career overseas and would like to share your experience with Irish Times Abroad, email firstname.lastname@example.org with a little information about you and what you do.