Once a fortnight our ‘What It’s Like…’ series will interview a member of one of the governance boards, highlighting their work, their role in the Engineers Ireland community and advice for members interested in becoming involved. This week’s interview is with Aisling Davis, Council Representative for Chartered Engineers.
Engineers Ireland is governed by the provisions of its bye-laws which are implemented by a Council of members and an Executive Board. Council is the governing body of Engineers Ireland and is elected by the members.
In order to ensure the fullest representation of our overall membership, 12 of the positions on Council are for elected corporate members, representing the interests of Chartered Engineers, associate engineers and engineering technicians, and members who hold the academic requirements for but are not yet holders of the title Chartered Engineer.
Aisling Davis, a Chartered Engineer based in Co Galway, has been a member of Engineers Ireland for 25 years. A civil engineer with a background in health and safety standards, she joined the Council in 2019 as an elected representative for Chartered Engineers.
Aisling Davis, member of Council
A new Council is established every year, with elections for vacant positions opening in April. Successful candidates are then appointed at the annual general meeting.
The new Council takes office following the Engineers Ireland AGM, with its first meeting generally held in June. Now in her second year of a three-year term on Council, Davis recounts her experiences with Council elections and securing her place as an elected representative for Chartered Engineers.
“A key component in the candidate application is securing nominations from 10 corporate members, so that was my first step. This was then followed by a short profile outlining my relevant experience, qualifications and vision for the role, which was then circulated to the Engineers Ireland membership along with the other 11 candidates’ profiles when voting was opened.
"Two areas are of particular interest to me: promoting health and safety as an engineering discipline and increasing the participation of young women in the engineering profession. The Council is an ideal platform for progressing both of these objectives.”
Elaborating further, Davis highlights that her previous involvement with Engineers Ireland, in particular her volunteer work with the STEPS programme, was a key contributor to her decision to run for Council.
“Over the years I have seen how Engineers Ireland has made a major difference to the profession in terms of promoting engineering excellence and through its focus on Continual Professional Development.
"As a volunteer on the STEPS programme, I have also seen the important work it does with young people and I have found these engagements very rewarding.
"Being on Council seemed to me to be another great way to get involved with the organisation and contribute to the development and promotion of the profession. I was so pleased therefore when, following the elections, registrar Damien Owens rang me to tell me I had been successful and was now a member of Council.”
With the first year of her three-year term behind her, Davis has a clear view of the challenges and benefits of being on Council. “The most challenging aspect is the breadth and complexity of the programme of work dealt with by Council.
"Our agendas are long and it takes time to get on top of all aspects of the work. I'd safely say that much of my first year on Council was spent learning about Engineers Ireland's governance system and how Council operates.
"I am serious about preparing for meetings and I devote considerable time to reading the various documentation and reports beforehand. This is supported by the secretariat who does fantastic work preparing the documentation for our meetings.”
Recognising that 2020 has brought with it its own unique challenges in the form of COVID-19, Davis notes that while Council “has adapted well to the coronavirus restrictions, we now have virtual meetings and the transition to video conferencing has been very smooth, there is no substitute for the human interaction in Clyde Road”.
Despite the volume of work involved, there are a lot of positives to volunteering your skills and expertise with the Engineers Ireland Council.
“I’ve found Council very open to new ideas and my contributions on health and safety have been well received. I find the informal networking particularly useful. On the margins of meetings, I have had some really interesting discussions with colleagues on engineering topics such as safe work practices.
"I’ve also been able to help and guide colleagues and in return I have learned a lot too.” That said, for Davis the most rewarding aspect of serving on Council “is the opportunity to work alongside a group of very talented, committed and professional people.
"The opportunity to work with our past president Marguerite Sayers and the director general Caroline Spillane – two outstanding and inspirational leaders – has been particularly positive.”
As a body, the Council has reserved powers including: appointing Executive Board members, and approving proposals made by the Executive Board on the annual budget, the financial statements and membership subscriptions. The Council generally meets five times a year.
Asked if she’d recommend joining the Council of Engineers Ireland, Davis’s position is clear: “I'd be very positive about becoming a member of Council and I'd definitely say, 'go for it'! It's a very rewarding experience, an immense honour and privilege to serve your profession. You give freely of your time, but you get so much in return.”
Engineers Ireland could not function without the active participation of so many of our members who give so enthusiastically of their time and talents to serve the profession. More information on the role of Council and its responsibilities is available in the Engineers Ireland Bye-laws (available here).