Mike Hayes, head of group ICT for energy efficiency in the Micro and Nano Systems group at Tyndall National Institute, shares his career journey and describes the importance of how hard work, believing in your abilities and taking on new and exciting challenges is key in life. 

Mike Hayes, Tyndall National Institute

What is your current role?

I lead a group developing power solutions to make batteries last longer for wireless internet of things (IoT) edge devices. This includes discrete and integrates power management circuits that can convert ambient energies (light, heat, and vibrations) to electricity.

Such devices typically consume mW of power and have a battery life of two years, we need 10-plus years for most applications and ideally total power autonomy.

Much of our work actually involves bringing together an ecosystem of academic and industry collaborators to co-develop system optimised solutions. This is done by (i) better batteries; (ii) finding ways to reduce IoT device power consumption; (iii) more efficient power conversion; and (iv) using energy harvesting when available.

What path led you here?

I worked for Artesyn technologies in the power electronics industry for 20 years managing teams developing custom power supplies for blue chip telecoms customers. Most of this kind of work has gone to Asia and I wanted to move up the value chain doing applied research.

I knew Tyndall both from doing my part-time master's degree as well as actually contracting it to do work for me when in Artesyn. I discovered the area of energy harvesting for IoT applications and saw huge scope to combine my industry knowledge with Tyndall’s technology portfolio to address it. A new set of customers with application needs and an opportunity to lead and develop technology to solve it.

Did you have a role model who influenced your career choice?

My mam and her brother Tom, who were highly intelligent people, missed the opportunity to go to college at a young age (Tom actually achieved this later in life doing a degree in University College Cork after retiring). Due to their parents becoming ill when they were teenagers, they had to take over running the house and bringing in a wage. Both made major sacrifices but were very successful.

They taught me the value of sustained hard work and how it can deliver, as well as an appreciation of the opportunities open to my generation. I also saw the value in relationship building and collaboration. My dad gave me a love of sports, if not the skills to go with it, that he enjoyed. 

How has working at Tyndall enabled you to fulfil your potential?

While I miss the cut and thrust of being involved in making a business successful, I treat the securing of funding, creation of partnerships and running successful projects in a similar light. I also really like contributing, not just to a company, but to society in general.

IoT offers us many opportunities to make our world a more efficient, healthy, safer, greener and a better connected place if we can make batteries last longer. It also proved to me I could reboot my career and learn a new set of skills, leveraging from my old ones. Finally, I really enjoy technology development, the influence we can have in next generation solutions and driving it to commercialisation. 

What advice would you give your younger self?

Believe in your own ability and sell it more. Persistence and hard work pays off even if you meet bumps in the road. Sometimes perceived setbacks lead to greater opportunities. But also be prepared to let things go and move on, you cannot win every battle.

Build and sustain relationships and partnerships, we are all connected more than you think and you never know when our paths will cross. Do not undervalue what you know.