Today we find out how Irish engineers are attracting big foreign business, and how investing in personal development is just as beneficial for your own growth as it is for the sector.

Global investment is crucial to the economic wellbeing of Ireland, and there are still challenges the country needs to overcome to ensure continued success.

Our expert today is at the forefront of Ireland’s international business investments and believes our engineering sector has a lot of talent to offer. He is an engineer and CEO of IDA Ireland, Michael Lohan.

Listen below or on your podcast player!


01:09 Michael’s Career

06:36 Working with tech, people and global supply chains

08:13 What the IDA does

10:03 The main investment sectors in Ireland

12:58 Challenges impacting foreign investment

16:28 The availability of STEM talent in Ireland

18:06 How Irish engineers stand out

23:13 Encouraging upskilling and continuous learning

26:19 Getting young people involved in STEM subjects

34:00 Expanding opportunities outside of Dublin

37:35 Advice Michael would give to a young engineer


Michael Lohan is the Chief Executive Officer of IDA Ireland as of April 2023. A key priority for Michael in his role as Chief Executive Officer is leading on the execution and delivery of IDA Ireland’s organisational strategy: Driving Recovery and Sustainable Growth 2021- 2024, which will be delivered through a focus on five pillars: Growth, Transformation, Regions, Sustainability, and Impact.

Michael joined IDA Ireland in 2003 and has held various management positions across multiple functions and has represented IDA in several fora including as a Board member on Digital Manufacturing Ireland, a governance member on the SSPC research centre for pharmaceuticals and also The Irish Medical Association (which is the business association within IBEC representing the medical devices and diagnostics sector).

Prior to joining IDA Ireland, Michael held several different positions including Manager for New Business Solutions with Nortel’s European Operations in Galway and a management role with IEC Electronics European Operations. Michael is an Engineering graduate with an MSc in Technology Management from the National University of Ireland, Galway and additionally is a graduate of the Berkley Executive Programme.


Looking for ways to explore or advance a career in the field of engineering? Visit Engineers Ireland to learn more about the many programs and resources on offer. 

Engineers Journal AMPLIFIED is produced by for Engineers Ireland.

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I can speak for myself, as an engineer, you're very much technically driven, but those softer skills, that acumen from a business perspective, are so so important. The more you can hone that, coupled that with your technical expertise, that's a formula for real success, for real growth and progression. - Michael Lohan

We have been very successful for the last decade plus in terms of FDI. In terms of economic prosperity in Ireland, our population is growing, our enterprise base, both foreign and indigenous have grown. That leads us to the challenges of success, our housing capacity, our infrastructure capacity. There are key elements that we have to continue to address and make sure that we have adequate plans in place for the next generation of investment. - Michael Lohan

We in Ireland seem to be leading at the front edge of that technology, of that innovation, of that deployment, and I think that comes down to the skill base that we have, and within that is the engineering resources that's available to us. - Michael Lohan

I would encourage anyone, no matter where you are in your career, to continue to learn. In fact, I am no different, I have to continue to be curious, I have to continue to look to where I can add additional strengths to my offering. - Michael Lohan

I think industry needs to help encourage young people into STEM, because the more we can show that there's a path here in terms of career, that there's a rewarding, fulfilling and diverse career that you can get  through STEM subjects.  - Michael Lohan

Learn as quickly as you can how to interact and engage with others because the your success is going to be based on how you engage with your peers, how you can influence and negotiate. The more you can hone that earlier in your career, the more you can benefit from it later on. - Michael Lohan


For your convenience, we include an automated AI transcription

Michael Lohan  00:00

I think there's a few things that actually make Irish engineers and Irish talent stand out. You know, I hear this directly from law, the CEOs and CTOs applying companies. And that's what we have in Ireland, we have that uniqueness in us that we actually see problems as a real opportunity. And we don't take the status quo is the way things should be always done, we actually can see different means of delivery. And more importantly, we actually can bring goals to fruition and implement them.

Dusty Rhodes  00:27

Hello there. My name is Dusty Rhodes, you're welcome to AMPLIFIED the Engineers Journal podcast. In this episode, we're about to dive into engineering and business development and see how both are shaping the economic landscape of the country. We'll be looking at the challenges and opportunities facing the engineering sector in Ireland, the importance of regional growth and how to future proof your own career. Our guest is a seasoned engineer, he has 30, hugely successful years under his belt, working with some leading companies and now finds himself as the CEO of the IDA. It's a delight to welcome Michael Lohan and Michael, how are you?

Michael Lohan  01:04

I'm good dusty, Thank you very much.

Dusty Rhodes  01:09

Michael, you're a qualified engineer just kind of set the scene for us. What strand of engineering Did you qualify?

Michael Lohan  01:16

I am indeed Yeah, so my primary degree is in electronic engineering and so straight electronics. And it's funny to the just last week, actually, I was part of the A to you launch of the Illumina network where I actually studied in cycle RTC as it was in the day and then transferred to finish my degree actually in Galway again RTC so given away some part of my of my age and in that element. But I think what's important is part of that is as I was fortunate that I was part of a group where a group of friends, but in the College Network, we're actually at this move transition from Galway, or sorry, from Slager to Galway. So we actually saw that progression through our education system, which I'm probably you're very tight third for that, you know, we saw it as a means of movement. Yes, we also saw as a means of a new scenery from a social perspective. But more importantly, we were able to advance our careers and, and so that's my background. And, and I continue to suppose along those technical areas, as I looked across different aspects of, of my career and my educational because as I've gone through, I suppose my career, I've added other areas, for example, I was one of the first cohort that went through the certification at the time for health and safety at work, actually true UCD, which was delivered remotely, if one would think what that what that was 20 years ago, which so as as challenges come forward in my career, I always, always talked about, okay, is there an area where I need to maybe upscale or rescale, or reposition myself, and that was one such add on the same project management. And then I went back to do a master's in technology management as well. And then you I call myself a continuous journey. I think around along that route.

Dusty Rhodes  02:54

You mentioned that you did it remotely. And it was 20 years ago, you know, this day and age when we're all just so used to video calls and accessing things. And and I'm not going to electronic get the recording and kind of all this the know, how was it done remotely. 20 years ago,

Michael Lohan  03:10

when I was actually doing this, it was done remotely and that he was delivered into the ER was the default trading center in Atlanta. And because they had the technology, and actually the lectures were broadcast, so we actually had to go to at loan. So you physically had to, but it meant you didn't have to travel to Dublin, for example. At the time, I was working in Longford. So it was a 3540 minute track across in the morning, it was ideal. And what you had was you were the cohort there, they're probably 25 or 30 people in that class all from the Midlands region who actually could attend this lecture which has been delivered live from from Dublin. So we that's where we spent our days in that. So it was a really good it, I suppose initiative at the time, because it opened up that opportunity that's effectively you could do your do your studies, why not haven't actually moved geographical location for the day or two? I was involved on a weekly basis.

Dusty Rhodes  03:59

So let's after you qualified to go into the business, did you do a lot of hands on engineering? Or did you kind of go straight for management fairly fast?

Michael Lohan  04:06

Yeah, it's it's, it's a great question. Because when I actually started, I started in very much in a technical role. So electronics, so attend this story to others, as well as that's actually I started in the printed circuit board manufacturing business. So actually, what we are we did use was pioneer hifi system. So things that actually people now are actually coming back to, again, a number of generations later so so we actually done all the printed circuit board and circuitry and an assembly for Pioneer hifi systems at the time. So that's actually where a star has a very much technically driven, you're looking at the technology board from from the product perspective and also from a process perspective. And I was fortunate because I started in the company that was relatively small in scale in Ireland, you know, a couple 100 people. So actually you're asked to multitask and do different roles. So all of a sudden you had to wear different hats. You had to be the technical product expert. You also have to be the process expert you had To help put efficiencies, you have to help with improvements. And with that, I actually started to move into more in engineering, but I had an engineering management. And it was fortunate, I suppose I had talked those up. And I was given those opportunities, number one, and secondly, that I was able to take them because what it did then is it actually gives you experience in terms of people management, you know, in terms of assessing projects is assessing technologies. So what brought you to a different sphere, I suppose in terms of just a technical element. And, and at that point, and actually, after four or five years of, of your of that experience, I actually moved to a very large multinational company called Nortel Networks, large telecommunications company will be known globally around the world at that time. And if I'm honest, the few years I spent at Nortel Networks from 1999, to 2002, probably where they were the years that's actually formed me in terms of my business acumen. Because at that stage, Jenna was put into a global environment, global supply chains, you know, the, if you want to call it the complexities and the politics that comes with your multinationals. And you had two choices, you had to learn very quickly, or as you had to adapt even faster. And that's what you have to do. And I think that's where maybe the strength of my background of, you know, engineering, practical, logical, you could take the technical elements, you could bring them together, you could understand how supply chain works. And then you could work with people and bring people with you on that journey. So, so I think they those formative years, were critically important in terms of making, if you want to call it that transition from the purely technical into a managerial leadership role over that period.

Dusty Rhodes  06:36

Do you think engineers are kind of I don't want to say born with but let you when you study at college, do you think it just kind of gives you a bit of a systems way of thinking, which means that you were then able to handle anything from technical to people to global supply chains?

Michael Lohan  06:52

Yeah, well, you know, I think I think there's a few times I think the mindset of engineers is, you know, your logical and your and your solutions orientated as well, which I think is important. And, you know, it's a bit like, there's always challenges. But the great thing about challenges is there's always a means for resolution. Now, it may not be optimal, but you can, we can always get there. And the question is how we get there. And I suppose what you learn, and what I've learned through my career is that solutions don't come in one form. And they certainly don't come just being a technical solution or a process solution, the more than likely have a hole of business requirements. And that, and that involves you all being human centric, people orientation. So the, the, you know, that's where, probably from an engineering discipline point of view, and I think, thankfully, we've probably seen more of that happening to our engineering, courseware and education over the last number of decades, making sure that there's that connected piece in terms of how you actually make this work for people, for the workforce for the business, over and including the technical aspects are so important. And it's something that I think that, you know, I can speak for myself, as an engineer, everything was about and you're very much technically driven, those softer skills. Those that acumen from a business perspective, are so so important. I think, the more you can hold that on top of that with your technical expertise. That's a formula for real success and for real growth and progression.

Dusty Rhodes  08:13

Well, listen, speaking of success, you are the buck stops at your desk in the IDA. That's a big organization to be a part of earlier in the series. I was talking to Leo Clancy, I'm sure you're aware of him. He's another engineer. He's the CEO of enterprise Ireland. You're kind of similar, but you're completely the opposite. If it can you just describe the differences between enterprise Ireland and the ID because we all hear about them every day. But yeah, it can be confusing.

Michael Lohan  08:38

Yeah, well, of course Leo is a good is a former colleague here of ideas lattice, I've worked with Leo and nor Leo very well, and really, really good guy. So I suppose from from ideas perspective, we focus on foreign direct investment. So the companies we engage with are all foreign owned. So it's our role to go and first of all, to attract them to Ireland and the benefits of coming to Ireland, and then to help them to sustain and grow here and diversify their business and so forth. Whereas Leo and his colleagues in enterprise Ireland, are exclusively focused on indigenous Irish companies, helping them to grow startups, and indeed, globally, so. So if you want to call it we're both part of the Department of Enterprise and trade. So we sit in the same parent department. There's a lot of crossover between us and collaboration between us. But we're very clear. And our focus in this enterprise, Ireland is indigenous. And we look after the FDI side, and then of course, how we can actually merge those two elements together in terms of spillover in terms of global sourcing. So for example, there's lots of excellent indigenous Irish companies that are now embedded in another core to multinationals in terms of their supply chain, and no more salt and, and engineering space. You know, and we look ahead, whether it's in terms of construction, design, deliver your product and process, you know, all our ingrained, which was really excellent Irish indigenous companies across not just the FDA copies here in Ireland. But across our global networks, which is which is incredible to see.

Dusty Rhodes  10:04

I think when you're thinking about foreign investment into this country, brands that come to mind are apple and Marianas Google and all of the big air tech companies from around the world built primarily the states. What kind of other sectors invest in

Michael Lohan  10:17

Ireland? Yeah, so you're correct we have three sectors extra four sectors which are job predominantly yes was very heavy investors from an STI perspective so So technology is one so you know, that ranges from you mentioned apple at one level your to Intel, and you know, whichever are significant investor and capital investor garland so, so ranges from everything from hardware and software to unplowed to big service providers across the telecom industry. So you have dashboard gamblers from a technology and consumer and content, you know, the large platform companies go there every day. And of course, that we have a very strong sector and as well as international financial services. So, so I think the establishment of the IFC in Ireland, you know, was was was groundbreaking and was formed with the Oh, that was great foresight at the time of the Irish of the Irish government to actually have an alternative to London or indeed to Frankfurt. And we've seen the benefit of that in terms of what the industry that we've grown here that that Ireland now is, is a real location of strain for international financial services. The third sector, obviously, then his life sciences and your that's biopharma pharma, and medical device deal, massive fuel and you know, in terms of investment, both in terms of capital, it regionally spread it's in virtually every county in Ireland has a life sciences, either company or sub supplier associated with it. And then they're highly innovative and and invest in in strong r&d and under really good collaborators. And then I suppose our our fourth segment, then is what we call our high value engineering segments. So that can vary from anything from automotive industry, to you know, Leeper, you're producing large cranes from Ireland. So you have a very broad diverse of engineering companies that sit in that, but the key to them is that they're all innovative based, looking to the future looking to the to the established or r&d centers, here's what

Dusty Rhodes  12:07

I'm delighted to hear that one of them is high value engineering sector, not that I'm hanging my hat anywhere in particular, but can you give me an example, from the last whatever, six months or a year of a project that came in?

Michael Lohan  12:18

Yeah, so we've had, we've had a few. And so if you look at Lufthansa in in challenge, actually bringing in a significant MRO activity there. And in terms of servicing, we've had quite a few actually supporting, as I mentioned, the semiconductor industry as well, which is growing, and, and obviously, growing our EO across Europe. And if you look at the sub supply base, that that exists for the life sciences industry, you know, world leading companies here supporting, as I mentioned earlier, not just to Irish sites, but internationally supply indoor sites with with our products and services. And that's been key. So we've been very fortunate in Ireland to be able to attract and support and maintain those, those entities here.

Dusty Rhodes  12:58

On the opposite end of success, you know, because it's not all easy. What kind of challenges does the IDA face them when it comes to securing investments, one of the problems you encounter?

Michael Lohan  13:09

Yeah, so the landscape for FDI is, is intensely competitive. And, you know, sometimes it can be hard maybe for for everyone to understand this, that you'll well we go to compete for an investment in the sector, as I mentioned, the reality of it is, is that in most cases, you have competing geographies, and you know, in the four corners of the world, looking to win that same investment or to learn to see those investments in their jurisdiction. So, so at an international level, the competition actually has has probably intensified over the last 18 months or 24 months. And in particular, that's the how is that manifesting itself, it's manifesting itself in in the context of the industrial policies now being adopted, both within the US or within Europe, as well, and indeed, in the fairies has altered. So we're seeing a higher percentage, I suppose, urban center being offered in certain circumstances. And we've seen that today in such dire react in the US to the chips act that's being proposed in Europe. So that landscape has certainly changed. I think, from an Ireland perspective, we need to be conscious of that, as well. Of course, if we look locally, then we have to look at it as you know, our own, you know, we have been very successful for the last decade plus in terms of FDI, in terms in terms of economic prosperity in Ireland, in general, our population is growing, you know, our enterprise base, both foreign and indeed, indigenous have grown. And that leads us to I suppose we have, if you want to call it the challenges of success, and those challenges, as you know, they're well documented, you know, our housing capacity or infrastructure capacity to meet future growth. There are key elements that we have to continue to address and make sure that we have adequate plans in place for the next generation of investment.

Dusty Rhodes  14:59

Well, I mean, the housing crisis, as you said, is one of the things how do investors when they're looking at Ireland's because you need to house workers, they need accommodation. And it's so hard to find these days. How do investors look at those things?

Michael Lohan  15:11

Yeah, so I think what we're seeing from from investors is they're very aware of, of, let's call it the carrying capacity that Ireland has. But they're also very aware of the commitments from the state and from government in terms of resolving some of these elements. So you mentioned housing, and really look at housing, for example. And even even today's numbers, I think, from from a number of kommentarer, showed that you know, what, we are going to break 30,000 completions this year, which is really purchase really positive. The housing for all strategy is certainly key to that. I'd haven't done all of government approach. And as I said previously, I think what we're seeing now is an acceleration of abduct delivery, because as we see with our investment base at the moment, they're making decisions based on the next three, four and five year cycles of growth. And the housing for all strategies is, is really starting to show its momentum now. And I think that's given credibility to our offering. And even if we look at the last number of weeks, the number of announcements and investments that we've had publicly announced, you know, verify the fact that, you know, there's trust in our system that we can deliver, when we commit to delivering in terms of infrastructure, such as true housing, that we will, that will follow through. And I think that's what investors are confidence on. There's a trust that are low, but actually meet those demands.

Dusty Rhodes  16:28

Do you think that engineering as a subject in itself is an issue? Well, not an issue, but it is something that investors specifically consider but what's available here.

Michael Lohan  16:37

So I think you're correct, or there is actually a number of things that investors consider but but talent, uh, you know, and the availability of STEM graduates and STEM talent in particular, is particularly, it's particularly important. And while we were fortunate in Ireland, when we look at the statistics, in terms of our STEM graduates in terms of, first of all, the quantum, the quality, the diversity of of those STEM graduates are all positives. And then we also, of course, have the added bonus of being open an attractive location for for foreign graduates and indeed, talented individuals to come and be part of the ecosystem here in Ireland. So that's a very strong proposition that Ireland has to offer. And in some cases, almost a unique proposition that nit that isn't replicated around the world. And as I said earlier, we're fortunate in Ireland that if we look at the engineering disciplines that we have in Ireland, those core engineering disciplines that we have here are world renowned in terms of the quality in terms of delivery, at some of the companies that we have here, you're delivering, not just here in Ireland, but delivering internationally, that is a unique element. And I think, in the last two decades, in particular, from my time in IDA, that's been a marked, I suppose, differentiator between our proposition that was a decade ago to what our proposition is, today, we in Ireland are seem to be leaning at the front edge of that technology of that innovation of that deployment. I think that comes down to the skills base that we have, or when in doubt, I think is to engineering resources that's available to us.

Dusty Rhodes  18:06

And what is it? Do you think that makes Irish engineers stand out?

Michael Lohan  18:11

I think there's a few things that actually make Irish engineers and Irish talent stand out. Number one is I think we have an inherent curiosity. And we always want to strive to deliver and to improve. And, and you know, I hear this directly from our client companies, or our go to CEOs and CTC CTOs, applying companies, and that's the work but the workforce in Ireland is unique in terms of their ability to take complex issues, and to deliver them, you know, in a very simple manner, actually. So it goes back to that everything we talked about being solutions oriented is and I think what we have in Ireland, we have that uniqueness in us that we actually see problems as a real opportunity. And we don't take the status quo as the way things should be always don't we actually can can see different means of delivery. And more importantly, we actually can bring those to fruition and implement them. And I think that's what really sets Ireland apart in terms of that if you want to call it that human capital and intellect that we have from from an engineering and the process perspective,

Dusty Rhodes  19:15

quality people then might sum it up, but quality people come with quality price tags, how do we make ourselves competitive on the on the financial side?

Michael Lohan  19:23

Yes. So so you're correct, though. Quality doesn't it's not about being expensive. I think there's a cost associated quality and that cost brings value. And when we look at your if we think about the the workforce and activities that's happened in Ireland, you know, we have some we have products everything from if you want to call it almost disposable consumer products that are manufactured in Ireland, but are manufactured, highly automated, digitize so therefore the unit cost is controlled and managed so so that's where technology can come to the fore where expertise can come to the fore and the tinkers while the other side. Just remember that, you know, talented people bring new innovations and new products to market, as well. So So you have that balance between, you know, its value versus cost. But you also rice, you know, we also have to be mindful of competitiveness, because I go back to my earlier conversation, we have to compete. And, you know, not just greenfields, investments are competed for every investment is competed for, whether it's an expansion, whether it's a new mandate, all of those have to be competed for. So therefore, competitiveness and material, our competitiveness, and productivity is key to us.

Dusty Rhodes  20:33

It's a really good point. And I'm going to ask you this about the perspective of somebody who's working in engineering, and they're looking at their salary, or they want to move up the ladder or something like that, instead of looking at the dollar cost, or the euro cost, or whatever it happens to be, should you be kind of thinking about, well, what is the value that I'm bringing, rather than the price? So what everything you were saying there? Does it apply just as much to the human being?

Michael Lohan  20:57

When, you know, I think, let's be honest, our good friend, our Excel spreadsheets will only measure one dimension, which is cost. We're all familiar with that. Right? Yeah. And we could be subject to data. In fact, we have, I may have done it myself on a few occasions. But that's one measure, right. And when we go back to it, that can also we as Ireland, let's be honest, we've moved, as I said earlier, you're our our proposition in Ireland is very different now than it was 10 years ago, 15 years ago, our proposition is based on innovative products, innovative people delivering high quality and therefore bringing high margin and value to your business. And let's be honest, that doesn't come for free, nor show this, I think there's a value in that. And I think that's what you we have to assess and, and be conscious of is that, that ultimately, where that actually, if you want to call it where the rubber hits the road, for industry is when you see the investments, and you see the scale of investment and the brands that are investing in Ireland, it doesn't matter whether you're in life sciences, or in technology or in financial services, you know, those brands are investing here because they see value creation, they see impact on moral more so as wide as remember is, they're also seeing real leadership skills that they are developing in Ireland and leading from Ireland being deployed across their organizations globally as well. So so value comes in many different forms is not just product or service. It's also people as leadership as delivery as

Dusty Rhodes  22:21

I've noticed that myself a that, you know, kind of there's certain customers who are kind of they're watching the pennies are particularly when you're looking at a business to consumer kind of stuff, like you know, but when you're dealing with large brands and large multinational companies, I don't want to say that they're not penny pinchers. But it doesn't mean that they are Flowdock with it with with a cash they do watch where they're spending it, but they do value value, strain sentence, but I get what you're saying,

Michael Lohan  22:47

I get what you're saying. I'm not saying that they're going to spend every dime, they have rice to do that. Right. But But there's a difference between cost and value. And I think once if you end up in under cost argument, okay? That's that's never a good position. No matter who you are, or where you are, you have to be in the value side. And so the question is, how we bring value, what that value looks like, how you monetize it, how you deliver us? Yeah, that's

Dusty Rhodes  23:13

exactly what I'm hoping people might think about after listening to the podcast, and kind of continuing then on that strand of thinking, trend, thinking about people's careers and stuff like that. Do you think we need more emphasis on upskilling? And continuous learning within engineering?

Michael Lohan  23:29

I would think so. Yeah. And the bonus, I could say this from a point of my own experience. You know, it's a bit like you, you come through an engineering discipline or engineer, or course, and no, I gotta say this, no, it might be controversial, but we tend to do a lot of hours or more in, in our academic cycle, maybe in comparison to other others. So there's, it's a heavy, it's a heavy workload, that heavy commitment. And most people when they come out of getting their primary degree or whatever, are actually said, I'm done. Thanks very much. I don't want to see another another piece of textbook. But the harsh reality of it is I think what's important is if we want to evolve ourselves, the important thing is that there's always areas of new knowledge, we can add that I'm not saying you have to go back and do for Masters in the role. And because I wouldn't wish that on anyone. But what I do think there's lots of things you can add to her, either your to bring you personal development. And the case is, for example, if I go back to my own example, know, I mentioned Nortel Networks. As part of Nortel Networks, I got an opportunity to have some personal development rooted on the business school. It exposed me to elements of business models of economics, you know, which, if I'm honest, I really wasn't exposed to before and in any real sense. And that just gives me a different perspective on the world as well in terms of what makes the world tick, how things are connected together. And I would encourage anyone, no matter where you are in your career, and in fact, I'm no different today than I was 10 or 15 years ago. I have to continue to be curious I have to continue to look to Where I can I can, I suppose, add additional strengths to my offering. And that's something we should continue to do. And I think, as a population, we may not be the strongest advocates of lifelong learning. But we certainly should be. And I certainly would, because I think, as I look back myself at the moment, you know, and they don't all have to be, if you want to call it certified creditors, there's lots of areas you can do from a personal development bank's perspective. And of course, there's lots of other areas you can bring in, in terms of, you know, wellness, you know, diversity, there's lots of other elements that can complement your, your base skills, your technical skills, r&d, job leadership skills.

Dusty Rhodes  25:39

So are you telling me that Michael, that as the CEO of one of the biggest state agencies, with the idea that you at the top there are also thinking of upskilling and continuous learning for yourself?

Michael Lohan  25:48

Oh, I certainly am. Yeah, so so so that personal development plan is important that the challenge, which it is, of course, for all of us is carving out the time, and let's be honest, to do that. And that can be a challenge. And that's where you have to be disciplined, you know, uncertainly, that's something that I've you know, I have to do myself is I have to set out, realistically, one or two elements that I can do over probably a 24 or 36 month period, I'm not going to do any more than that. So I just need to be realistic and be targeted.

Dusty Rhodes  26:19

Tell me about STEM subjects, because you mentioned that earlier, and kind of one of the things that I hear in engineering is trying to get talent into the industry is just a nightmare. But trying to get female talent into the industry is is just crazy. Where are we? Where do we stand from your point of view? Where do we stand with, you know, kind of females getting involved with STEM subjects? What's working? What isn't?

Michael Lohan  26:43

Where do we stand? I think we're making progress. But we have a long way to go. And to be truthful, as the father of two daughters, I failed miserably myself. So I'm in no position to, to to give advice, despite all of that. And why is that? And because, you know, again, I think we have to show this as a viable and open alternative. And I think, you know, again, I can give you from my own experience of this, I think, is that that's where the challenge is, it can't be seen to be a barrier it can't be seen to for young girls, we have to, we have to give your positive exposure to STEM subjects earlier, you know, the biggest problem is fear, or the total fear against some STEM subjects, you know, and then if you think about maths, you know, as to you know, others maths versus nosh and all those elements. But you know, we have to get away from that. And we have to sort of try and break down those perceptions or barriers that are there for all right, and I think it's particularly and the pronounced for females. And I think that's something we need to do more of now there is some great work happening as well, we have to recognize that, like the Irish group, in terms of foundation, in terms of what they're doing is fabulous, I attended the session, transit was a pre COVID or post COVID. I forget, but but in car, and it was it was brilliant to see all of those young, young students, female students, as part of a massive, you know, event in Cork, where you had multiple number of companies that are showing off the opportunities or the career progression, we need to do more of that. And I think when I say we, I think industry needs to help in that context as well, because I think the more we can get those messages out there. And the more we can show that there's a path here in terms of career, but more importantly, that there's our rewarding, fulfilling and diverse career that you can get through STEM subjects, you can design the next product that might be save a patient's life, no at one level, or you could create you could be you're constructing a major a major investment project, or infrastructure project, or indeed a component that goes into some part of a spacecraft. So there's everything in between in terms of that opportunity. The question is, are we telling the story strong enough, often enough? And are we showing enough leadership to make that happen?

Dusty Rhodes  28:59

And if I haven't, right, what I wish do is they're more or less kind of telling that story of STEM subjects in a positive light specifically to young women who are coming up through the secondary system and trying to get them into the third level of education. That's correct. Yeah. Good, good. Good. I wish that it is there is a website. Absolutely. Check it out. Because as Michael says, they've done some amazing stuff. And if you have an engineering firm, you might get involved. Only good things are gonna come out of it. However, Michael, I'm not gonna let you off the hook. Because you did say that in this area. You're a failure. Why?

Michael Lohan  29:29

Yeah, why? Yeah. Well, it's, it's interesting. Well, you haven't met my two daughters. Yeah, yeah. But but you know, why? And like everything else in life, right? I think I can't, like I or any other parent for that matter. And I can only speak for myself, right? My kids are can't be declared it wants to be they have to have their own career. And all I could do was try and provide them with with the options though, the both have actually gotten into education, that element so hopefully mic preamps that bring the next generation forward in that context. But you know, it's a bit like, I always got that when you might like that, or you might be good to have, but I'm not. And I'm like, Well, you can be, here's how you deal with but again, I think a hometown to the influence that you have early on in your career. And from my own perspective, I know that that, you know, we can all remember probably, that that teacher who actually helped us through and medicine, or helped us to understand ourselves physics, or chemistry, or maths or whatever it might be, right r&d, that lecture that actually, you know, it was that high moments, no, I got it, right, we have to create more of those moments, I think, for all of our young people, and especially for females and stem,

Dusty Rhodes  30:40

the thing I find about being a parent is that there is no book or there's no right or wrong, and you just you kind of you don't just learn your way through it, you struggle your way through it, and try and learn as best as I like, I completely get what you're talking about, like, you know, and you can just kind of guide them. And once once they're off doing whatever it is they're happy with. That's that's the main thing. But now that you've got a little bit of experience under your belt, how would you have done it differently with your daughters to try and maybe get them interested? Would you have done anything differently?

Michael Lohan  31:07

Yeah, if I'm honest, probably could have, you know, so. So it, maybe I could have done more, you know, outside of that call the formal educational system to expose them more to the opportunity, if possibly, I suppose though, the context is like, it's a bit like, in my experience, see, and it's probably better to and can if you want to call it teaching or preaching for the ones that are better Ward, so I think the more we can expose young young adults to the opportunity, and I'll give you an example, for that. I remember, my, my daughter has taken a trip as part of continued waving transition year. But actually, they ended up going to Microsoft's Office in Dublin and apostolic. Now, I tell you, I never heard more about Microsoft and the importance of it, because they were just blown away with everything in terms of the environment. But it probably was four years, two days, truth be told, that really probably needs to happen, in my view, probably earlier for those cohort because they probably had too many preconceptions and anti process. But stata had a major impact in terms of just the space, what to do with the technology that are deploying it, the more we can expose, at an earlier age, the possibilities and opportunities start to raise across our industry. spheres. I think the better I think there can't be a downside from that. Personally,

Dusty Rhodes  32:29

that is an absolutely brilliant point. Because I think transition year is an amazing year for anybody and as you say, just to open you up to new experiences, but the fact you are saying that it's too late, oh my God, you're right. They're teenagers of that stage, they already know everything. They have a grasp of the same things anyway. So if you had that, like, I mean, if you had a year, possibly between the end of primary before they go into secondary war, or maybe there was something in sixth class or something like that, where they were deliberately brought out on day trips to the likes of Microsoft, whatever it is, that that could be a thing.

Michael Lohan  33:05

It's like the young scientist space, you know, it's the area where you can I think the earlier we intervene, and know and it's not gonna be for everyone, right? Let's be honest, either, right? That's pointing to area we give exposure and give experience, the better chance we have of actually bringing that true, I would think so. So the more we can promote that, the more that, you know, I think if companies are listening this to my ask who says what, what can we do as an individual company that could, you know, tap into the six local schools around this as a starting point, and you know, have everyone done their six local schools, before long, every school would be covered. And you'd find that you'd have a network where things would start to move as to wanting to really happens in Ireland is, momentum can happen quite quickly. And connections happened very quickly in Ireland. So, you know, if, if that was the case, and we could get companies, as I say, taken on one or two or six spoons, whoever it might be, we could see a change in inside of it inside of a decade.

Dusty Rhodes  34:00

This is gonna have to stop you there because you give me way too many brilliant ideas. All right, let's get back to the IDA. One of the things that you're very passionate about is regional opportunities in Ireland and expanding outside of Dublin. Why?

Michael Lohan  34:19

Why What does the number of reasons why and I think first of all, from if we think about from a narrative perspective, getting balanced regional development is critically important for us as a state and as a nation and as as a culture and as a society and as I think we've seen the real benefits of that and it's amazing you look at the the growth of centers such as Galway Galway is a recognized center globally for medical device you know, it's incredible you know, that you know, we have we're competing with a Minnesota of the world is actually Galway is in that same in that same space in terms of scale and you look as you know, the western seaboard. glimmery transformation at aspect has happened in Limerick on the back of a number of key investments for trauma Life Sciences perspective and a financial services perspective has has really revolutionized the whole West Coast and the Midwest, in particular. So I think I can say the same for slide one says the same for Waterford in terms of doors investments, and indeed for the Midlands. So we've had really strong investment. And what does that do? It, it does a number of things, actually, first of all, if we think about what we just talked about the next generation of talent, it gives that next generation of talent opportunity actually to live and stay in their communities, it gives that opportunity for that talent actually, to be in their in their local, academic and, and universities. And that's why I think the current scale of our universities and regional universities are so important for us, as we look to technological universities to view the future, we now have clusters built across our regional areas, so that there's multiple benefits from a society perspective, from an economic perspective, and indeed, from an enterprise perspective, because it opens up all of that skill base that you can make available. And of course, then there's also the fact that, you know, it keeps communities vibrant. And it gives a counterbalance, as we know, to Dublin, and of course, the other elements we have to consider as well as in make sure that we can use all of our infrastructure across the country, you're in in an appropriate manner as well. So there are many, many benefits accruing from from having a balanced strategy, which we have from an FDI perspective

Dusty Rhodes  36:25

of all the FDI investment last year, what kind of percentage would you say went to Dublin and what percentage went outside?

Michael Lohan  36:31

Yeah, so we have says a public target actually, that we over this current strategy period of we will have 100 investments and total 400 of which will be in outside of Dublin, and we're currently tracking on are just slightly ahead of that figure. So, so 50% of our, what we're bringing into Ireland is actually outside of Dublin. And that said, I suppose we were probably the only agency to actually make that sort of commitment from a regional perspective, you know, so we put our color near their color to the mass and number of years ago, and that we've committed to DAX, and we've, we've put our money as well into that investment. So we've led off with, with our property program to make sure that we have your scholars are receiving an environment that actually attracts investment as well. So so making sure we have those business parks, making sure we have facilities ready for companies to go so. So like, it's not just enough to say if you actually have to deal with and we've led in the front from doing that as well, that continues to be successful for us. And that could continue to be our, our focus and over the over the next strategy term as well.

Dusty Rhodes  37:35

Finally, Michael, if you were to look back at yourself, and you were talking to your younger self, what what advice would you give yourself as a 20 or 25, or even a 30 year old?

Michael Lohan  37:47

I'd say the advice I give to myself is take every opportunity that comes and to actually trust yourself because you know, probably as you start your career, you have doubts as to you know, is that the right decision? Or should I speak here or you'll I think have trust in yourself. And I think the other thing is your advice to myself is learn as quickly as you can how to how to interact and engage with others because the success your success is going to be based on how you engage with your with your peers, how you can influence and negotiate. I think the more you can actually hone that area in your career, the more you can benefit from a clearer

Dusty Rhodes  38:26

Michael Lohan, CEO of the IDA and engineer thank you so much for talking to us today.

Michael Lohan  38:33

Thank you Dusty a pleasure.

Dusty Rhodes  38:35

If you'd like to find out more about Michael and some of the topics we talked about today, including iWish you'll find notes and links in the show notes area of your player right now. And of course for information on all engineering topics across Ireland and career development opportunities for yourself. There are libraries of information on our website at That's it for our episode today. The podcast was produced by for Engineers Ireland to click the Follow button on your podcast player so you get access to all our past and future shows automatically. Until next time from myself Dusty Rhodes. Thank you for listening