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Emma McGahern on realising her potential with Mercury in Amsterdam
For Meath native Emma McGahern, a career in the construction industry was something she had never considered despite growing up adjacent to life in the sector- “My Dad has worked in construction his whole life, but I never envisioned myself being in the industry when I was growing up” she remarks.
The Environmental Health and Safety Advisor who took up a position with Mercury on a complex retrofit of a data centre project in Amsterdam almost a year ago describes her career journey over the past decade as “varied, with a lot of learning curves” but containing “more overlaps and similarities than you’d imagine,” she says with a light-hearted laugh. McGahern has “found a way to utilise a really diverse skillset, while thriving personally and professionally at Mercury, being given the chance to work as part of an industry leading EHS team on a complex project and experiencing a new culture living in the Netherlands.”
Despite working across several industries in positions, which “on a surface level couldn’t be more different” Emma has gained an appreciation for the versatility of a solid skillset. Having studied Property Management, she took up a position as a surveyor in Dublin for three and a half years before coming to a career standstill in early 2017- “I really enjoyed the work, but I found office life wasn’t for me and reached a point where I wanted to try something new.” After taking time away to travel, Emma decided to pivot careers and pursue a long-time passion of hers- to train as a pastry chef before going on to work in a café which she describes as “very different to everything I had done previously. I learned a lot about how to work with, manage and help all sorts of people, which would go on to serve me well in the construction industry.”
Realising her potential on a European scale
During the pandemic and struggling with the unsociable working hours and stressful nature of working in a kitchen, Emma started to brainstorm how she could combine her skills such as organisation and time management which she learned in property, and communication skills and working in a hands-on, practical environment which she developed working as a chef, into one role- “A lot of friends were working in construction and from speaking with them it became clear that safety was of growing importance in the industry. When I learned more about behavioural safety and how roles in this area involved educating people to better understand the importance of taking the correct approaches it sparked something in me and as I learned more about EHS it became clear that Mercury was the industry leader.”
After doing more research and consulting those she knew in the industry, Emma enrolled in a Postgraduate Diploma in Health and Safety in Construction and soon took up a position as an EHS Advisor with an Irish-based contractor in 2020, gaining experience on projects in Ireland, before making the move to Mercury and packing her bags for Amsterdam last Spring.
A driving factor in Emma’s move to Mercury was “the chance to work on challenging, leading-edge projects” while “getting the opportunity to expand my horizons personally with a move to mainland Europe.” She notes that the move was helped by “the really supportive culture on site, the whole project team were so accommodating, from my fellow EHS personnel who were on hand to answer any questions big or small, to our site admin who was so helpful with the logistical queries that are bound to come with a move to a new country.” Emma asserts that this support is something that sets Mercury apart for her and didn’t stop after she settled in- “Not only are you supported on your own project but at a big European company it’s rare to also feel that you have that high level of backing from senior management, which makes a difference.”
She instantly fell in love with everything Amsterdam has to offer, from its charming cobblestoned streets to the picturesque canals and thriving cultural scene, as well as its proximity to several other major cities in Europe. “One of my favourite things about living here is the biking culture. The infrastructure is in place, and it makes the city feel much smaller, the cycle into work is a refreshing start to the day and cycling home is a great way to relax.”
Developing a Work Safe, Home Safe mindset
The TU Dublin alum says that her time at Mercury has given her the opportunity to do something she values highly in her career- “I want to build on and expand my knowledge and skillset and at Mercury you are encouraged to become the best in your field, working on a really advanced project has helped me to become better at what I do.” McGahern is working on a retrofit project which she describes as “very unique and challenging at times- we are upgrading part of a data centre while the rest of the building is in operation, so safety is absolutely paramount with high voltage at play.” She notes that Mercury’s key safety procedures become even more important with higher risks when working adjacent to a live facility.
What does reaching Mercury’s Work Safe, Home Safe culture mean to Emma? “It’s about creating a culture on site where everybody is not only onboard, but understands why we take the steps we do, and luckily this is really supported from the top down across every project at Mercury. There are processes and procedures I help our teams to follow, but what I enjoy the most is working with them to adopt a safety-oriented mindset, particularly for our subcontractors who we may not have worked with before, because the impacts of unsafe working practices can be detrimental from cost, quality, and time impacts.”
Looking ahead to 2024, Emma is excited for what the future holds, “I’ve learned so much in a short space of time with Mercury and I’m excited for the year ahead and the chance to keep growing and be part of a company where premium safety standards are a fundamental component of every facet of the business.” “I couldn’t recommend Mercury enough” she continues, “In my experience you are working alongside the best team who support you, so the result is that there are opportunities to really advance your development and reach your full potential.”
Careers at Mercury
At Mercury, we value new talent to ensure we stay ahead and achieve the incredible. We provide our people with challenging opportunities to develop within a great team, and back them to realise their vision of themselves. If you are ready to make a bold next step in your career in 2024, view our available jobs here.