John Power, the 130th President of Engineers Ireland, talks to ICIM about embracing opportunities, why it’s important to get out of your comfort zone and what he’d like to achieve in his new role

Earlier this summer, John Power was inaugurated as the 130th President of Engineers Ireland. A graduate of engineering from UCD, John spent almost three decades at ESB, developing his expertise with roles in engineering management, marketing and corporate change before taking up roles as HR manager in ESB Networks, Executive Director in ESBI and finally, Head of ESB Corporate Affairs. Before joining ESB, he worked as a Technical Advisor at General Electric in the USA and South America.


“That was a great learning experience, both in terms of engineering and also just in terms of learning how to fend for myself. After three years, it was time to decide if I wanted to stay abroad or return home so in the end, I decided to come back to Ireland. I was lucky enough to get a job in ESB in 1978 and I ended up staying there for 30 years. I’m proud to have worked for a company that has done so much for Ireland. It has been the cornerstone of an enormous amount of development across the country.”

ESB afforded John the opportunity to experience lots of different facets of the company. “I worked in so many different areas at ESB and had the chance to get out of my comfort zone and be tested and challenged. Not everyone embraces that kind of opportunity when it comes along. My advice to young people would be, don’t be afraid to move on. The world opens up when you try something new.”

John is well placed to take up the role of President at Engineers Ireland. From 2007 to 2015, he held the role of Director General at the institution. Taking up such an important role at a time of economic uncertainty was, he says, an interesting move. “We were facing into a very difficult period as a country and indeed a difficult time for the broader engineering sector and in particular, the construction industry. In my eight years as Director General, I think we made a lot of progress; membership increased and the profile of the engineering sector was significantly enhanced.”

Emphasis was placed on improving standards of construction and ensuring significant projects were signed off by a Chartered Engineer. John’s work as Director General helped to enhance the profile of the profession by highlighting the contribution of engineering to the quality of all our lives. As an advocate for Registered Professional Titles, he promoted the title of Chartered Engineer and was instrumental in the inclusion of the CEng title in the revised building regulations.

He was also fundamental in raising the reputation of Irish engineering qualifications internationally and the requirement for a Master’s degree or equivalent, to secure the title of Chartered Engineer. “It was a challenging time but I believe that if something isn’t challenging, then it’s probably not worth doing. It was also very rewarding; I take pride in what we achieved throughout those years.”

After holding the role for eight years, John decided it was time to pass the baton onto somebody new. “It wasn’t good for me or for the organisation to remain in the role; it was time for a new person to come in with new ideas and a new way of thinking. When I left the role in 2015, I did an Executive Coaching course in UCD Smurfit Business School and today, I’m an accredited Senior Executive Coach with the European Mentoring and Coaching Council.” John works with individuals from all walks of life, across all industries, to help them understand where they are and support them in realising their career ambitions. He’s taking up the role of President at Engineers Ireland in another period of uncertainty.

“Let’s not back away from that uncertainty and not be afraid to address it. As engineers, we must influence politicians and decision-makers to deliver informed, evidence-based solutions in the best interests of the communities they serve and wider society.” When it comes to energy, our lack of self-sufficiency will become even more of an issue in the coming years, says John.

“Until we get renewables up to scale – and that scale is enormous – we will not be self-sufficient. Quite clearly, we need to get away from fossil fuels but we can’t just drop them. That transition needs to be managed sensitively and properly and influencing decision-making around that is important. As President, I’ll be working with our engineering community who are critical to developing the kind of creative and sustainable solutions that will benefit our society.”

Engineering is the best primary degree for anybody to pursue, says John. Problem-solving is at the heart of the formation of all engineers, i.e. assessing the various options and figuring out the right route to take. That kind of training is invaluable in all walks of life.

“For students who aren’t sure what they want to do in college or indeed in life, I would recommend they consider engineering. College isn’t for everyone and there are other options such as apprenticeships that also provide excellent careers. I’ve had so many opportunities throughout my career; some have been great, some have been tough and some haven’t worked out as originally planned. But the important thing is that you learn from every experience and I have had great fun along the way.”

As the newly-elected President of Engineers Ireland, John and the team will focus their efforts on the following:

•Further raising the profile of the engineering profession
•Encouraging expert members to publicly voice their opinions on the critical challenges we all face including climate change, sustainability, transport, water and wastewater management, renewables, nuclear power, biomedical advances and AI
•Who and what should Engineers Ireland represent in the years ahead and what might this body look like in five or 10 years’ time? •The inappropriate use of the title of “Engineer”
•How to entice a greater number of members to be more active in Engineers
•How will an ever-evolving profession fit within Engineers Ireland and defining the scope of its representation
•Further promote the value and necessity of Chartership.


Denise Maguire   Editor of Irish Construction Industry Magazine & Plan Magazine