DEIRDRE Woodrow, the co-founder of O’Gorman Architectural Services, shares her remarkable journey from West Cork to Clare where she has established a busy engineering practice.

Despite encountering obstacles, including failing maths in her Leaving Cert, Deirdre’s passion and determination propelled her towards success in a male-dominated field.

Deirdre’s story is one of defying expectations. Born in West Cork and later relocating to Waterford and then Shannon where she went to the Comp as a teenager, her childhood was steeped in construction and engineering, thanks to her father’s influence who worked for Cork County Council and then McInerney Construction. However, uncertainty loomed as she approached adulthood, unsure of her career path. “It was a chance encounter with a Fás course offering training as a drafts man that ignited her passion.

“I didn’t know what I want ed to do when I was in school or when I left school,” Deir dre reflects. “Mam enrolled me in an administration course but as soon as the career guidance councillor mentioned that opportunity [a draftsman course], I was the first to put my hand up, I knew it was meant for me. It’s a job I love and I’m eternally grateful that I work in a job that I love where I meet different people every day and do different things every day.”

Her journey took her across continents, from London to Australia, New Zealand, and America, before returning to London to pursue a degree in engineering. However, the birth of her son, Luke, marked a turning point, prompting her to return to her roots in Ennis in 2004 and establish her own architectural services firm alongside her dad.

“I built a house in Clooney and we had no internet so I had to set up the office at my parents’ house where my dad, Sean O’Gorman, and I start ed working together. The rest is history in the making. It was pretty daunting to begin with as I’d always worked for someone else but being self-employed allowed me a degree of flexibility in terms of working hours which was great when Luke was younger.”

O’Gorman Architectural Services offers a range of ser vices, including planning ap plications, BER assessments and engineering consultations. Deirdre’s expertise extends to advising clients on energy-efficient upgrades for their homes, reflecting her deep commitment to sustainability and environmental consciousness. Despite facing challenges as a woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry, Deirdre remains undeterred. “People can call me anything,” she says with a smile. “But I’ve always believed that passion and dedication transcend whether you are a man or a woman, young or old.”

Her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs and young women echoes her own journey of perseverance. “Don’t let exam results define you,” Deirdre emphasizes. “I’m an engineer who failed maths in the Leaving Cert. When I did the Fás course in Limerick I also took maths grinds every Saturday morning where we lived on Francis Street in Ennis. Bill Clohessy who was a teacher in Rice College came over to our house every Saturday morning to teach me maths so that I could re-sit Leaving Cert maths the following year which I did. Thanks to him I got my maths in the Leaving Cert, albeit a year later.

“My advice to anyone who is doing the Leaving Cert is – there’s always time. I know students are under fierce pressure these days around exams & results, particularly in the senior cycle at school but, if at all possible, try not to get too bogged down or upset by results if they don’t go your way on the day. You can always repeat and/ or reconsider your options. College isn’t for everyone. I was lucky my employer sponsored my degree and I had the best of both worlds as I worked four days a week then went to college one day and two evenings a week. So while I was learning the theory I was also working the reality of engineering. For me it definitely made learning the theory a lot easier. In a way I suppose it was similar to an apprenticeship. I was also very lucky to have worked with fantastic men tors along the way.”

“Also, travel the world if you can, it’s the best education you’ll ever get. There are so many pathways to get to different places in life.”

Deirdre says the “doing a good job” energises her most in her work. “I did a BER yesterday for a lady and today she sent me an email saying, ‘I can’t tell you how much you’ve put me at ease by your advice’. We all like to be appreciated I suppose, but feeling like I’ve done the best job I can do for people is important.”

Whether cheering on her son at Avenue United soccer matches or indulging in downtime with her favourite soap operas, Deirdre finds satisfaction in the simple things of life.

“I played Gaelic Football years ago and loved it. I played in London with Clan na Gael Ladies Gaelic football team where I made friends for life. I used to play a lot of tennis, squash and basketball too. My playing days are long behind me now so now my downtime is usu ally with a good book (crime mainly – I think I’d have been a good detective in another life) or watching tv. It’s just switch-off time. My son plays soccer and I love going to the games although I know he doesn’t love me going so much as I can be quite vocal at times!”

Reflecting on her remarkable journey, Deirdre remains grateful for every challenge as each and every one has been a lesson.”

As she continues to inspire the next generation of female leaders in the engineering industry, Deirdre’s story serves as a testament to the power of perseverance, passion, and self-belief.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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