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STEM and the art of the perfect pint


Sinead Flannery

Process Brewer, Diageo

Brewing has become a vast, technical, automated process and in doing so offers huge opportunities for STEM students to create a unique career. We hear from two women working at one of the world’s largest drinks producers, Diageo.

“I work in the fermentation brewing plant as a process brewer, looking after the maturation and the clarification of the beer. It is a large-scale process, the opposite of craft beer, and fully automated, so I am also responsible for the cleaning and hygiene of the plant, and I control the intake of chemicals used to clean the plant.

People tend to think my job is just sitting stirring a pot of Guinness!

“After my education, I joined as an intern, went on to work in the science lab and am now a brewer, as there are so many opportunities for career progression. People tend to think my job is on a smaller scale than it is: they think I’m sitting stirring a pot of Guinness! But everything is automated.

“In my daily life, no two days are the same; each is unique. We start with a handover from the previous team, which is the most important part, as it sets you up for the day. We talk to the different departments, such as engineering, so it’s a social role too.

“Organising decisions is a priority, as is problem solving. For example, at 4am, a piece of plant equipment may stop working. We use root cause analysis and root cause problem solving to boost our efficiency and I am currently doing a Master of Tasting course.

“The coolest thing about the job is that the brewery is iconic, and we distribute to 150 countries so, no matter where I go in the world, people know the brand. The scale is such that we brew over three million pints of Guinness a day.”


Siobhan Smyth

Apprentice Instrumentation Engineer, Diageo

“I am an apprentice instrumentation electrician, traditionally a male-dominated role, which involves commissioning, testing and maintaining various systems. I shadow a qualified electrician to know what to expect in my future career.

“When people hear I’m an electrician, they think of the stereotype: changing light sockets in a domestic setting. It is a biased view, completely different from what I actually do, which is to control the whole process of brewing from brew to ferment to keg. All the plants I work in are completely different and my job involves recording temperature, pressure and so on. When we are walking around the plants, part of the job is to check that there are no breakdowns and the process can be continued.

People immediately think of the stereotype: changing light sockets.

“It’s an exciting role. I start the day with a morning meeting and we have a long list to go through, assigning jobs for the day. Then I go to the relevant plant to work on the system, checking temperature, calibrations and pressure flow. When I am calibrating temperature, there are two of us: one on the plant floor and a second upstairs on a computer to bring up the details of the machine we are working on. We calibrate at varying temperatures and record the measurements. If a machine breaks down we get it up and running again, although it’s a temporary fix.

“The apprenticeship also involves going to college. The best part of the job is that that the company is a huge part of Irish history and I’m part of that.”

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