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‘The sky is your starting point, not your limit’

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To mark International Women in Engineering Day, women in the field are focused on encouraging the next generation.

The future is bright for Ireland’s budding engineers, but only with increased opportunities for women is the consensus from most quarters of Ireland’s engineering community.

The good news is women engineers are more likely to agree that engineering is a rewarding career choice for young people than their male counterparts.

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According to a report by Engineers Ireland, 84pc of women engineers agreed that engineering is a rewarding career choice, with 71pc confident about job opportunities in Ireland.

Not everything in the report was positive, however. Women represent only 12pc of the engineering profession, despite many Irish women engineers’ best efforts to increase the appeal of a career in the field.

Prof Orla Feely, president of Engineers Ireland urged the Irish engineering community as a whole to play an active part in nurturing female talent.

Orla Feely, Engineers Ireland. Image: Orla Murray/Coalesce

“Whether early career engineers or senior leaders, all engineers should play their role as allies for their female counterparts. By working together, we can nurture our future engineering talent and also help female engineers create a clear pathway for progression, so they remain in academia and industry,” she said.

‘This is not a male-only industry’

But the problem remains that not enough women are attracted to careers in engineering to restore the gender imbalance within the industry.

Shauna Ryan, HR manager with software integration firm, SL Controls, says that although the company is making a concerted effort to hire female engineers, the number of women applying for roles such as systems engineers and validation engineers is still low.

“We are actively trying to target and attract females to our roles but the effort to get more women into engineering needs to happen earlier – in our schools and at home,” she said.

“Very little has been done to explain to young people – especially young girls – how much engineering has evolved over the last 20 years. We want to get young people excited about, and interested in, engineering.”

Software quality engineer, Saoirse Kearse, and systems engineer, Blessing Nwachukwu, who both work at SL Controls feel the same. Their industry’s gender imbalance has been obvious to them since their university days.

Nwachukwu studied a master’s in mechatronics at University of Limerick (UL), and she said it was positive in terms of attitude and support. “However, the gender balance in terms of class makeup was still weighted heavily towards males.”

Kearse agreed, saying there were only four girls out of 60 in her college class, but that more girls were starting to apply in the years after she started.

“The stereotype of engineering being for men is gone. This is not a male-only industry. I find a lot of encouragement and support, not because I am female, but because I want to succeed.”

To mark International Women in Engineering Day, Engineers Ireland is calling on Ireland’s female engineering talent to take centre stage as role models to inspire future generations of engineers like Kearse and Nwachukwu.

Feely also praised the work of some of Ireland’s best-known women engineers, including Dr Ann Kelleher and Ann-Marie Holmes of Intel, as well as Prof Linda Doyle, who recently became the first woman to be elected provost at Trinity College Dublin.

“These engineers are making a positive impact on our lives today, and their work will continue to create a lasting impact on society for generations to come,” said Feely.

Several of Ireland’s high-profile women engineers got involved in events across the country organised by Engineers Ireland for International Women in Engineering Day, including a panel discussion on rethinking work culture and a Q&A session with STEPS Ambassador and NASA datanaut Fionnghuala O’Reilly.

For its part, SL Controls is due to set up a programme for schoolchildren aged 11 to show them what being an engineer is all about.

Ryan said the company hopes the effort will encourage more students – both male and female – to take up STEM subjects in secondary school and consider engineering as a career.

Giving advice to young women following in her footsteps, Nwachukwu said: “Once you make up your mind, you need to stand your ground. You don’t need to act like a man. You need to have a passion for engineering. You need to have a purpose. I am thankful I am an engineer.

“You have to find out what that is for you, and you have to pursue it, not allowing anything to stop you along the way. When you do, it is very rewarding. For young females, the sky should be your starting point, not your limit,” she said.

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Google, Apple and Microsoft report record-breaking profits | Google

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Google, Apple and Microsoft reported record-breaking quarterly sales and profits on Tuesday night as the firms continue to benefit from a pandemic that has created a “perfect positive storm” for big tech.

Apple made a $21.7bn (£15.6bn) profit for the three-month period that ended in June, its best fiscal third quarter in its 45-year history, boosted by strong sales of the iPhone 12 and growth in its services business.

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, reported second-quarter revenue of $61.8bn (£44.5bn), a 62% increase on the same period a year earlier, and a profit of over $18.5bn (£13.3bn), more than twice its profits for the same period last year. The company’s advertising revenues rose 69% from last year.

Microsoft, too, beat expectations, reporting revenues of over $46bn (£33bn) for the quarter – a rise of 21% compared to the same quarter last year.

The results come after Tesla reported a record profit on Monday in one of the busiest ever weeks for quarterly US earnings results. The big tech blowout earnings continue with Facebook on Wednesday and Amazon on Thursday.

Collectively, the market value of Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook is now worth more than a third of the entire S&P 500 index of America’s 500 largest traded companies, as their share prices have soared during the pandemic.

Thomas Philippon, an economist and professor of finance at New York University, said big tech firms have been the biggest economic winners from the pandemic as global lockdowns have pushed more businesses and consumers to use their services.

“They were already on the rise and had been for the best part of a decade, and the pandemic was unique,” Philippon said. “For them it was a perfect positive storm.”

Analysts at Morgan Stanley reckon Alphabet is on course to achieve full-year net income of $65bn, a 59% increase on 2020. Its annual sales are, the bank reckons, on track for $243bn – a $60bn increase on last year.

Alphabet’s shares have risen by 75% in the past year to a record $2,670, but analysts predict they could climb higher still despite regulators around the world threatening to curb its dominance of the internet search market. Morgan Stanley said the stock could reach as high as $3,060, and even under a worse case scenario is unlikely to fall below $1,800.

Morgan Stanley analyst Brian Nowak said pandemic lockdowns had boosted Google as consumers spent more time online researching potential purchases. He said survey data showed that 54% of retailers ranked Google search products, including YouTube, as “their first place to go to research products online, up from 50% in past surveys”.

“Google websites growth is likely to rebound in ’21 as we believe there are several underappreciated products driven by mobile search, strong YouTube contribution, and continued innovation, such as Maps monetisation,” Nowak said in a note to clients.

Apple has been making so much money that over the past eight years it has bought back $421bn worth of shares, but it still has about $80bn of cash sitting on its balance sheet.

When Microsoft reported a 31% rise in profits at its last quarterly results, its chief executive, Satya Nadella, said it was “just the beginning” as the shift to digital technology was “accelerating” fast.

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The share price rise of the big tech firms has made billions for their super-rich founders and early investors. Forbes magazine calculated recently that there are now 365 billionaires who made their fortunes in technology, compared with 241 before the pandemic.

Collectively, the world’s tech billionaires hold personal fortunes of $2.5tn, up 80% on $1.4tn in March 2020. Amazon’s founder and chief executive, Jeff Bezos, remains the world’s richest person with an estimated $212bn fortune, and is closely followed in the league table of the wealthy by Tesla co-founder Elon Musk with $180bn, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates with $151bn, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg with about $138bn.

Zuckerberg believes the internet will take on an even bigger role in people’s day-to-day lives in the future, and instead of interacting with it via mobile phones people will be immersed via virtual reality headsets.

He said Facebook would transition from a social media platform to a “metaverse company”, where people can work, play and communicate in a virtual environment. Zuckerberg said it would be “an embodied internet where instead of just viewing content – you are in it”.

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Scam-baiting YouTube channel Tech Support Scams taken offline by tech support scam • The Register

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The Tech Support Scams YouTube channel has been erased from existence in a blaze of irony as host and creator Jim Browning fell victim to a tech support scam that convinced him to secure his account – by deleting it.

“So to prove that anyone can be scammed,” Browning announced via Twitter following the attack, “I was convinced to delete my YouTube channel because I was convinced I was talking [to YouTube] support. I never lost control of the channel, but the sneaky s**t managed to get me to delete the channel. Hope to recover soon.”

To fool Browning, the ruse must have been convincing: “I track down the people who scam others on the Internet,” he writes on his Patreon page. “This is usually those ‘tech support’ call frauds using phone calls or pop-ups. I explain what I do by guiding others in how to recognise a scam and, more importantly, how to turn the tables on scammers by tracking them down.”

Browning has made a name for himself with self-described “scam baiting” videos, in which he sets up honeypot systems and pretends to fall for scams in which supposed support staffers need remote access to fix a problem or remove a virus – in reality scouring the hard drive for sensitive files or planting malware of their own.

“I am hoping that YouTube Support can recover the situation by 29th July,” Browning wrote in a Patreon update, “and I can get the channel back, but they’ve not promised anything as yet. I just hope it is recoverable.”

Whether Browning is able to recover the account, and the 3.28 million subscribers he had gathered over his career as a scam-baiter, he’s hoping to turn his misfortune into another lesson. “I will make a video on how all of this went down,” he pledged, “but suffice to say, it was pretty convincing until the very end.”

Tech support scams have been going on for about as long as people have needed technical support, but a report published by Microsoft last month suggested the volume may be declining. The same report found that the 18-37 age group was the most likely to fall victim – and that 10 per cent of those surveyed had lost money to a scammer.

YouTube was approached for an explanation of how deleted accounts could be restored and what precautions it has in place to prevent its users – even those with considerable experience in the field of con-artistry – from falling victim to tech support scams, but was unable to provide comment in time for publication.

Browning did not respond to a request for comment. ®



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Orion the humpback whale ‘a dream sighting’ for marine observers

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A member of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group spotted the humpback whale while out conducting a survey on marine life off the Donegal coast.

Marine mammal observer Dr Justin Judge described the moment he spotted a lone humpback whale off the coast of Donegal as “a dream sighting.”

Judge spotted the whale at 9.30 on the morning of 9 July while representing the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) on board the Marine Institute’s RV Celtic Explorer.

The group of researchers and observers was out on the waters around 60 kilometres north-northwest of Malin Head when they saw the whale. They were carrying out the annual Western European Shelf Pelagic Acoustic (WESPAS) survey.

“This is a dream sighting for a marine mammal observer,” Judge said. He explained that the creature would be nicknamed Orion – which had a personal meaning for Judge and his family.

“The individual humpback whale ‘Orion’ has been named after the Greek mythological hunter, since the whale was moving with the fish stocks for food. It is also my son’s middle name so fitting on both fronts,” Judge said.

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He added that the team had also observed “a lot of feeding action from a multitude of cetacean species that day, including bottlenose, common, Risso’s and white-sided dolphins, grey seals and minke whales.”

To date, the IWDG has documented 112 individual humpback whales in Irish waters since 1999, many of which are recorded year after year. Humpback whales are frequent visitors to Irish waters as they are an ideal feeding area for humpback whales stopping off in the area on their migration across the Atlantic.

The beasts are identifiable thanks to the distinctive pattern on the underside, which is unique to every individual whale.

“Observing any apex predator in its natural environment is exciting but a new humpback whale for Irish waters, this is special,” WESPAS survey scientist, Ciaran O’Donnell of the Marine Institute said.

The Marine Institute’s WESPAS survey is carried out annually, and surveys shelf seas from France northwards to Scotland, and west of Ireland. WESPAS is the largest single vessel survey of its kind in the Northeast Atlantic, covering upwards of 60,000 nautical miles every summer. The survey is funded through the European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund under the Data Collection Programme which is run by the Marine Institute.

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