Ruairí Ryan, associate director of operations with Kirby Group Engineering, believes a strong work ethic will get you anywhere you want to be.
The Limerick man’s career began when he walked around the corner from his home and started an apprenticeship at an office in Thomondgate.
“It was Kirby’s original headquarters, which was focused solely on electrical work at the time. There were about 20 of us in a place where two older houses had been joined together,” Ryan said.
Twenty-five years later, Ryan is returning as business unit leader to the Munster region at Raheen Business Park, which became the company’s headquarters in 2001.
Kirby Group Engineering now has an annual turnover of €360 million, employs more than 1,200 people directly and has over 2,400 people deployed across Europe.
As well as a full range of mechanical and electrical engineering and contracting services, the company has built a strong reputation for its specialist high and medium-voltage design and construction work.
Kirby’s portfolio includes successful projects across a range of sectors including data centres, life sciences, industrial, commercial, substations and renewables.
In his 25 years with the company, Ryan has held apprentice, electrician, foreman, project manager and associate director posts, before being appointed to his current role.
Along the way, he has managed some of the family-owned company’s largest and most complex engineering projects across different sectors.
Ryan’s experience has brought him all over Ireland and Britain. Still, he’s relishing the latest opportunity to return to his home city.
“I’ve always been proud of where I came from, and now is a really exciting time to be in Limerick,” Ryan said.
“We’re seeing the interest growing within the industries where we work – the arrival of Edward Lifesciences, Regeneron, Ortec and more show that enterprise recognises the value of the offering here.
“The IDA are doing a really good job supporting FDI companies who are thinking of coming into Limerick and the wider Midwest. They’re showcasing the talent on offer from the region and the key infrastructure that’s there to help their business to succeed. All this is supported by the University of Limerick and LIT, which makes Limerick and Midwest region a great place to do business.”
Kirby Group Engineering has experienced significant growth in recent years and now operates in seven countries across Europe, with some of the largest industry names in the world.
However, the emphasis on company values remains unchanged. “Repeat business is a major part of Kirby’s operations,” Ryan said.
“Take Limerick as an example – the companies I had the opportunity to work with in my apprentice days like University of Limerick, Dell, Kostal, Analog Devices – we’re still working with them almost 25 years later. That speaks to the value we put on service, as one of the five core values everyone at Kirby works towards”.
Those values – People, Safety, Quality, Delivery and Value – are placed at the centre of every Kirby project. As evidenced by the company’s recent ‘Investors in People’ award the company’s primary core value is People.
Scoring in the top 2 per cent of their category globally, the firm worked hard to reach its goal of platinum level accreditation.
Ryan believes his career is a good example of how Kirby supports its team members. “I’m only 42 and when I look around the industry, I can see I’m quite young to have reached this level within the company,” he said.
“That shows the faith Kirby puts in its team members. The mentoring I’ve had since I began my career has been fantastic.
“The board have put their faith in me at every stage and rewarded the hard work I’ve put into every project. I’ve led the largest and some of the most complex projects in Kirby’s portfolio in recent years across various sectors including data centres, semiconductor, industrial, life sciences and power generation.
“Some of these projects had up to 600 people at a time working on them and I’ve loved every minute. Now I’m enjoying the opportunities to mentor the next generations of teams coming up through the ranks”.
Kirby puts significant resources into supporting workers as they expand their skillset and knowledge. Many are signed up to undergraduate and postgraduate study as well as other professional training options.
The company has been investing heavily in its apprentice and graduate programmes for decades with most of the senior leadership team having begun their careers as apprentices and engineers.
Ryan sees his return to the Limerick office full time as an opportunity to give back as Kirby looks to grow the business from there.
“It’s a fantastic time to be in Limerick. I’ve worked in Dublin for the last number of years and it was a brilliant experience, but there’s nothing like having the chance to build up and promote business in your home town,” he said.
“I really believe people are starting to look outside Dublin for their lifestyle and career options. That will encourage more businesses to move here, as will the fact that the infrastructure to support their decision and their workers is already here and getting stronger all the time”.
Ryan points to the Limerick 2030 plan as evidence of the ambition that people and business have for the region.
“It’s really exciting to see the resources being put into the potential of Limerick and the Midwest with this plan,” he said.
“My own career is an example of how something can really flourish once it’s shown the right support and guidance.
“An important element of my role here in the Limerick office will be to strengthen Kirby’s existing relationships by supporting industry colleagues and also through our Corporate Social Responsibility activities with local clubs and schools within the community.
“Although we’re expanding across Europe nearly 60 years since Kirby was established, everyone here is proud that it all began in Limerick, where the future's looking brighter than ever.”