Careers in Cork: Engineering the right job for me... but I also make time for my art

As he concludes his Careers in Cork series, TIMOTHY O’MAHONY chats to Robert Lake, building services engineer and artist from Gurranabraher, now living in Glanmire
Careers in Cork: Engineering the right job for me... but I also make time for my art

Robert Lake from Gurranabraher, living in Glanmire, with partner 

ROBERT Lake is originally from Gurranabraher and now living in Glanmire with his partner and child.

During the week he works as a BIM Project Manager for an Engineering company based in Little Island, while also making time for his passion of art, creating contemporary paintings under the name ‘Yekal Art’.

Here he tells us more...

How did you end up on the  engineering path?

When it came to filling out the CAO, I was 16 and unsure what I wanted to do with myself. It’s crazy now to look back and think that we ask kids of 16/17 to make decisions on their careers so young that will have such an impact on the rest of their lives.

I think when it comes to my own child or what I’d recommend to anyone is to take a bit of time after the Leaving Certificate to really do some research/work experience on a variety of career paths, you’ve plenty of time.

I had an interest in construction and my father worked as a fitter and he said why not look at working on the other side of things and pick up a degree rather than picking up the tools straight away.

I graduated college in 2011 with an honours degree in building services engineering just as Ireland was still reeling from the recession. I jumped on a plane to Melbourne with a friend. After some time spent working in call centres and picking fruit on farms, I got a start with an engineering consultant’s as a junior drafter.

I’ve been lucky since then to work with some amazing people and companies here in Cork, in Australia and New Zealand. I think my time spent in those offices and construction sites abroad working with people from different backgrounds from all over the world still stands to me today.

The best thing about your work?

Every day looks different and every project has a learning curve that forces me out of my comfort zone, picking up lots of experience along the way.

Every project comes with a new project team with different personalities/abilities and experience so it’s always interesting to navigate those waters. I think the variety and fast-paced nature of the job keeps me focused and interested.

With regards to my art, it’s either seeing my artwork improving over the years compared to when I started back in 2019, or when I’m handing over a commissioned piece to a client knowing I’ve managed to capture what they wanted.

It’s mad to sit back and think of the pieces I created hanging on people’s walls in their homes.

The Day-to-Day Routine

The engineering work involves leading the digital pre-construction efforts for building services projects mainly across Europe and here in Ireland. We co-ordinate the mechanical and electrical services in buildings in a 3D space to assist and help improve the construction of these services on site.

As a project manager, I look at my role as the middle man and team/project facilitator. 

I pull the relevant people together and try to ensure that everyone has the information they need to progress the project through to its completion.

 Sounds vague, I know, but each day can be massively different depending on client/team needs, phase of the projects and problems that come up. A lot of the day is jumping on calls with my team, reviewing 3D models and finding solutions to issues.

The Biggest Challenge

I find the biggest challenge of my day and my week is time. When a project is in full flow, a thousand and one things are on my list and emails are building up. The hardest part is prioritising what needs to get done this minute/this hour or what can wait until tomorrow. I’m gradually learning how to say ’no’ where needed. I find keeping a note pad and prioritising my to do list daily and allocating slots in the day just for emails helps.

I found reaching out for help when needed massive for me also, there’s only so much one person can get done and usually there’s plenty of people out there only willing to help to get something over the line.

Robert Lake with some of his art work.
Robert Lake with some of his art work.


To unwind, when I’m not spending time with family/friends or walking the dog, I’ll try to squeeze in some form of exercise for 30 minutes and meditate for 15 minutes every day. I don’t always get the time but if I can manage it 4/5 times a week I’m usually doing well. It’s as much for the head as the body at this stage. I’m training to run the Dublin marathon this year for Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind so the 30 minutes exercise is steadily growing as the kilometres build up.

I’m incredibly lucky that my main hobby/ passion outside of work is art, when I throw on some music and pick up a paintbrush I can disappear for hours without realising it, and I find it unbelievable for my mental health.

Having such a busy and at times demanding 9-to-5 means I really need to find a healthy balance where possible in my weeks.

I shut down the laptop at the end of a working day and leave it all in the office. I don’t always manage it, but find when I’m structured and consistent in my exercise, sleep and diet, everything else seems to flow well.


I’ve recently become a father to my son Teddy and this summer my partner Jen and I are tying the knot, so my weekends are usually spent rolling around the floor playing with toys, watching Blue’s Clues or going through costs on an excel sheet, I had no idea what flowers actually cost.

I try catch up with friends and families then where I can, Monday-Friday with a 10-month old usually means the evenings need to be pretty structured and routine.


There has been a couple of people who have helped me over the years in terms of navigating the engineering and construction world. Mick Cremen and Conor O’Driscoll in particular have been great over the years.

I’d recommend to anyone when starting out in a career, or even if you’ve plenty of experience, if someone knows something you don’t know, reach out and always ask questions. There’s no such thing as a stupid question and most people are delighted to pass on knowledge and experience.

Aims, Ambitions and the Future

Career-wise, I’ve been lucky to see my job steadily move in the right direction since day one, so for now I am completely content with my position. I’m challenged enough, gaining enough experience, and there’s enough variety day to day, week to week.

On the art side, I definitely have goals and ambitions when it comes to where I want to see it grow to. 

When it comes to social media and promoting your work to a larger audience, I’ve found you can get caught up and distracted by it and can waste time tracking numbers, so this year I’m focusing back on the art itself.

Recently, I’ve found a degree of confidence in the pieces I am creating, I want to build on this and create bigger and better pieces from here playing with different styles and mediums. In terms of where that takes me, consistency is key, the rest will look after itself and opportunities tend to appear if you’re open to them.

What’s Coming Up?

This year, I have some really interesting commissions in the pipeline and a website that I’ll be launching in the coming months.

It’s funny, it turns out the easy part is creating a painting, the difficult part is the business management/social media side of things. Apart from putting paint on a canvas, I need to be a photographer, videographer, website designer, content creator and accountant.

Anyone looking for a custom piece of art for themselves, family or friends can drop me a message on Instagram or Facebook or my email below and we can have a chat.

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