People of Intel - Katelyn Donnellan

Hear the stories of the people of Intel


  • April 19, 2024

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Katelyn Donnellan 
Software Enabling and Optimising engineer

Intel Ireland's campus in Leixlip has a population of thousands - equivalent to a typical Irish town - and filled with a vibrant, diverse and dynamic collection of people. Through the People of Intel series, we share their stories.

Katelyn Donnellan

Software Enabling and Optimising engineer

I grew up in a small Clare village called Kilkishen, and it’s still one of my favourite places to be. I feel really lucky to be able to combine my love of home and the West of Ireland with my passion for maths and science. That wouldn’t always have been possible.

From my earliest memories, I’ve always enjoyed problem solving and puzzles. Even in primary school I just found that side of subjects much easier than languages, for example. As soon as I started secondary school, I was also drawn to the maths and sciences. Interestingly, my three brothers have also followed the STEM path, although neither of my parents had that background. Perhaps since my dad owned a hardware store, he is also a problem solver for other people! My mum works as a Special Needs Assistant and one of my favourite things about working at Intel is the Mini Scientist competition and going into Primary Schools, so maybe I took a bit from both of them.

Even though I just found science and math more natural in school, I had no real idea what I might do with that. Perhaps because as a teenager, the only job I saw role modelled that I liked was teaching. I thought of that as a fall back, but it was my maths teacher who suggested that I look into engineering. Even then I didn’t really know what that might look like. For someone like me with no real exposure to the world of engineering, the course at the University of Limerick called Engineering Choice looked perfect as they offered the first semester as a taster of all kinds of engineering, before you had to make your specialisation. It really took away any doubts or pressure of having to know exactly what I wanted to be while I was studying for my Leaving Cert.

As soon as I started the course, I veered towards the Electronic and Computer Engineering. It felt brand new and interesting, but it was so important to be able to compare it to the other varieties in that term. Two years into my four year course, I applied for an eight month internship at Intel.  It really opened my eyes to the practicality of all the theory I was learning, and to see what a working environment felt like. It was also great fun. All the interns were part of a big competitive STEM challenge, where we spilt into teams and were given a problem to solve, from brainstorming to presenting our final idea. Our challenge was to make the site more interactive and fun, so we designed a musical staircase to play music as you walked up and down the steps.

I remember my first few days at Intel, feeling extremely nervous as I didn’t feel I’d learned enough to be working in this area. But they set us up with a Buddy System, and I soon realised the work wasn’t really a test, but an opportunity. My buddy was a great help to ramp up my learning and give me a place to go for help as it was very intimidating at first. As a student, I felt like a fraud, but that soon wore off. What I liked most about it was the novelty and the problem solving aspect which was just like the maths I did in secondary school, but this was so new and fresh. In a funny way, although I wasn’t drawn to language at school, computer engineering is all about programming language (with lots of maths which of course, I really love.)

I was lucky enough to come back and work at Intel during my summer holidays, and then was offered a full time job when I graduated. I had hoped to go travelling in Southeast Asia before starting but unfortunately COVID scuppered those plans for now. So, I started work under COVID restrictions and working remotely and was delighted to get back into a hybrid structure.

What surprised me most with the work is how much you are constantly learning. I worked on multiple areas and then got to experience so many types of work and people. There is so much to do external to your own teams at Intel. I was asked to join the Sports and Social Club where I am Treasurer, and so I help to organise the Christmas party and the summer BBQ, along with things like the book clubs, soccer clubs, yoga, HIIT, kayaking. It really exposes me to lots of other people in the business and helps to build my network.

My favourite days of work were the Mini Scientist event, going to primary schools and judging their science projects. Even when the kids come on site for the regional final, it’s really fun. I’d love to go back to my old university and encourage students to apply for the internships. It was such an empowering transition between study and work and really helped me figure out what I wanted to do.

With Intel Shannon being so close to home, I get to visit once a week, and see my mum and dad. I’m really grateful to be able to live here and be so close to my community and also be working at the cutting edge of the things I loved so much as a child - problem solving and puzzles.


Read more from of our People of Intel series.