People Spotlight: Darragh Hoban

09 February 2023

In our latest People Spotlight, we caught up with Darragh Hoban, Project Manager, who is helping push forward our hydropower ambitions. A lover of the Great Outdoors, Darragh talks about his journey so far – from leaving the Emerald Isle to forging a career in all things hydro-related.

My journey so far

Something to do with bridges

I started a Higher National Certificate in civil engineering in Galway (yes, that’s the one, home of Connaught Rugby), just under a quarter of century ago. A long time ago, but reportedly, I may retain some salvage value.

At different points in my career, friends and colleagues have recounted moving stories of events and people who inspired them to pursue exciting lives in engineering. As I set off to study in Galway at the turn of the millennium, I honestly had no idea what to expect from third-level education or civil engineering, other than a vague understanding that it might involve bridges. Google hadn’t been invented yet.

Darragh sitting atop a snowy mountain eating lunch. Two lochs can be seen in the far distance
Darragh taking a well-earned break having reached the top of Ben Lawers, Perthshire

I soon learned that life as a student meant several years of being broke which enticed me to break up my studies with a few spells working as an engineering technician. The Celtic Tiger had begun prowling Ireland’s economy, employment opportunities were at an all-time high, and for the first time in 500 years, people were arriving in the country instead of leaving. Thankfully, introducing much needed diversity.

Over the next few years I earned my bachelor’s degree, did a lot of travelling, gained experience on site and in design offices with small and large engineering consultancies including Mott MacDonald’s just-acquired Dublin office.

Goodbye rain and cold?

In search of an alternative to the damp, wet and cold Irish climate, I somehow landed on Scotland’s shores, and completed my studies in civil and environmental engineering at Heriot-Watt, part funded by pedalling drunken stags and hens around Edinburgh in a rickshaw.

Tripod equipment erected on a hillside pointing to far off countryside
On the look out for hydro power opportunities

At this point I had become aware of the opportunities engineering could offer, and particularly how it could open doors to working in renewable energy. After Heriot-Watt, I had the privilege of travelling and working throughout the Scottish Highlands developing small run-of-river hydropower, followed by a decade working in Mott MacDonald’s Edinburgh office (hydro and water) and finally joined Horizons in 2022 (for some more hydropower).

While aspirations of warmer climates didn’t materialise, Scotland has truly become home, is where I met my awesome better half and is the type of progressive country where we are delighted to be raising our children. And anyway, hydropower wouldn’t work without rain.

One thing I love about my job

Hiking up a steep Scottish mountain slope, in any type of weather and nerding out about steep river gradients.    

What’s important to me?

Admittedly a morbid perspective, but to answer this I imagine my last living minute. The answers I arrive at involve family, friends, not having caused harm, and having worked for at least some of my life doing something I really believed in (no, that doesn’t include the rickshaws).

My spare time

Mostly spent with my kids and usually involving Lego and me pretending to know about Pokemon or football (soccer to me). We often go to the forest and build dens, but I think I might enjoy that more than they do. Also, spicy tandoori curry on a Friday night once the kids are in bed. Cycling. Podcasts. Music.

Silhouette of an adult and two children on bicycles waving their arms
Darragh out cycling with his family
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