Thierry Des Trois Maisons, Software Engineer on Search and Rescue

Unfortunately I don’t do Search and Rescue here in Ireland – the closest Mountain Rescue team is in Wicklow, on the other side of Dublin bay, and the Coast Guard in Howth requires a 10-year commitment that I was unable to guarantee. Back in Quebec, however, this involved weeknight trainings every week and weekend trainings every other weekend, in addition to the occasional larger-scale trainings involving other agencies, first aid and technical skills courses, and most of all, the “unplannable” rescue call-outs.

Combined with my training in software engineering, this is what brought me to Dublin, opened many professional doors and made me meet the most amazing people. I’ll be going back to Quebec shortly and transitioning my current role to be remote, and I’ve already arranged to resume my involvement in my previous search and rescue team.

Hi, my name is Thierry Des Trois Maisons, and I am a software engineer at D4H Technologies. I’ve been leading development on our Decisions product for the last two years. Put shortly, it’s a web-based software (SaaS) for emergency response teams to manage personnel, equipment, incidents, training, and everything around that.

I’ve been playing around “coding” since I was about 10 years old. Software engineering caught my interest because I love the creative problem solving involved – in its simplest form, I see it as coming up with ways to make people’s lives easier and better. It can also be combined with any number of other interests, as increasingly pretty much every single field involves software, whether it is emergency response, aviation, sports, music, healthcare, etc. This combination of interests makes the job much more than just “writing code”.

I moved to Ireland specifically for this job, although I am originally from Quebec, Canada. At the time I was offered the position, I had no commitments keeping me home, and I saw this as an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move abroad and see where it led me. I thought that if I passed on but had a similar opportunity later in life, I might have a girlfriend, a house, or other commitments making such a move much harder. I was also excited to live abroad to expand my cultural horizons and improve my English.

My love for adventure sports and expeditions sparked my interest in joining the search and rescue team. I’ve been lucky enough to travel, hike, and ski from a young age, and that has involved into mountaineering, climbing, trail running and adventure travel. It grew out of a desire to learn those first aid and rescue skills, mostly to fend for myself during those remote expeditions, but I found both fun and satisfaction in being able to give back to the outdoor community and the population by providing assistance to others. I strongly believe in the benefit of volunteer and community involvement, but each person has to find something that genuinely interests them so they’ll have the passion and dedication to do it, rather than merely “doing it for karma”.

As the product I’m working on is dedicated to emergency services – including search and rescue organisations – it makes it much more motivating and concrete. I’m not just building software for others – I am making it for myself, too.

This certainly helps manage my stress as well: deadlines are still a thing, but after having being out in the field where decisions may literally mean life or death for the person we’re looking for, a looming deadline isn’t much of a reason to panic anymore.

I haven’t felt much in danger myself during any of the calls I’ve responded to, thankfully! But it made me realise how sometimes we might be just one oversight or one bit of bad luck away from being the ones that need to call for a rescue. No one, no matter how good they are, should feel invincible. I don’t let the stress of the situation get to me. I rarely feel stressed. I channel it into motivation to give all I have to seek a successful outcome.

Once, a neighbour and long-time family friend suffered a serious injury while working at home. He had a severed artery and was quickly losing blood. As they knew I had some medical training, they called me – and I happened to be around the house – so I could act before the ambulance could arrive. I only had the training and calm to act because of my involvement in search and rescue.

D4H’s Lighthouse offices in Dublin

To anyone interested, get in touch with your local SAR teams. Each country and region has their own system, but they’ll all be happy to direct you to the right place. There are mountain, aerial, marine, mounted (horses!), urban, ski and canine teams. All of those require people to go on call-outs, but also treasurers, webmasters, fundraisers and other support personnel.

But perhaps more than anything: prevention. Get a wilderness first-aid course, learn about the 10 essentials, and leave a trip plan with friends or family. Those will help us do our job to rescue you – and will help you stay alive.

I’m not currently in a team, but I will be as soon as I come back to Quebec. Wherever the future brings me, I hope I’ll be able to join the local SAR team to continue this involvement, for as long as I can physically do it.

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