My career: James Brocklehurst

6th April 2017

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  • Skills ,
  • CPD ,
  • Qualifications ,
  • Training


Harriet Thomlinson

Environmental engineer, Boskalis

Why did you become an environment/sustainability professional?

A teacher in school noticed I was interested and rather good at ecology and physical geography so he handed me a leaflet about a course at the University of Leeds.

What was your first environment/sustainability job?

Before settling into an environmental career, I had several jobs and travelled extensively. I wanted to make a difference to the quality of people’s lives and believed that by protecting and improving the environment the poorest in society can help themselves.

How did you get your first role?

Through a Dutch contact. He was a geotechnical engineer and was doing environmental work in Angola and not enjoying it. I told him how much I would love to do the work and he sent my CV to his boss. The rest is history.

How did you progress your environment/sustainability career?

At Boskalis, sometimes you are the environmental manager leading a team and sometimes it is just you. The specific role is dependent on the project. That’s one of the reasons I joined IEMA: to ensure that the progress I made was independently recognised.

What does your current role involve?

I have worked in the head office for the past few years. That is where I have an early impact on the projects. I also enjoy the challenge of juggling several tenders, projects and research at once and the opportunity to make contacts with regulators, consultants and NGOs. I work on dredging, oil and gas and offshore wind projects.

How has your role changed over the past few years?

I was initially doing fieldwork, such as water sampling, then moved to managing the work onsite and finally advising from the head office. I have expanded my research efforts into underwater sound modelling, automated marine mammal detection and the use of rocks underwater to expand benthic life. I have had the opportunity to work on early project development with our clients and on tenders. Nothing gives me more pleasure than one of our environment team’s ideas being taken up.

What’s the best part of your work?

Working with people from diverse cultures from Angola to the Philippines, as well as consultancies, regulators and NGOs. I really enjoyed presenting ‘Boskalis Building with Nature’ at the Offshore Technology Conference in Brazil in 2015 and last year attending the Natural Capital Conference at The Hague, in the Netherlands.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

Tendering. We tender for more projects than we win, so you put in a lot of work and sometimes there is no outcome. I always store this information carefully and look to use it at the next opportunity.

What was the last development/training course/event you attended?

The International Association of Dredging Companies’ workshop on incorporating environment into cost development plans. It amazes me still that most projects do not include environment and social costs in their planning.

What did you bring back to your job?

The need to continue pushing the inclusion of environment in the cost reduction opportunities for our projects.

What is/are the most important skill(s) for your role and why?

Communication is an important part of my work, ensuring diverse projects are aware of the latest developments and to be one step ahead of the competition. It is easy to get stuck working on your own to solve a problem without realising that, in the fast-changing world today, the answer already exists and you just need to know the right person to ask.

Where do you see the environment/sustainability profession going?

I see it becoming more mainstream. In the Netherlands, recent graduates in civil engineering study relevant environmental concepts as part of their course. They do not consider it separate and I feel that is a big change in attitude.

Where would you like to be in five years’ time?

Working in a more managerial position with different stakeholders, maybe in the offshore wind industry or another developing marine renewable industry, such as tidal energy.

What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?

Do not give up. Often it is two steps forward, one step back. Learn from your mistakes. Have a plan but be opportunistic, follow your principles but be flexible. Often your worst critics will become your best allies if you provide sound advice.

How do you use IEMA’s environmental skills map?

It has allowed me to see where my professional strengths and weaknesses are.

Career file


Qualifications: MIEMA, CEnv, BSc

Career and project history:


2007 to date environmental engineer, Boskalis

2014 environmental engineer, Australia

2013 environmental engineer, Gabon

2010 environmental engineer, Nord Stream project

2008 to 2010 deputy marine monitoring manager, UAE

2007 to 2008 and 2010 to 2012 environmental engineer, Angola


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