Senior environmental consultant and project manager, Parsons Brinckerhoff
Why did you become an environment/sustainability professional?
Some high-profile environmental disasters occurred while I was growing up, and they made me realise that I had to assume personal responsibility for my impact on the environment. I was raised in the Midlands during a period of huge socio-economic change and became very aware of the positive financial and social effects of regeneration. It was while I was doing my A-Levels that I decided to pursue a career in land regeneration.
What was your first environment/sustainability job?
My first role involved assessing land to facilitate sustainable redevelopment. Brownfield land redevelopment was increasing rapidly, given the government incentives that were available. I recall feeling uneasy about the concept of “garden grabbing”, which at that time qualified for such incentives. I began to notice the difference between what I considered to be true sustainable development projects versus those that were not.
How did you get your first role?
I organised some work placements to better understand the various stakeholder organisations and decide on the best fit. I’m a natural problem-solver and love a challenge so consultancy quickly became the logical choice!
How did you progress your environment/sustainability career?
Mainly through further education, maintaining a wide base of contacts, and paying attention to my professional relationships. I believe this has helped me stay current in a fast-paced industry. As I progressed, I grew interested in quantitative risk assessments to support the case for minimal remediation and hence reduce the landfill burden. I also changed roles to broaden my experience and began advising on the clean-up of environmental incidents. This really opened my eyes to the ethical dilemmas that presented themselves in this type of work.
What does your current role involve?
I work for a large multidisciplinary consultancy where my day-to-day role is diverse and varies according to the client brief. I am presently managing several large projects and am responsible for specialist input into others, as well as being actively involved in business development and staff mentoring.
How has your role changed over the past few years?
As well as progressing technically, my role has expanded to include managerial and business development aspects. I’m now also involved in assisting junior members of staff with their training and support, including advice on non-technical issues, such as handling difficult situations.
What’s the best part of your work?
Problem-solving, especially when it requires multidisciplinary involvement to reach a positive solution. Whether this is assessment of an ecologically sensitive site or assisting with reuse of materials, I’m always looking for the best way to solve potential problems.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
Juggling lots of projects and demands on my time can be a challenge, but it makes life more interesting! What was the last development/training course/event you attended? An online legislative update – I really value online courses but I do enjoy meeting people so I try to attend as many face-to-face, instructor-led courses as I can. Parsons Brinckerhoff supports internal knowledge sharing and organises lunchtime mini-seminars, which are really useful. I recently led one on reusing materials in construction projects.
What is/are the most important skill(s) for your role and why?
A proactive approach is essential, as are good communication and people skills. Consultants have to be able to analyse details and question assumptions, but also step back and appreciate the bigger picture. Where do you see the profession going? The number of sustainability professionals will continue to grow, and we will see sustainability being fully integrated into company strategy. Where would you like to be in five years’ time? I hope to be operating in a leadership capacity: providing good support to less experienced staff, building a team, and watching others grow and develop.
What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?
Seize opportunities and get to know as many people as possible. Talk to them, learn about what they do and remain engaged and enthusiastic. While technical skills are certainly important, you don’t have to be the most technical, well-qualified person to make a good project manager and consultant.
How do you use IEMA’s environmental skills map?
The map has aided my personal career planning by allowing me to target where I want to be and track my development. It’s a really useful reference tool.
BSc, MRes, CEnv, MIEMA
2013 to now senior environmental consultant and project manager at Parsons Brinckerhoff
2009–2013 senior environmental consultant at OHES
2004–2009 graduate geo-environmental consultant (including studying for a master’s in research) and geo-environmental consultant at Crossfield Consulting