My career: Neil Howe

23rd November 2015


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Author

Carolyn Thraves

Senior legal author and consultant, Cedrec

Why did you become an environment/sustainability professional?

I spent around nine months job hunting after graduating from university. A few horror interviews in London later, and trying to explain to the Jobcentre that being a park ranger wasn't quite the environmental career I was thinking of, I noticed the Cedrec job advertised through the university careers department. It was initially a six-month contract, and I thought it would be good for experience. Six months became a year and a year became 15.

It was a natural progression. From studying geography at A-level I started to develop an interest in the human side of the course, rather than the physical. This led me to environmental studies at Sunderland University, where I could focus more on areas like green politics and philosophies, and in particular sustainable development. Andrew Dobson's Green reader became my bible!

What was your first environment/sustainability job?

Cedrec was and is my first environment job.

How did you get your first role?

I spent around nine months job hunting after graduating from university. A few horror interviews in London later, and trying to explain to the Jobcentre that being a park ranger wasn't quite the environmental career I was thinking of, I noticed the Cedrec job advertised through the university careers department. It was initially a six-month contract, and I thought it would be good for experience. Six months became a year and a year became 15.

How did you progress your environment/sustainability career?

Through a combination of being good at what I do, a willingness to learn and being prepared to take on more responsibility when it was offered. Cedrec is a small company, but was a lot smaller when I first started so you have to push yourself to help growth. The IEMA Associate member exam helped focus my knowledge and give me professional credibility. And the advanced EMS auditor course meant Cedrec could use me and start to develop its consultancy work.

What does your current role involve?

Cedrec provides online plain English interpretation of environmental legislation. I'm the editor and lead the writing team. I make sure that everything we write is accurate and easy to understand. I'm also one of Cedrec's consultants, so I compile registers of legislation for clients and keep them updated as well as help determine their aspects and impacts.

How has your role changed over the past few years?

I've gone from being the only writer when I started to being in charge of a team. I've also assumed responsibility for all the content of our website, summaries of legislation, marketing material and literature. It's been challenging moving away from writing everything myself to training and helping others to do it.

What's the best part of your work?

As I've moved more into the management side of things, being in a position to employ my own team, give them the opportunity to start their own environmental careers and watch them develop has been very rewarding.

What's the hardest part of your job?

Negativity around core environmental issues, particularly from the government is frustrating. Also, the government's "red tape challenge", which is designed to get rid of surplus and onerous guidance and legislation, has served only to confuse companies by providing them with watered-down information on an overly simplistic centralised website. It's becoming harder to understand your legal responsibilities.

What was the last development/training course/event you attended and what did you bring back to your job?

NVQ Level 5 - diploma in management and leadership.As I'm relatively new to management, it helped me to focus on how I want to treat my team and motivate them so they enjoy their job and I can get the best out of them. Specifically it helped me realise the type of manager I don't want to become!

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

An excellent grasp of English, good writing skills and the ability to understand complex legal documents.

Where do you see the environment/sustainability profession going?

I have serious concerns, particularly around the potential fallout for environmental policy, if the referendum on EU membership supports the UK leaving.

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

Hopefully still being an important part of Cedrec as the company continues to progress, and watching a member of my team fill out one of these career interviews!

What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?

Don't let yourself stagnate in your role. Keep reading, keep taking courses and keep learning. Knowledge helps to keep you motivated.

How do you use IEMA's environmental skills map?

It's a very useful tool. As an organisation, employee membership of IEMA is essential, and the skills map helps to give new starters in particular a clear idea of what knowledge is expected of them for their role. It also helps support their training and development. We've integrated it all quite nicely with our own staff appraisal system.

Career file

Qualifications:

BSc, AIEMA, advanced EMS auditor, NVQ level 5 (Diploma in management and leadership) NEBOSH, IOSH (Affiliate)

Career history:

2000 to now Editor and legal author, and legislation desk researcher, Cedrec Information Systems

2005 to now legal compliance auditor, Cedrec Information Systems

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