My career: Tom Yearley

18th September 2014

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Denise Thomas

Energy officer, University of Reading

Tom Yearley

Why did you become an environment professional?

Growing up, I had always wanted to go into marketing. I realised at university that I wanted to do something worthwhile – not just selling people things they did not want or need. Working in the environmental sector allows me to be creative and “market” greener living and lower carbon emissions.

What was your first environment job?

Implementing an ISO14001 environment management system for the Mars chocolate factory.

How did you get your first role?

As a result of a summer job at Mars. When I knew I wanted to be in the environmental sector, I emailed some contacts I had in the organisation. It was certainly a case of being in the right place at the right time.

How did you progress your career?

My ambition is to become the head of environment or sustainability for a large organisation. To do this, I feel I need wide-ranging experience across the sector. I have progressed my career with this in mind, never saying no to the opportunity to learn new skills.

For example, I have worked for several consultancies, including National Britannia, Enviros and WSP, and this is where I really cut my teeth. I’d say that a year as a junior consultant beats an MSc any day of the week.

I worked on projects ranging from due diligence and contaminated land surveys to legal compliance and BREEAM assessments. I also got involved in EIAs and energy reviews, though I always favoured management systems.

I found the opportunity to take an overview of an organisation’s approach to the environment fascinating.

What does your current role involve?

Energy compliance, billing and communications.

How has your role changed over the past few years?

It has become more communications-focused. After you have installed efficient lighting and equipment, you still need to engage people to use it correctly. I have become fascinated by the potential for reducing our environmental impact through the way we behave.

What’s the best part of your work?

Being part of a team that has saved over 30,000 tonnes of CO2 in three years. I now understand that I can make the biggest difference in managing the environmental impact of energy use.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

Keeping track of more than 1,500 meter points.

What was the last training course you attended?

I have enrolled on a part-time MPhil so I do a lot of training.

What did you bring back to your job?

It’s not enough to know that a project was or was not successful. I now appreciate the benefits of taking time to reflect carefully on how and why the project succeeded or not.

What is the most important skill for your role and why?

The ability to communicate complex subjects simply – whether it is explaining how a new air circulation technology works or how an individual can take simple steps to save energy. A huge challenge I face is making carbon real – CO2 and kWh are abstract concepts to most people.

Where would like to be in five years’ time?

I have recently accepted a role as energy manager at King’s College, London (starting in September). In five years, I would like to be part of the team that continues to deliver class leading energy efficient and sustainable campuses at King’s College.

Where do you see the profession going?

I see a need to focus on the individual. Business and industry have achieved a lot over the past 15 years, but a huge proportion of carbon emissions result from wasteful domestic practices. Being able to afford to waste energy should not be a reason or excuse to do so.

Having said that, I see the inevitable rise in utility costs playing a large part in reducing our collective carbon footprint.

What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?

Show an interest and be passionate. It’s a very wide-ranging industry, so use your transferable skills to your advantage. I have recently won an Observer ethical award for energy savings at home – nothing to do with work, just a passion for carbon reduction.

How do you use IEMA’s environmental skills map?

I found this tool invaluable for preparing for my Full membership. It also helps me prepare for one-to-ones at work.

Career file


BSc Economics, MIEMA, CEnv

Career history:

  • June 2009 to now Energy officer, University of Reading
  • 2007–2009 Senior environmental consultant, WSP Environmental
  • 2008–2009 Environmental engineer, South Hook LNG Terminal Company
  • 2005–2007 Environmental consultant, Enviros Consulting
  • April 2004–March 2005 Environmental management, National Britannia
  • May 2003–April 2004 EMS development, Mars Limited

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