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Career Profile: Matthew Thomas, Operations director, Compass Environmental Consultancy

Published on: 7 Jun 2024

Why did you become an environment/sustainability professional? I have always been interested in nature and the world around us, so I studied A-level geology and then completed a degree in geology at the University of Birmingham. Becoming an environment professional was a natural progression.

Matthew Thomas MIEMA Compass Operations Director

What was your first job in this field? It was with the Royal Air Force and involved assessing land quality across the RAF estate.

How did you get your first role? I applied for it as a ‘year in industry’ between my undergraduate and postgraduate studies. I was offered a full-time post and decided to take it rather than complete my postgraduate degree.

What does your current role involve? Managing environmental risks for businesses that have the potential to cause pollution. Each day is different but can include risk management audits, environmental training and responding to pollution incidents.

How has your role changed/progressed over the past few years? People management has become a part of my job, but I try to remain operational as far as possible as this is the most enjoyable part of the job for me.

What’s the best part of your work? Preventing pollution is very important, but when incidents do occur, I enjoy limiting damage to the environment. Our actions often have a very visible and immediate positive impact.

What’s the hardest part of your job? I spend a lot of time in challenging weather and under pressure to contain pollution quickly and effectively. Working with skilled colleagues in these situations is important.

What was the last development event you attended? I took part in the IEMA Mentoring Scheme, which supported me for six months to become a Full Member and Chartered Environmentalist. It provided me with structured support and was an opportunity to share knowledge and experience with my mentor.

What did you bring back to your job? Working with an experienced and skilled mentor helped me to view my knowledge and experience from a different angle and to understand how my niche area of expertise fits into the wider environmental management profession.

What is/are the most important skill(s) for your job? When a pollution incident occurs, it’s important to implement mitigation measures quickly to limit damage. This requires experience and expertise but also practical abilities and a positive attitude.

Where do you see the profession going? In my area there is currently a push towards the use of sustainable remediation technologies, and I expect this trend to continue over time.

Where would you like to be in five years’ time? I would like to continue assisting clients in managing their environmental risks. I also have a number of professional development goals, which I hope to have ticked off by that point.

What advice would you give to someone entering the profession? It’s important to focus on the success of the business, but don’t neglect your own personal development. Maintain your CPD and take every opportunity to learn more and to develop your skills.

How do you use the IEMA Skills Map? To plan my professional development and to understand what skills and knowledge I need to get to where I want to go.

If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be? Ambitious, hard-working and pragmatic.

What motivates you? Accomplishing personal development goals and then using my new skills to help my clients and the environment.

What would be your personal motto? Keep moving forward, help people along the way and, most importantly, enjoy what you are doing.

Greatest risk you have ever taken? I moved from an established business, where my professional progress had slowed, to a young business where I could get my development moving again. It turned out to be one of my best decisions.

If you could go back in history, who would you like to meet? Members of my family who lived before the advent of modern technology. They probably lived a fairly simple life, but I am sure they would have been more connected with nature, their community and the world around them.

Read more from the latest issue of Transform Magazine here