We speak with Francesca Wilkinson PIEMA about her career journey to becoming an Assistant Environmental Manager at Willmott Dixon.

This year the IEMA Futures Network will be sharing stories of members and their journey towards their career aspirations in sustainability and the environment. For those who haven't begun their career journey, we hope this will provide some inspiration and insight into what your future career could hold and for those who have, this is a great opportunity to get to know more about peers in the profession and expand your network of environment and sustainability professionals.

Our second member spotlight is Francesca Wilkinson, Assistant Environmental Manager at Willmott Dixon. We asked Francesca some questions around her involvement with IEMA and her career journey.

What inspired you to get into the environment/sustainability industry?

Growing up in one of Scotland’s most deprived towns I saw firsthand the effect of food, housing, and fuel poverty. Coupled with my interest in our natural world, this led me to read Environmental Geography. This combination of physical and human geography allowed me to study and understand interactions between people, and between people and the environmental in which we live whilst bridging the environmental and social sciences.

I was enticed to sustainability within the construction industry as it is one of the biggest polluting industry: its use of finite resources; the impact of fabrication and shipping of materials; depleting wild habitats; its massive contribution to CO2 emissions for example. I am drawn to the challenges that this brings however it also allows for greater improvements, new technologies, sustainable construction practices and more. The role of sustainability in construction creates the opportunities to make a real difference.

What is your specific area of interest within the sector and how does this play into your current role/studies?

My specific area of interest is in energy efficiency and carbon reduction. I currently lead on the “Brilliant Buildings” section of Willmott Dixon's new sustainability strategy for the Midlands. I have responsibility for delivering on our ambition for all our new buildings to achieve net operation carbon by 2030, and net zero embodied carbon by 2040.

What do you think the biggest challenges facing our sector will be in the next 5 years?

I think our biggest challenge is changing the mindset and culture of people and businesses. Addressing the idea that “being green” costs more will be a big one. Another stark challenge is conveying the urgency of our current global situation, any residual illusions that we still have a reasonable length of time to get things sorted needs to be stripped away whilst also ensuring people don’t feel disempowered to act now and create change.

What has been your most valuable skill/training/experience that you have gained in the first few years of working (or last year of studying in preparation for work)?

The most valuable training and skills I have gained aren’t necessarily connected to the technical aspects of my job. Do not underestimate the power of ‘soft skills’. Interpersonal skills, communication skills, assertiveness whilst also employing empathy are just a few examples of the most valuable tools to have in your toolbox.

What are your top tips for people just entering the sustainability profession and wider environment sector?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and use your voice. Everyone brings a unique perspective to every situation and just because someone might be more experienced than you doesn’t mean your opinions and suggestions are worth any less than theirs.

Please note: the views expressed in this blog are those of the individual contributing member, and are not necessarily representative of the views of IEMA or any professional institutions with which IEMA is associated.

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Francesca Wilkinson

After completing an MSc in Environmental Management, Francesca started as an intern with Willmott Dixon Group Sustainability. After 7 months she was offered a permanent position on their 2-year Management Trainee Scheme. Last September she was promoted to Assistant Environmental Manager.


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