We’re rounding up our Green Careers Week 2023 series with Laila who is one of our Environmental Advisors. Laila followed her heart into this area after realising that psychology wasn’t for her and finds her varied job fulfilling because she’s helping to protect the environment day-to-day. Read on to learn about her responsibilities and her journey towards becoming a Winvic team member.
If you missed the blogs from our new in-house BREEAM Manager Blythe, Social Value Manager Emma or Technical Services and Sustainability Director Arun, click the links. We’ll also be hearing from Robbie, one of our Senior Sustainability Coordinators, about her role and recent work on the UK Green Building Council’s (UKGBC) Embodied Carbon task group.
I did my undergraduate degree in Psychology, but I had a change in heart and didn’t want to go down that route as a career. It was quite a lengthy process to become a psychologist and it wasn’t calling me. At that moment in time, I had become more aware of the world’s environmental issues, such as plastic pollution and its effect on our planet and animals. One day I said ‘ok, this is where I want to make a difference’ and I undertook a Master’s Degree in Environmental Management, where I studied modules such as Environmental Management and Sustainability, Environmental Project Management and Biotechnology.
I hadn’t realised just how few jobs there would be available at that time, and it was a bit disheartening initially. I applied for roles across many sectors while working in retail, but I found that not having experience was a hurdle. My Master’s informs some of my activity here, such as learning about Environmental Management Systems (EMS) like ISO 14001, which is what Winvic adheres to as well as how to write professionally; however, after working at Winvic I understand there’s nothing like real-life scenarios and hands on learning. If I’d known what I wanted to do a little earlier, I’d have looked at other routes like an apprenticeship or a degree with a placement and found work experience anywhere! With very few graduate roles available, experience makes all the difference.
I persevered with applications and kept my dream and out of nowhere an Environmental Recruitment Agency I had registered with contacted me about the position at Winvic. I’m so thankful Winvic saw my potential throughout the three-stage interview process and that the business really cares about developing the next generation. In fact, I was lucky enough to play my part in that development cycle recently as we hosted a sixth form student who is interested in a career in environmental at the SEGRO Logistics Park Northampton site. I explained our EMS, including certain paperwork and best practice, and I took her on a site tour to show her what I assess during an environmental site visit.
I’ve now been working here as an Environmental Advisor for just over a year and it’s been an exciting learning curve. While I never thought I’d work in construction it’s a fulfilling role where I’m playing an important part in protecting the environment. In many ways, the job is even more interesting because I’ve been learning about things that I never thought I would – I now appreciate all the effort that goes into creating infrastructure, roads and buildings and I’m surprised how much I enjoy it. Every day I’m learning in this multi-faceted role – it’s pretty amazing. I predominantly work on projects in the south and south midlands. The environmental team comprises seven people and we split projects by their locations in relation to where we live. This reduces travel times and our carbon footprint; I’m currently looking after around 15 to 20 active projects and pipeline schemes, along with my manager including Symmetry Park Rugby, Redditch Gateway industrial project and the Net Zero civils and infrastructure scheme, SEGRO Logistics Park Northampton.
My team and I visit sites more regularly at the inception of a new project but we go to sites to undertake general inspections, which are to review what’s happening that day, and we attend pre-emptive meetings, which we call a ‘4-weekly’. As the name suggests these collaborative meetings look ahead to what’s happening in the programme over the next four weeks; are there any environmental risks that we need to be aware of and how can we support the site team with any challenges? This ensures we are constantly reviewing our standards and paperwork in line with any programme change. It’s vital that we are proactive in our approach, this means considering and planning for potential environmental risks beforehand, so they don’t happen, or we limit the chance of them occurring. The Winvic Environmental Team is always there to assist and it’s a one team effort to do the right thing – we all share the same goal of protecting the environment.
The environmental team get involved a long time before construction, in what we call the preconstruction stage of a project. This involves us visiting the site and assessing the potential environmental risks – for example, sensitive receptors, watercourses or contaminated land – which enables us to put the right mitigation measures in place. My team liaises with the planning and site teams so documents, permits and consents are prepared before start on site. As part of my role, I apply for and review these licences and liaise with stakeholders when required; for example, with sewerage undertakers when we need to apply for a trade effluent consent.
I’m proud to work for a company who really cares about protecting the environment and making positive contributions, as that’s what I care about. It’s a bonus that Winvic is committed to helping its team members learn and grow, and I can see myself here for many years to come.