Sustainability is increasingly important in everyday life, and more and more employers are looking for candidates with strong sustainability skills and knowledge. This isn’t just the case for jobs in the environmental sector, and sustainability can be reflected in many different careers from engineering, planning, and marketing to building and construction, energy, and transport.

With that in mind, we spoke to some people who work in the University’s Sustainability team to find out more about their background and how they got into their career in sustainability.

Rob - Head of Sustainability and Grounds

How did you get into your career in sustainability?

"My route in was through horticulture. I gained a degree in Horticulture and after a number of years running my own landscaping business, I became the Grounds Manager at the University. Almost all of my work involved sustainability and the environment in one way or another. As Grounds Manager you constantly strive to improve the green spaces you manage, increase biodiversity, and become more efficient and sustainable in everything you do. I reduced chemical use, increased organic fertilisers, created wildflower areas, trialed and introduced electric handheld equipment, installed a water reuse system and even installed LED lights in our machine barns. All this set me up well for the move into my current role as Head of Sustainability and Grounds."

What skills and knowledge do you think is important to get into a career in sustainability?

"First and foremost, you need to have a passion for the environment. Sustainability, the environment and our climate can feel very complex, but having a passion to learn and make change happen will really help. Secondly, having a desire to use resources wisely will help. So, if you are driven by doing things efficiently, this will really help you. Think about what you can to reduce energy use and energy waste and how you can reduce journeys when they’re not essential. Finally, I would say read, read, read the science. You will learn a lot about the reality of what is happening and that will empower you to make a real difference."

Iain -  Sustainability Energy & Transport Manager

How did you get into your career in sustainability?

"By accident. I started my career working with computers and then cars. Slowly my jobs became more property orientated and each one became more focused on energy, conservation of fuel and power and sustainability."

What skills and knowledge do you think is important to get into a career in sustainability?

"To start with be a sponge, gather knowledge on all sorts of topics, like vehicles, buildings, energy, and people and their behaviour. Then, when you have a bit of a base background knowledge, you can start to focus on what you enjoy. It always helps to go to work and talk about things you like opposed to those you have to."

Daisy - Sustainability Engagement Manager

How did you get into your career in sustainability?

"I did my undergrad degree in sociology, then started out working at a government agency, then in tech start-ups that supported companies in understanding their online performance (so kind of related to PR/marketing), and in one of those roles we did a lot of work related to sustainability and it sparked my passion. I ended up doing an MSc in Environmental Sustainability and after that arrived at Essex. So, it’s not always a linear process but once you find your passion it becomes clearer the route you could take.

I think important skills include being able to problem solve, communicate with different audiences, think strategically, and collaborate. My advice to anyone is to find your niche – you can’t be an expert in everything so use your skills to move the sustainability agenda forward."

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