Tom's main professional motivation is to reduce the impact we have on the environment as much as possible by finding different ways to decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
What’s your name?
Where do you work?
Arup - an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists.
What's your job title?
Low carbon energy consultant.
How long have you been doing that?
How did you get there?
I secured a six month placement straight after university (I studied physics at Manchester University) by going on the Arup website and finding the name of a director working in green energy. I asked him for a job over the phone, he said come in for interview and then signed me up on the spot. My placement turned into a permanent job, once I had completed an MSc in sustainable energy futures at Imperial College London.
How would you describe life as a working engineer?
An engineer is a professional problem solver. Particularly as a consultant, your role is to think through to a solution for others’ problems.
What's the work and day-to-day experience like?
It’s a mainly office based role but I spend a large portion of the day in-and-out of meetings with clients and stakeholders, visiting projects and, sometimes, travelling abroad.
What did you expect when you started work? Did anything surprise you?
I was surprised how the main hurdles when trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are not actually technical. A surprising amount of my job is doing financial and business modelling, trying to demonstrate to others that green solutions stack up commercially.
Normally the technical bits are easy. It’s getting the people and the money in line that can be more challenging, so that’s often where I end up focusing my time.
What's the best thing about the job?
Making a difference. The negative impact we are have on the environment upsets me greatly so, my main professional motivation is to reduce this as much as possible, by finding different ways to decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
The diversity of work. The projects that I work on cover a whole spectrum of energy and carbon saving type problems, from advising governments on renewable energy support policies to writing climate change action plans for cities.
And the worst?
Low carbon energy advice is a brand new area of expertise - unlike being a building service engineer where the skills and career development path is already clearly defined - energy strategy is constantly evolving, there is no set development path. While this is exciting, it can also be difficult, especially when trying to decide where next to take your experience and skill set. The positive side of this is the freedom I have to take my career where I like.
What have been your career highlights so far?
I was seconded for five months to the Greater London Authority as a technical advisory expert for the development and production of the draft London Climate Change Mitigation and Energy Strategy. This document set out the strategy for delivering 60 per cent CO2 reductions across London by 2025.
Chinese Eco Cities - developing a model for green urbanisation in the Far East is perhaps one of the most pressing climate change mitigation issues facing mankind. While on a year secondment in Hong Kong, I was heavily involved in building a relationship between Arup and General Electric to deliver innovative new Eco City solutions across China. I led on all energy generation and management aspects of the design, and gained invaluable experience working in various Chinese locations.
Is there any advice you’d like to pass on to those about to enter an engineering workplace?
Don’t wait around to be picked up by a graduate scheme. Get out there, meet engineers, make phone calls and get your face in front of people – if you’re in the right place at the right time, someone might just hire you!
This is a straight up plug but the green energy and sustainability sector is one of the few still going strong in the global recession so, if you’re hoping to specialise, this is an area where one can make a difference and find work.
What are your future career plans?
Ultimately, I want to be making - or at least guiding - key decisions on how to mitigate climate change, in particular around urbanisation and cities. I would also love to do another period abroad, as my year in Hong Kong was one of most rewarding times in my career.