• Bio: The MCA’s 2015 Change Management Consultant of the Year Kate Fairhall uses her background in psychological principles to solve clients’ organisational complexities and to inform the design and delivery of transformational change.

Kate Fairhall

From quite a young age I knew I wanted to work in a business environment, although I didn’t know in what type of job or role. I decided to complete a degree in psychology as it was a really interesting subject with a strong focus on science and clear application to many business contexts. Whilst completing my degree in psychology my passion for the subject grew and in my third year I completed a couple of advanced modules and one on ‘the psychology of design’. I found this fascinating as it focused on the positive side of psychology and I learnt how psychology could be used to improve outcomes for people and business.

I then continued my studies in this field and completed a master’s in Occupational Psychology at the University of Sheffield. I chose this course as it had excellent links with  many organisations and every Wednesday, different guest speakers would visit the university and talk to the class about what it was like to work for them. Many of these were consultant organisations and it became clear to me at this point that this was the career path that I wanted to pursue.

A career as a management consultant really appealed to me due to its professional nature and the opportunities to work across multiple organisations, sectors and in different locations. I was also interested in offering creative solutions in a structured and practical way to solve business issues.

During my master’s, Arup visited my university. I was impressed by the organisation and it cemented my plans. I followed up on this by putting forward a business case, which later became my master’s thesis project. This was a great opportunity to gain insight into the role of a consultant before starting my career. I then joined Arup later in the year as a graduate consultant.

Qualifications and the training

The master’s in Occupational Psychology that I completed had a broad focus covering personal selection and assessment; design of work environments; human-machine interaction; training and organisational development; and change. Since joining Arup I’ve completed the Stage 2 in Occupational Psychology, which gained me my Chartership. This involved completing supervised practice over a two-year period and writing logs for projects outlining competence across knowledge and process areas and reflecting on my experience. Over the past eight years at Arup I’ve had the opportunity to complete other training based on my interests and development needs. For example, I completed NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety as I was supporting organisations to implement behavioural safety, and to complement this approach I wanted a broader technical understanding of health and safety.

As a consultant I find that training never stops. With new clients, service offerings and projects there is always something to learn and this can be supported through formal training such as e-learning or informal such as on-the-job training. Having a mentor has helped me with my development and enabled me to consider where I wanted to focus and how to achieve this.

What does your current role involve?

I am a management consultant at a large, employee-owned, independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists. I believe this makes my job as a management consultant unique as I get to work on lots of interesting design projects.

I’m part of the Operations Consulting team which focuses on helping clients to improve operations through people, process and technology solutions. With my background I tend to have more of a focus on the ‘people’ elements such as how you can change behaviours to improve safety, and I’m passionate about ensuring that people are considered up front in any design and operational solution. Quite often they are not!

In terms of my day to day role it is really varied, which I enjoy, and I find the challenge and pace of the job very fulfilling.

At the moment I am involved in project management and delivery; team management and coaching; client account management; and skills and service offering development. Week by week my role changes and it is usually a mixture of the above activities in different quantities and with different clients and people. Over the last eight years at Arup I have worked on a range of projects. At times I’ve worked on a large number of smaller projects and at other times I’ve been focused on one very large project for a couple of years.

One of my most challenging and successful roles was working with Heathrow Airport to transition 24,000 airport staff into the new Terminal 2 as part of the operational readiness programme. I project managed a large team responsible for designing and delivering a comprehensive familiarisation training programme and additionally worked closely with 160 stakeholder organisations to ensure their commitment to releasing staff for training sessions. On 4th June 2014, Terminal 2 opened with no glitches, staff knew where they were going, and passengers were astonished that this was the terminal’s first day of operation.

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