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  • Role: River Scientist
  • University: Birmingham
  • Degree: Geography & MSc River Environment Management

Laura Sanderson

What does Royal Haskoning do?

I am a River Scientist at Royal Haskoning; an environmental consultancy. I have been with Royal Haskoning for four and half years since graduating.

How did you get you job with this consultancy?

During my MSc River Environmental Management at the University of Birmingham, we used to have fortnightly presentations from companies within the industry. I got my job as a consultant by attending one of these presentations. I always went prepared with a copy of my CV and always made an effort to stay behind and talk to the presenter. As a result, I was offered a couple of jobs, so was very lucky to be able to choose the most desirable one for me.

What is a typical day like for you?

A typical day in the office begins with a project review to discuss progress and upcoming deadlines. I regularly work with colleagues from across the UK, so these meetings are often carried out via webcam or teleconference.

I project manage a number of projects, so usually find part of my day completing contractual or financial documentation. When I am technically involved with a project, my work might involve reviewing hydraulic modelling results, economically appraising capital schemes or working within a design team to improve fish passage. My work is so varied that I never do the same thing two days in a row! I often attend Midlands CIWEM events in the evening to meet people and increase my knowledge of the Water and Environment industry.

Which part of you role do you get the most enjoyment from?

The thing I enjoy most about my job is the flexibility I have to try new things if I so wish. Working within a large consultancy gives you the opportunity to get involved in different projects. One day you could be working on the design of a flood storage reservoir, the next day, you could be on site counting fish. Also, the reason why I entered this profession…because I get a chance to have a positive impact on the society in which I live, which is important to remember when your stressed with an upcoming deadline!

What are you career goals?

My short term goal is to become chartered with CIWEM. My education and career up until now has focused on this. Once I achieve this, I would like to develop my career by gaining more experience, and trying new things.

And how was the interview?

Having already met my interviewer at a university presentation, the ice had already been broken, which was a bit of a relief. I was nervous, of course, but went to the interview as a graduate, so knew that they didn’t expect an expert to turn up. I researched the company and recent environmental news articles so had lots to talk about. I also bought a new suit, so I arrived feeling professional and confident.

My main advice for the interview process would be to be prepared. You need to research the company, the interviewer and the industry before your interview. This will give you a great basis for conversation making and will show that you are willing to learn. Being prepared before the interview allows you to relax a little more during the process and feel confident about your knowledge and skills.

What skills have you found useful in your role?

I have found that as a consultant, ‘soft skills’ can be as important as technical skills. Soft skills are often thought of as ‘fluffy’, but I truly believe that without these, it is almost impossible to share your ideas and knowledge in an effective way. Having the ability to communicate clearly is probably the most important. I have found that having the ability to stand in a room and talk to people on all levels has really benefitted me. I picked these skills up from attending conferences, talking to people and presenting. Any opportunity you get to practice these skills should be grabbed!

Do you have any advice for those aspiring to join the industry?

My advice to others trying to join the industry would be to gain as much experience as you can. I think it’s harder to find a job now than when I joined the industry four years ago, so any positives you can add to your CV will benefit you greatly. Join local branches of CIWEM and ICE to network with potential employers, get involved with committees if you can and keep in touch with the people you meet. You never know when those contacts could come in useful.

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