Finishing up my dissertation on the transition of London taxis from diesel to EVs 15 months ago I was raring to go in taking my first steps into the energy industry, in doing so shifting my interests in energy and sustainability from an academic setting to a commercial one.
So, where to begin in making this happen?
On handing in my dissertation my desk at home, full of papers and notes for my dissertation, were filed away and soon replaced with CVs, cover letters, application guidance documents and so on. Like many of life’s biggest turning points my first step in this career in energy turned out to be born out of the briefest of passing comments, fortunately, occurring just a few weeks later.
Quickly frustrated by the bleakness of applying for jobs I went to a taster session at a local rowing club as something to break up the monotony of job applications and a way to get out the house. I met a young couple on the taster day, one of whom had just started a two-year rotational graduate scheme for an energy company called ENGIE – her first impressions, she explained, were very positive.
I got home that evening and immediately started reading up about the company. I knew very little about them and had certainly never envisaged myself working for such a large company. Despite this the breadth of the company’s ambition for the future and their hopes for a transition to a decarbonised but also holistic, linked up approach to the services & products they deliver resonated (particularly after my recent learnings on sociotechnical systems on the E&S course at Durham!).
The company was distancing itself from fossil fuels, investing in all sorts of renewables, smart technology, IoT tech, EV charging solutions and had clear ambitions for realising a better, more sustainable future. Before too long I had submitted my application and they were the first to invite me to an assessment centre, the first of my life.
I turned up as instructed and a warm and friendly day ensued – not at all what I had been expecting from some of the horror stories I had heard. Despite the day seeming to go well I wasn’t too hopeful. I knew the statistics weren’t good. Family and friends being only too keen to point out it would stand as ‘good experience for the next one’ didn’t much help my hopes. To my delight though the following week the phone rang and I was offered the job. There was though just one slight catch – to begin September 2018 (they only have one start date each year…).
The hunt for another job for the 10 months in the interim thus begun!
The energy link to my story ends here. But for anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation to myself; as they look to begin their careers after studying an MSc in energy, or more broadly, the remainder of my story might still be of some relevance.
Simone’s farewell wishes to me as I finished the Energy and Society course in Durham included the recommendation to always remember the value of networking as I looked to begin my career – highlighting that it’s often as important who you know as what you know.
Before too long when walking the family dog in the village I met a local lady out walking as well. We had a good chat and in the course of the conversation I mentioned I had just accepted an offer to work for a company called ENGIE, to pursue my interests in renewable energy and sustainability, and that I was now looking for another job, locally, for the interim period before it started.
Thinking nothing else of our brief meeting a day or two later the phone rang – unknown number. It turned out to be the lady’s son and director of a local business specialising in making special needs toys. “When would you like to start?”. I started the next day and worked there for the 10 months up to September when I began my current job at ENGIE.
To summarise, in the 15 months since finishing on the Energy and Society course I have taken my first steps into the career I hoped to when finishing at Durham. I’ve also worked at a Special Needs Toy company – not something I set out to do but something I will look back on fondly, also knowing I learnt a great deal there.
All is now going well at ENGIE. I’m currently working in a team called Commercial Energy Services delivering energy efficiency projects for sites such as the Olympic Park, councils and NHS trusts as well as working on environmental reporting projects. I’m learning technical knowledge and commercial understanding everyday but perhaps the clearest lesson I’ve learnt in the past 15 months is the truth of Simone’s passing advice – it’s often as much who you know as what you know.
What I’ve come to realise is that both of these are very much in your own hands. When starting up a conversation with somebody you really do never know where it might lead and the possibilities of what might come of it.