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Technical Officer, Biodiversity

Age: 42

Organisation: Environment Agency

Julia Massey

Why did you decide on a career in ecology/environmental management, and when did you decide?

We were travelling in Alaska for six months in 2000, finding the trip particularly inspiring and having always had an interest in the natural world, on returning from our trip I decided to change my career – from accounts to conservation! I was 30 years old.

How did you get started in the sector?  What qualifications and experience did you have? Have you gained any additional qualifications since?

I applied for a job with the Environment Agency (via Job Seekers) for an administrative position within the Fisheries and Ecology Department, with the hope of being able to undertake a degree (part-time). The Agency sponsored my degree in Environmental Management (2002 – 2006). Prior to starting work with the Agency I did not have any specific environmental qualifications or experience. Since working with the Agency I have also carried out volunteer work for the local Wildlife Trust – surveying (primarily otters) and was a Wildlife Watch Leader for a couple of years.

How long have you been in your current role?

Just over six years.

What does a typical day involve? What are your responsibilities?

i)   A site visit with the Flood Defence engineers to assess the potential impact of their operational activity e.g. de-silting, bank revetment/re-profiling works – carry out protected species survey/s; provide mitigation advice and any enhancement opportunities (this may link to partnership projects);

ii)  Liaison with project partners e.g. the Little Ouse River Restoration project – queries linked to progressing projects and/or arrange site visits to carry out further assessment of habitat enhancements along the river corridor;

iii)  Answering e-mail queries e.g. request for information/advice from both internal and external stakeholders;

iv)  Responding to a planning application or a land drainage consent.

What do you think are the most important skills for someone in your role to have? 

Good communication and negotiation skills, patience and perseverance!

Describe the aspects of your job you find particularly rewarding and those you find challenging?

Working with the Flood Defence engineers and partnership projects both (potentially) deliver ecological enhancements. Yes, even Flood Defence work can deliver enhancements! Paperwork can be challenging sometimes, particularly for partnership projects – projects can run over several years and securing funds from one year to the next is not always easy or straightforward. Communication between teams can also be challenging!

Describe your career progression so far and any plans you have for the future

2000 – 2003 Administrator (Fisheries, Ecology & Recreation);

2003 – 2006 Conservation Officer (Grade 3);

2006 – six month sabbatical working for the Sierra Club, Jackson, Wyoming - to promote the Sierra Club conservation initiatives;

2006 to present – Conservation Officer (Grade 4).

I enjoy my current job, but anticipate progressing within the Agency (to a Grade 5) within the next few years. Although I would imagine that this would be more office based!

What one piece of advice would you give to someone seeking a career in the sector?

It’s never too late to have a career change!