Case study

Environmental engineer — Abigail Brooks

With a passion for the environment, Abigail has used her interest in innovative technologies to create solutions to environmental issues

How did you get your job?

I always wanted to work in an environmental role. After finishing my environmental geoscience degree, I avoided the big graduate schemes and looked to smaller organisations. I found a role as an environmental consultant dealing with emergency oil spills on a national 24/7 service.

This role involved lots of travel and writing reports with recommendations for remediation. I enjoyed it, but wanted to broaden my experience and provide solutions to environmental problems using new technologies, which led me to my current role as an environmental engineer with Vertase FLI.

What are your main work activities?

It depends if I'm on-site or in the office. Initially I read all documents and reports about a site, including historic information and details about previous contamination. From this, I figure out what needs to be done. Once on-site, I help guide the remediation activities and take samples of the soils and water before analysing the information and writing a report for the client. I will often have to liaise with the local council and Environment Agency.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I really like the mix of office and site work. It's perfect for me as I'm not in the office 24/7. The work is really diverse and challenging, with real variety in the projects.

What are the challenges?

If you like staying in one place, this line of work probably isn't for you. I like the variety.

In my experience, environmental engineering can be quite a male-dominated industry - it would be great to have more women in STEM roles, which I see happening more and more.

Is your degree relevant?

My degree was broad, but gave me essential skills in sampling strategies, report writing and understanding environmental concepts. I learnt a lot from my degree, but there has also been plenty of learning on the job.

Any advice for someone looking to get into this job?

Get as much experience as possible, even if they are brief. You'll meet people and discover other opportunities to get involved as a result.

Take a chance if a job sounds great but you don't have everything they want. I applied for a job which was asking for significantly more experience than I had, but still had it offered it to me.

Think about side steps and opportunities to get a foot in the door. After graduating, I started as a business developer in the oil spill company and made my ambition for the environmental consultant role clear. When a job came up in that area six months later I got it, as I already worked for them and was qualified.

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