After graduating from the School...
After graduating from a BSc in Geography in 2009 I applied for lots of environmental jobs but was unsuccessful. The job I really wanted was the flood risk management traineeship at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) but sadly didn’t get that job either. After summer I therefore made the decision to do an MSc in Global Water Sustainability, which was split between the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde. After graduating from the MSc I applied to the SEPA traineeship again and second time round I got the job.
This was a two-year traineeship designed to train people in hydrology and flood risk management. The Flood Risk Management Scotland Act (2009) required Scotland to take a collaborative, plan-led, risk-based approach to flood risk in Scotland and there was a lack of skills.
During the traineeship I spent six months in four departments learning about hydrology and flood mapping, SEPA’s river and rainfall gauging network, river basin management planning and land use planning. After the traineeship I stayed at SEPA and have worked in several different flood teams. I am currently a Senior Specialist Scientist and have led the second National Flood Risk Assessment for Scotland (published in December 2018), working closely with Scottish Government and Local Authorities and Scottish Water. I also work on an on-call basis as a flood advisor delivering the Scottish Flood Forecasting Service's flood warning system. More information on SEPA's flooding services can be found on their website.
What did you value about the degree?
Working in flood risk management I still use lots of what I learnt from my degrees, especially the coastal and fluvial courses. The one thing I really value from my degree is the knowledge I gained in GIS - I use it daily. Being able to view and analyse spatial data is key to my job and GIS is a brilliant way to do this. My geography degree also gave me opportunities to present in front of people and practice public speaking which has been really good experience as I often have to present at meetings and conferences.
Do you have any advice for prospective students?
My advice would be that it's OK to 'fail' or not get to where you want to be straight away. When I graduated I thought I'd instantly get an environmental job - I thought my degree would instantly get me there. I now do a job I really enjoy but I had to apply twice to get it. Get as much experience as you can, even if it’s not directly relevant to what you want to do. If there is something you want that you think you can’t get, you can - you just need to work out a different way of getting there.