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Case Study: Lucy Arndt

Personal details
Degree:M.A. Sustainable Development Profile picture
School(s): School of Geography and Geosciences
Year of Graduation:Jun-2011
National of: United Kingdom
Employment details
Organisation: BG Group
Job title: Sustainability Project Manager
Occupational Sector: Sustainability Consultancy
What has been your route to getting your current position?
After I graduated, I worked for the University of St Andrews Estates Department on the Environment Team as the Sustainability Officer. This job was a combination of communications, outreach and engagement between the University Estates Department and the student body. In this position, I managed social media accounts, developed newsletters, helped with the Kenley Windfarm project, and helped develop and deliver a staff environmental training programme. I was exposed to many different workstreams and was given responsibility for projects because the team was small. Through this I developed my skills and employability because of my diverse experience, but it also helped me to understand more about what I wanted to do in my future. After this one year placement on the Environment Team, I started work at BG Group as the Sustainability Administrator on the Sustainability Communications team. Though this was effectively a PA or admin job to start with, because I had a degree in the subject area, I was keen to take on extra work outside of my job description and because, again, the team was small, over time I got exposure to all of the work that my team did and came to understand everyone else's job roles and have experience in picking up their extra work. Because of this, when someone above me on my team left left, I was easily able to step into the open role because I had already been taking on much of this work over the previous year.
What does your job involve ?
I project manage the production of my company's annual Sustainability Report. This is a communications and reporting role. I mostly work with about 25 internal stakeholders in the specific sustainability teams (i.e. climate change, environment, social performance etc) who give me the data and stories for the report and I work with writers, designers, data assurance providers and our corporate legal team to work this material up to go into a polished external report.
What are the best bits of your job ?
I get to use my degree every day, and I know that I am pushing my company forward to address sustainability issues. I also really enjoy the more creative side of my role, where I work with our design consultants to make the Sustainability Report look good online and in print. I think this is an important part of the job because there is no point in publishing something that is inaccessible to readers and no one will ever read!
Why were you successful?
I was involved in a lot of sustainability extra-curriculars while at University and took on some roles of responsibility which helped to round out my CV and give practical experience to my subject. While in both of my earlier jobs, I took on extra work outside of my job description and made it clear that I was eager to learn from everyone else on my team. In my most recent position, this means that I was promoted within my team because I had already proven my hard work ethic and that I could do the job because I'd already been picking up the slack in the role.
What skills/ knowledge from your degree have you found particularly helpful in this role?
Obviously as I'm working in the subject area, the factual knowledge of global sustainability issues has been invaluable. Also, experience of overseeing many subject areas at once (SD at St Andrews isn't very specialist, but it does give students an understanding of many subjects) taught me the language of sustainability through which I can understand, communicate with, and coordinate many different types of specialists (e.g. energy efficiency data providers) in my company.
What advice would you give to students wishing to follow the same path?
I learnt a lot from the experience of working in the corporate work environment vs in the charity/University work environment. Both situations taught me valuable lessons about the workplace and helped me to better understand where I want to go in my future. I would encourage graduating students to seek out different experiences, because you never know what the unknown will teach you. Also, being keen and learning in the workplace goes a long way. I've also come to realise that a degree in 'Sustainable Development' is seen as very unusual and specialist in a field that is growing and nearly every company is doing something on this now. One last point... don't be afraid to take a junior position to start with if it is in the field/company that you want to work in. There is only so much that an academic experience can teach you in this respect and getting out into the working world and learning from people around you working in your desired field will take you to the next level. In a junior role, you get broad experience and the opportunity to prove internally that you can and should take on more responsibility. And if there isn't room for internal movement, you can always move on to a different organisation in a year or so with a wealth of new experience to back you up. That's the route I took, and I'm so glad I did! I will put a disclaimer on here to say that hours and amount of work can be really demanding! But looking back, overall, it's been a really rewarding couple of years since graduation. Good luck :)