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Case Study: James Furmston-Evans

Personal details
Degree:Geoscience Profile picture
School(s): School of Geography and Geosciences
Year of Graduation:May-2009
National of: United Kingdom
Employment details
Organisation: Cavendish Nuclear
Job title: Technical Specialist
Occupational Sector: Radioactive Waste Consultant
What has been your route to getting your current position?
Direct entry via a consultancy business, and progression through the normal structure
What does your job involve ?
It's varied. Because of the consultancy aspect I've done a fair range of smaller to medium sized projects with a science (general, not very geoscientific) and strategy outlook. However, because the consultancy group is part of a larger nuclear organisation there are opportunities to do work that supports bigger projects associated with delivering large complicated engineering solutions. I have also completed a couple of secondments to support the Scottish Government's policy group and our successful bid to manage the decommissioning of twelve former nuclear sites; secondments are common in the industry, expose you to areas you may not have realised you'd be interested in, and can give you a perspective on the sometimes divergent ways of working and priorities that exist in other areas.
What are the best bits of your job ?
They vary. I quite enjoy getting given something new and getting lost in a literature review (but recognise this is probably a bit niche - it doesn't happen very often). I have been surprised more recently at the interest I have been developing in some of the more business and organisational aspects of my job. I suppose my interest in science was because I liked understanding how things work and am realising that this curiosity can be appeased by working out the various functions and drivers that make the elements of a large organisation successful.
Why were you successful?
Luck, to an extent. The reception of my application indicated that it was very solidly presented (nicely written, evidential, focussed, but still personal) - which helped.
What skills/ knowledge from your degree have you found particularly helpful in this role?
Because it's consultancy based, the report-oriented aspect of continuous assessment in the geoscience degree has been an asset - the industry is engineer dominated, so this stands out more than you'd necessarily expect. Otherwise, fairly general things like a decent knowledge-base across the sciences, ability to switch between disciplines, and research skills have helped.
What advice would you give to students wishing to follow the same path?
I initially went in with the perspective that I'd be back with hammer and compass clino in hand in a short time. If this is a close-held aspiration, don't do it be aware that it will change the way future employers look at you (you become "Nuclear Industry", not "Prospective Geologist") If, for whatever reason, you do want to join, as long as you keep an open mind about what you will do, there's every reason you can have an interesting and fulfilling time of it. I would strongly recommend going through a graduate training scheme. Running a scheme places a commitment on your employer to make sure you're developed. If you don't, and depending on your employer, you may have to be quite proactive about finding development opportunities. Be prepared to adapt your expectations, though, and you'll get there.