Emma Fromant (BSc Geography, 2009)

Volunteer in the Spotlight - Emma Fromant

Volunteer in the Spotlight is a regular feature that highlights the alumni that help current students achieve more. Emma Fromant (BSc Geography, 2009) is a Senior EIA Consultant at Amec Foster Wheeler. Read about her career and why she volunteered at the University.

Tell us about yourself and your career journey.

I graduated in 2009 with a first class degree in physical Geography, I naively thought this would be enough to walk into any graduate scheme going as this had been the case for my friends graduating in 2008… however the worst recession since the 1950s hit hard during my final year and all companies stopped recruiting and my only option seemed to travel abroad to get some valuable work experience. Luckily in around January of 2009 an email dropped into my inbox advertising volunteer internships with an Indian rural development NGO – my dream job! I applied and got a place to do a six month placement carrying out an impact assessment of water harvesting techniques in rural Madhya Pradesh. I had a great time in India, and it was while I was here that I decided that I wanted to go back to uni to learn more about the environment and protecting it, so upon arrival back in the UK I researched the best MSc for environmental studies and found myself at Royal Holloway University of London on the Environmental Diagnosis and Management MSc. This was a one year course, half taught and half industry linked research project. I was determined to do an air quality research project but after proposing different ideas to various consultancies I was given the opportunity to carry out some ‘ground-breaking’ sewage treatment odour complaints research. Not something I would have thought of but it proved to be interesting and challenging and give me the opportunity to work with the UK’s leading odour specialist at Arup. It also give me the chance to get my face known at Arup so when I applied for the graduate scheme and had an interview I was confident enough to sell myself and get a graduate position in the contaminated land team. Since then I’ve worked on some great projects and have moved to Amec Foster Wheeler to be a Senior EIA Consultant. 

What aspects of your working life have you enjoyed the most so far?

I have really enjoyed the field work aspects of my job and not always being chained to the desk. The field work aspects of the job were more when I was involved in the contaminated land side of things, now as an EIA co-ordinator there’s no field work but I still get out of the office to go on site walkovers and client meetings. I also really enjoy the variation of different projects I get to work on, from high-profile projects like The Garden Bridge to small scale local authority reviews, almost every day is different.

If you weren’t in this sector, what do you think you would be doing instead?

When I finished sixth form college I went to an art college to do a foundation course that I never finished because I decided I wanted to travel and study Geography (at Exeter!)… I’m sure in a parallel universe I did finish the course and now working as a graphic designer somewhere! In fact, arts and crafts are still a big passion of mine and I spend a lot of my free time making things, painting or visiting galleries.  

What advice would you give to current students, and how can Exeter graduates get into your area of work?

I would advise joining or at least being aware of a professional body such as the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA)  or the Institute of Environmental Sciences (IES) .

Think about specialising and/or taking an MSc. Not only does the MSc give you an edge on other graduates it can allow you to make some valuable contacts within the environmental industry.

The ENDs Directory is a good place to start looking at the different types of consultants and companies that work in this sector, it also advertises jobs and other environmental news.

Networking and work experience are every useful to get to know people in the field and get your face known in such a small industry, and you never know, a random conversation might turn into an amazing opportunity.

If you’re planning on going through a graduate scheme remember to apply early as lots close in December. Although for the environmental world, because of the nature of work and favour over Masters students there does tend to be several that stay open later into the year.  

Always think about CV differentiators, and that doesn’t just mean the content, the way a CV is presented can make the difference between it being read and not. Think about having some key skills up front, summaries and bullet points, make it easy to read in a couple of minutes, because that’s usually how long we put aside to read them!

And finally when you get an interview, research the role fully beforehand, they won’t expect you to be an expert but at least the basic steps for environmental assessments that can all be found easily through searching the web.  

These are all things that I found worked for me, and no doubt some of this will or won’t help you but unfortunately there is no magic formula to getting a job in the environment sector so just keep the passion, persevere and use every knock back as an experience to learn and grow from!

And finally, what inspires you to volunteer so much of your time to help Exeter students?

It’s so hard nowadays that our parents and older generations don’t really have a clue about most of the new professions out there, so I like to volunteer in this way to give students an idea of the different types of career they could have and how they might go about getting there. I wish when I was at Exeter we had this kind of advice and support service, it may have been there but I never found it! 

Date: 26 January 2016

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