Julie studied modules at the Centre for Environmental Strategy at the University of Surrey, while researching how to help managers at Ford create more sustainable and resilient decisions, by looking at the effects of their choices on society, the environment, and economic sustainability.
Why did you become a Chartered Engineer?
Julie was sponsored at Brunel University on an Engineering and Management BEng, working for Lucas and following their MPDS scheme. She says: “This meant I became chartered quite early, at 25. That was very important as when I started, women engineers were rare, and my CEng was useful to show colleagues and customers that I really was a competent engineer!”
How did you enter the sustainability sector?
“I’ve always been interested in the environment, and more recently, social aspects of engineering and business. But there had not been much scope to get involved in these. I spent 10 years trying to move from automotive into a more sustainable sector, such as renewable energy. I was always pipped at the post by someone with sector experience or sustainability skills. Eventually I decided to do a qualification to help me make this change.”
What are the benefits of CEnv status?
In 2014, Julie became a Chartered Environmentalist through the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. She says: “CEnv is important to me when dealing with clients and potential employers in new sectors. It shows that I have a broad understanding of a range of sustainability areas, and that I have experience applying them. By applying for CEnv through the IMechE, I was able to include all the company work from my doctorate. I am also an IEMA associate member but I would need another two to four years of practice to reach CEnv there, and their criteria are more about environmental management. As a design engineer, the IMechE route suits my background and likely future activities better.”
Julie considers that most industries are not sustainable: “Much of today’s market is based on concepts of products, sales, and consumption which are over 100 years old; we rely on cheap fossil energy, abundant resources and a growing global economy whilst ignoring social and environmental impacts. That perfect storm is coming together with complex resource-heavy production, consumerism and designed-in obsolescence. Energy-efficient technologies, plus ‘appropriate’ and transitional technologies for the new world are required. Engineers have a big role to play in helping us get from now to the future.
“My impression of most engineers is that once they get their heads around the issues at hand they are very keen to tackle them. After all, what are we if not creative technical problem solvers? But they will have to work with and learn from other fields who do the social and environmental aspects better.”
How might CEnv status help you in future?
Looking to the future, Julie hopes to set up a micro-consultancy based on her research. Reflecting on the value of the CEnv qualification, she says: “Some companies specify CEnv or AM IEMA before you can work with them. If I am bidding for sustainability-oriented work, CEnv indicates a certain level of capability which helps me stand out as a better candidate. It will also enable me to network with like-minded individuals in similar roles, both inside and outside the IMechE, which can be very helpful.”
Find out how to become registered as a Chartered Environmentalist