Nicola Spofforth (née Berry), MEarthSci, Worcester 2001

Chartered Geo-Environmental Consultant, Mott MacDonald

What is your current role?

My current role is as a Geo-Environmental Consultant within Mott MacDonald’s Buildings and Infrastructure Unit, working with both environmental and geotechnical teams to help facilitate the development of a range of schemes with minimal environmental impacts. Salary band: £35,000 – £50,000 (following chartership).

I have two principal areas of work. Firstly the assessment and remediation of contaminated land, which includes (amongst other things) contaminated land risk assessments, design and supervision of ground investigations and the production of remediation strategies. Secondly, and lately more predominantly, I have been responsible for the co-ordination and production of Environmental Statements as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Process. Environmental Statements are an assessment of the likely significant environmental effects relating to large schemes – in my case these have included flood defence schemes, harbour developments, transport infrastructure­­­­­­ schemes and large-scale multi-use developments.

Clients come from both public and private sectors such as local councils, large scale developers and­­­­­ energy companies.

What are you most proud of in your career so far?

Probably getting through the chartership process to become a member of CIWEM (the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management) along with attaining Chartered Scientist and Chartered Environmentalist status at the same time. It included a panel interview (a bit like a viva) which I ended up doing while 8 months pregnant! I also won the Mott MacDonald Young Environmentalist of the Year award in 2011.

What are the future opportunities for you in your career area?

One of the advantages of working for a large global multi-disciplinary consultancy is that there is a lot of scope for progression into management, to really specialise technically or to gain experience in a different discipline (or any combination of these really).

There is usually the potential to move locations within the UK if needed, or to work on international projects as well as moving abroad to work in one of the offices spread all over the world.

What made you study Earth Sciences at Oxford?

I was lucky enough to study geology at GCSE and had a great teacher who advised taking sciences and maths at A Level if I was really serious about studying degree level geology. I looked at Cambridge but didn’t like the Tripos system so Oxford was the obvious choice. I couldn’t make the official open day so arranged my own by contacting the department and colleges myself – I got as far as the lake at Worcester and that decided my college choice for me!

What was your favourite aspect of the Earth Sciences course?

The field trips – Assynt, Castellane and Santorini particularly and I really enjoyed the mapping project too. I also liked being able to specialise in my final year with a really interesting and relevant project.

What advice would you give to current students, either just starting out, or about to graduate?

Get work experience! An Oxford degree is fantastic, a great asset. However, things are quite difficult in a lot of industries right now and they want graduates who can hit the ground running. Internships are particularly good for leading to job opportunities, although do apply early as many can be organised up to a year in advance. Be prepared for most work experience to be unpaid.

Online applications can be very hit and miss, so wherever possible, give your CV to someone in person and ask them to put it on the desk of whoever is responsible for recruitment. Any kind of career talk you go to, have a chat with the speaker after, have a copy of your CV to hand to them and get their business card.