Attiya is an environmental manager for HS2 and her job involves everything from thinking about flood risks to making sure communities are affected as little as possible by any of HS2's railway plans. Could you do her job? Read on!
What are the best (and worst!) bits about your job?
I love that I see an immediate impact as a result of my work – for example, ensuring we avoid a listed building or heritage site (many buildings and sites are protected by British and international law). It’s also fantastic being part of such a well-known project that will make a difference to millions of people’s lives.
A job like mine often requires me to travel a lot, for example, out on site visits, meeting stakeholders and the affected community. It is not necessarily an office-based job and this can be tiring. That said, this side of the job is really important – I prefer communicating directly with people and, believe me, there are lots of opportunities as so many organisations and people have an interest in our project.
What 3 top skills or qualities are important in this job?
Number one, I think, is the ability to speak to different audiences – whether stakeholders (that means organisations like the National Trust and the Canal and Rivers Trust who have an interest in heritage and the environment), senior colleagues in HS2 or the wider public. You have to take care at times to be keep things simple when you are explaining things.
Second, I’d say planning and organising your workload is pretty important. I’ve just taken a project management course to help me with this, actually!
And last, I think you need to be a people person for this job, there’s so much teamwork and personal contact in this line of work.
How did you get into doing this as your job?
"There seemed to be so many options for people working in the environment, and I really didn’t want to restrict my options too much..."
I remember when I was little, I wanted to be a doctor – I wasn’t the only one, I guess it’s one of those obvious jobs every kid knows about! I did keep learning science at school, but I didn’t really fancy medicine and I didn’t want to work away in a lab – I wanted to work on something more visible. When I looked at it, there seemed to be so many options for people working in the environment, and I really didn’t want to restrict my options too much – I’d rather be a jack of all trades than a master of one! During my degree in Life Science back in India, I did placements with local organisations like the Bombay Natural History Society, educating children and adults about the natural environment. Straight after my first degree, I moved to the UK and started a Masters in Environmental Studies at the University of Strathclyde. I learned about environmental impact assessment, geographic information services and sustainability on this course, and then afterwards I worked for consultancies on smaller projects which gave me lots of useful experience for my job with HS2.
What subjects did you love at school?
Hmmm, so I’d say biology, physics, chemistry, geography – yes I found the right career! Solving a problem using my technical knowledge is what I enjoyed the most about these subjects. We actually do a lot of this at work to help decide on the best possible course of action, we call it ‘optioneering’. You might start with, say, 500 different options for your railway route, you then filter it down based on various things, like cost, the practicalities of actually engineering it, impact on the environment, on communities and so on. Eventually, you come up with the best possible solution!
Tell us something we didn’t know about your career or the industry you work in. Surprise us! There are over 230,000 businesses and 1.3 million people working in the environment sector! I honestly didn’t think this was a very ‘female’ job going in, but there is a really healthy mix of men and women involved in our sector, with lots of young people joining in which is really good news for the future.