Career profile: Muhammad Ali MIEMA
Environmental manager/portfolio sponsor for environment and air quality, Transport for London
Why did you become an environment and sustainability professional?
I have two personal interests; politics and the environment, and I am interested in how effective legislation or policy can influence the environmental agenda. Essentially, this brought me to work on environmental matters in local government.
What was your first job in this field?
My first role was as an environment adviser in the food sector in Nottingham. I was responsible for ensuring compliance with environmental permits and improving the environmental performance of two food manufacturing facilities by implementing an ISO14001 environmental management system.
How did you get your first role?
After my MSc in environmental management from the University of Nottingham, I did a voluntary placement with a Groundwork Trust and in my third month was offered my first job.
What does your current role involve?
I oversee implementation of various environmental improvement projects in line with the Mayor’s Transport Strategy. This involves securing funding, writing business cases and putting in place robust governance and benefits realisation plans. I am currently working on implementation of the Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London to reduce air pollution. Other projects include installation of rapid charge points across London to increase uptake of electric vehicles, and implementing a variety of schemes under the Mayor’s Air Quality Fund.
How has your role changed/progressed over the past few years?
Early on in my role at TfL, I was mainly responsible for providing environmental support to business then gradually moved into environmental impact assessment of infrastructure projects.
What’s the best part of your work?
Working on a unique set of projects to improve air quality and reduce the health impact of air pollution across London.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
In the current financial climate, explaining the benefits of incorporating green infrastructure and biodiversity within civil engineering projects.
What was the last development event you attended?
An event about integrating green spaces into linear infrastructure like cycle superhighway, rail and road schemes.
What did you bring back to your job?
It was very useful to hear about challenges faced and solutions offered by other organisations, as well as tools to monetise the benefits of green infrastructure.
What are the most important skills for your job?
I believe effective communication and stakeholder engagement are vital skills for my job, owing to the nature of our organisation and type of projects that I work on.
Where do you see the profession going?
Consideration of environment risks and opportunities are an increasing priority at board level. I believe that commercially and financially aware environmental professionals can influence key decisions and help raise the profile of the profession.
Where would you like to be in five years’ time?
Ideally, in a leadership role where I can influence the strategic direction of an organisation to maximise environment and sustainability benefits.
What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?
I started my career with a placement and I still think that’s the best way to get the required experience and find your first job in the field.
How do you use the IEMA Skills Map?
The IEMA Skills Map is a useful tool and I use it to review and understand any gaps in my skills.
If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
Committed, optimistic and professional.
What motivates you?
Seeing environmental issues such as air quality and climate change gaining a higher profile over the past two decades.
What would be your personal motto?
Believe you can and you are halfway there.
Greatest risk you have ever taken?
Rejecting a PhD offer to take up a post as an environment adviser. I can safely say that it was the best decision I’ve made.
If you could go back in history, who would you like to meet?
American marine biologist and conservationist Rachel Carson, whose book Silent Spring helped advance the global environmental movement.