Career profile: Sandra Norval April 2019

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Sandra Norval, FIEMA CEnv, Director, Bluedotaug

Why did you become an environment/sustainability professional?

Growing up on the edge of North London, minutes from countryside, I watched urban sprawl in action during my formative years. Country walks gradually urbanised and I noticed the change in wildlife. After a few years in accountancy I realised I wanted to do work that contributed to the environment, and so I started my degree in my mid-30s and moved into the profession.

What was your first job in this field?

I created a project alongside my accountancy job and rapidly made a huge impact on the company’s energy consumption. At first it was additional to my day job but it led to the creation of a new role.

How did you get your first role?

It was all about creating an opportunity. I did a lot of research and gleaned what I could from all sorts of sources, internet searches and attending events. I gathered internal data and analysed it and put together a proposal for the board. I was given the green light and we achieved certification just a few months later. I’d justified the benefits to the business and a role was created for me.

What does your current role involve?

My business helps organisations to think strategically about the crossover between sustainability and technology, delving into their business model, spotting opportunities and developing the value proposition.

How has your role changed/progressed over the past few years?

I have found my niche is in the crossroads between the digital transition and the transition to sustainability. I’m conscious of the ethical issues and worry that people will be left behind. My business is dedicated to supporting people and businesses to build a future that prioritises the wellbeing of our planet and all life on it while embracing technology.

What’s the best part of your work?

That beautiful moment when a client’s eyes light up with the spark of inspiration.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

When your integrity is challenged and you’re asked to act against your values or skills. I turn to our Professional Code of Conduct for guidance.

What was the last development event you attended?

The Sustainability Leaders Forum on Disruptive Technologies and Sustainability, in December.

What did you bring back to your job?

As I was on the panel I did additional research, and the debate and the discussions in the room honed my thinking around some key concepts I’ve been working on.

What is/are the most important skill(s) for your job?

Embracing being a beginner. We’re in a state of flux and change is happening constantly and rapidly; we need to develop resilience. This isn’t a time to dig your heels in and refuse to move. We have to be part of the change so we can influence it!

Where do you see the profession going?

To preserve our natural environment, we must engage with developing the protocols that shape the way AI, robotics and other technologies emerge. I see a subsection of our profession developing. We’ll see increasing specialisms with a solid backdrop of core sustainability expertise.

Where would you like to be in five years’ time?

I feel an increasing passion for the ethics and application of technology. As a Fellow, I want to make sure that I am contributing to this.

What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?

Know your skills, look for opportunities to address the gaps you want to fill, and if you don’t find an opportunity, see if you can create one.

How do you use the IEMA Skills Map?

The Skills Map has informed my personal development plans throughout my career, and now it helps me to inform clients who want to build their knowledge and skills, too.

If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Tenacious, curious, innovative.

What motivates you?

Seeing my clients succeed.

What would be your personal motto?

Embrace the inner beginner.

Greatest risk you have ever taken?

Leaving a secure job to start a business.

If you could go back in history, who would you like to meet?

Carl Sagan; his ‘pale blue dot’ speech inspires me every day. 

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