Into The Industry: Environmental Consultant
This week, we sat down with environmental consultant Amie Lenkowiec, to chat about what first peaked her interest in marine life, and how she later pursued a career in environmental consultancy.
Hey Amie, tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a marine biologist by education, and have been living and working in Dubai for 8 years now. I did my bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Essex University, and the first environmentally related job I was offered after I graduated was at a small environmental consultancy in Dubai. Since then I have worked a few jobs out here, varying from a Non-Profit Marine NGO to a large offshore surveying company. I now work as a senior project manager and team leader for the environmental sector of a large international architecture and engineering company.
What makes you passionate about the ocean and environment?
I first started to become passionate about the marine environment when I tried scuba diving for the first time. While I had always been interested in nature, and loved animals, I hadn’t really ever paid too much mind to what was in the sea. Since the first time I donned my mask and fins and had a try dive I was utterly fascinated. I went to my local library and found all of the books I could on the marine environment and Jacques Cousteau. Since then the knowledge of what our oceans bring to humanity is what has kept me interested and passionate. Not only do we utilize the oceans for sustenance, education, enjoyment and tourism but the medicinal and technological knowledge that we have gained already, and will potentially learn, is truly phenomenal. It is this value of the oceans that keeps me passionate. The oceans could be holding the key to curing cancer, therefore it is critically important to ensure that we protect as many species as possible in this amazingly unique environment.
So how did you get into diving, and where did you gain your Divemaster qualification?
I had actually never even considered that I should try diving until my mother suggested it to me whilst we were on holiday together in Turkey when I was 14. That same holiday I became Open Water certified and the following year I returned to Turkey to train in all of the possible courses I could and ended up qualifying as a Master Scuba Diver. As soon as I turned 16 I returned yet again to Turkey to complete a Divemaster internship over 2 months, as I had become very close with all of the instructors at the Dive School there.
Can you tell us what the best and worst parts of your job are?
One of the best parts of my job is that we truly make a difference. We ensure that development works are undertaken in a way that causes the least possible damage to the environment. This means that we make changes for the better with every single project we complete. The other best part of my job is my team – the happiness and support that you can get from a strong, trustworthy group of colleagues is one of the most rewarding parts of any profession I believe. The worst part of my job is probably the long hours – our Dubai office is a branch of a predominantly US based company, so the hour difference is a killer. Every day our US colleagues are only just coming “online” at about 5 or 6pm UAE time – so I frequently have to work until the evening or wait until 11pm or so for a conference call!
Describe a typical day at the office.
My days are predominantly spent interfacing with clients for business development, or managing my own projects. Most of my client interfacing will be done at various company and Governmental offices across Dubai and the UAE, where I will be having meetings or giving presentations to client groups about the services that we offer and how we best placed to solve any environmental problems they may have. Managing my projects involves a lot of coordination with analytical laboratories, equipment suppliers, boat rental companies and our own field team, and also a lot of “back of house” tasks like invoicing, accounting, and quality management of documents and reports.
What made you decide to go into environmental consultancy?
I was initially drawn to environmental consultancy due to the huge diversity of the projects that consultants work on, and it is this fact that has kept me so fulfilled throughout my career. I can be involved in projects such as hydrodynamic modeling, groundwater surveying, fish and coral monitoring, construction EIAs and terrestrial ecology surveys to name but a few.
Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?
I will stay in Dubai for the next 5 years or so and continue to grow my technical project management experience with a view to becoming one of the regional business group leaders. After 5 years I will head to work in one of my companies offices in the States where I will hopefully be able to take the leadership role to an international level as by then I will have gained a vast amount of international experience from my work in the UAE.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in this industry?
Firstly make yourself stand out, however you can; whether this be by enhancing your CV with unique extra-curriculars or volunteer positions, or whether this is by just being a genuinely nice and enjoyable person to work with or speak to. I believe it is my very bubbly and happy personality that has given me such good advances in my career.
Secondly do as much volunteer work as you can to bridge some time before or between employment, but don’t ever let volunteer work slow or halt your search for paid employment. Potential employers will always chose paid experience over volunteer work as there is no proof that you excelled as a volunteer, as almost anyone can do it.
Lastly you can NEVER be too eager in your early career roles. Be the employee who is there first and leaves last, be that person who consistently asks your colleagues if they need your help, be the colleague who brings in biscuits for the break room. It may not feel like people notice these things on a day to day basis, but trust me they are all definitely noticed by senior management.