Vanessa is a Senior Scientific Officer at DEFRA, based in Bristol.
I have worked in the public sector since 2009, after graduating with an MSc in Disaster Management, and a BSc in Geology & Geography. I started on the Ministry of Defence’s Science & Engineering Graduate Scheme, as an Environmental & Sustainability Officer, working mainly on nuclear defence projects. I then moved to Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), as a Geography Evidence Adviser, where I promoted and advised on the use of geography across the Defra Network and Whitehall. I also represented Defra on the Copernicus Expert User Group for Emergency & Disaster Management and on the International Disaster Charter. However, the majority of my role was managing the Met Office Hadley Centre Climate programme, co-funded with DECC, and engaging across Defra to promote climate science, especially in an adaptation context.
In 2016, I undertook a secondment to MHCLG (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government), as the UK Contact Point for the North-West Europe and North Sea Region Interreg Programmes and Programme Lead for URBACT. Interreg programmes fall under the EU Cohesion Policy and are funded by the European Regional Development Fund; the aim is to support cooperation across borders, through project funding, to jointly tackle common challenges and find shared solutions.
I have recently returned to Defra, as a Senior Scientific Officer, and am currently working on building international science & innovation partnerships.
One thing that has always impressed potential employers when I apply for jobs is my commitment to CPD – both in support of my chartership, but also my evident interest in what I originally studied. Also, that I run a not-for-profit organisation, outside work, delivering hazard workshops to developing communities.
Project management and communication skills.
For a start, when building international partnerships, it is good to know where places are, but geography also helps one understand the natural environment and cultural aspects of a country!
I love working beyond borders. Seeing how countries can work together to share knowledge on common environmental challenges is extremely rewarding and something I am passionate about.
There is the option to apply for promotion within, and transfers between departments. There are also loans to various agencies.
Geography is a great degree base – you can become highly specialised or go into management – learn the basics!
I travel … a lot. I also volunteer at Bristol zoo every week. I attend various courses held locally by scientific organisations and universities. This variety keeps things interesting, but also makes sure I’m up to date on new thinking!
Because I genuinely loved, and still do, trying to understand the planet we live on, how it impacts us, and how we impact that!
Job title: Senior Scientific Officer
Organisation: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Location: Bristol, UK
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