Career Advice: John Newton

After stepping down as managing director of the Ecology Consultancy after 17 years, its founder John Newton shares some career advice

John NewtonWhat helped you get where you are in your career?

I have always had a real passion for the subject which meant the day-to-day work always kept me interested. It was also important to take that time to build up experience, expertise and contacts.

What qualifications are the most necessary/most beneficial in the ecology sector?

It is always beneficial to have a second degree in building a good academic knowledge base. A good grounding in field knowledge of UK flora and fauna is also important and of course, so is being open minded, personable and able to get a message across to a wide audience.

What have been the stumbling blocks or barriers along the way? And how did you adapt to these challenges?

Having to work on short term contracts to build experience and expertise. I was made redundant from my first ‘proper’ job and then for a few years worked as a summer warden on nature reserves which meant having to find gainful employment during the winter months such as sprout picking! But I knew what I wanted to do and refused to be distracted.

What have been the pivotal moments in the field?

The passing of The Wildlife and Countryside Act and Habitat Regulations was a key moment as this meant organisations really had to stand up and take note about the impact they were having on the environment and wildlife as it was now enshrined in UK law. The changing awareness and the uptake of environmental management systems and sustainable development by the construction industry as a whole over the last 20 years has also been really good to see.

What stages of your career have been the most rewarding?

They have all been rewarding but in very different ways. Establishing and making The Ecology Consultancy a success and creating a great working environment that has attracted an excellent team has been immensely rewarding.

How do you get the most out of your team/colleagues?  

By creating a great environment in which they can work and be happy. By listening to them and supporting them.

Where do you think there are the most job opportunities in the sector?

In the consultancy sector. There are lots of big projects coming up and more houses are needed – all of which will require ecologist input. In addition the construction industry in its widest sense is much more aware of the need to perform better on full spectrum of environmental issues.

What other advice do you have for people about to embark on a career in ecology?

Follow your passion and continuously work to improve your own performance