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Insider Insight: Sarah Jolliffe

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ENDS Report 514, January 2018

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BAM's energy manager, Sarah Jolliffe
BAM's energy manager, Sarah Jolliffe

Do you have any tips for people about to embark in your field on how to make a success out of their careers?

An energy manager, especially within the construction sector, cannot perform the role on academic merit alone. So while university will offer energy management degrees, it is extremely important and valuable to be exposed to different roles that engage you directly in construction processes right from design to finished project. Also having a solid background in STEM subjects, which is advantageous in any job, is especially helpful in construction.

I have also found that paying attention to affairs wider than your own organisation is very important. This is because energy management is intrinsically linked to technological developments which can easily be missed by insular thinking. This often presents challenges for me in knowing what the best solution to bring into the organisation is. Technology moves faster and faster each year so having an open mind is key.

Having a personality and good communication is also vital to the success of an energy manager. So much of what I and fellow energy managers across all sectors do is around achieving energy efficient behaviours, and this requires buy-in from colleagues throughout the business, be they young, old, junior or senior. I also recognise that changing behaviours is all about connecting with people at their level, so in 2017 I started my own YouTube channel dedicated to energy management to help make energy a high priority for our people.

Who have been your role-models/mentors in your career?

In my current position I am inspired by the work that the likes of the Energy Institute Energy Live, and Energy Managers association undertake, and I’m currently working towards becoming a chartered energy manager with the Energy Institute.

What stages of your career have been the most challenging?

Among the most challenging times have been those of employment uncertainty. Back in 2008 when I left the building trade, there was the biggest financial crisis in my life-time stunted the construction industry acutely. This led to me moving into civil engineering as there were opportunities on large, long-term projects that gave certainty of employment.

Current challenges I face now are those which involve securing investment for energy efficient solutions. There are literally thousands upon thousands of great energy related products and services, but it is often difficult to see the wood for the trees, thus securing the right solution for the business is challenging.

Personally, the biggest challenge  was going through my transition from a boy to a woman, which I have successfully achieved during my various roles within BAM Nuttall. Happily, my internal worries and concerns about being an openly transgender woman vanished quickly after announcing my plans to the company back in 2010, and this has coincidentally turned into a highly positive and motivating experience.

How did you land your current job?

My career has taken many twists and turns. After working as a general builder for five years, I entered into a higher education course known as the ‘Higher National Diploma’ (HND) in Civil engineering which led me into an engineering post with BAM Nuttall. During this time I learned a great deal about large and complex infrastructure projects and enjoyed being the person who managed the translation from designs to the built environment.

After four years I had the opportunity to work on the prestigious Crossrail project in London within a joint venture to construct the western tunnels, Bond street, Tottenham Court Road and Farringdon stations, but within an environmental discipline. This role required ensuring that the project met its environmental obligations under the contract with particular regard to meeting its energy and carbon targets and inspired me to consider the wider environmental impacts outside of this one project. This coupled with the trade and professional occupations has given me a wealth of both practical and academic knowledge that I find invaluable today in my current role as company energy manager for BAM Nuttall, a post which I have held since Jan 2015.

What have been the groundbreaking instances or milestones in your field that have really changed the way you have to work? And how did you adapt to these events?

The largest projects often bring about seismic shifts in the construction industry. In my relatively short career, and in particular my time on Crossrail, it was noted that there is an acute need to clean up London’s dangerously polluted air. This need directly led to Crossrail implementing plant and transport emissions policies that effectively mandated that all vehicles associated with the project must have the most efficient and ‘clean’ engines as possible. In doing this, it effectively gave the business case the industry needed to clean up its act.

Since then this approach has seen our direct and indirect plant and transport operations slash their emissions by ensuring their fleets are as eco-friendly as possible so as to maintain our position in the marketplace as a leading civil engineering contractor. Tier 1 contractors have adapted their project delivery models since then to cope with these requirements.

Have you been offered much continuing professional development, has this been useful?

Professional development/membership was not something historically I recognised as of great importance, but reflecting on the past couple of years I can say that there are certainly benefits to having a relationship with the professional bodies. In my case this is with the Energy Institute who provide professional qualifications for energy managers. At the time of writing this I have completed their level 1 energy management essentials course which I found extremely helpful and gave me a good all-round grounding in the field. The next step is to attain the Level 2 accreditation which will enable me to have a much deeper technical understanding of succinct elements of energy management such as procurement, metering and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) solutions to name a few.

Could you sum up, in one sentence, what has changed in the industry since you first began your job?

If you said to a company 10 years ago “we need an energy manager”, it would have been dismissed as folly, now the role is seen as an intrinsic part of being a successful business.

What does the future have in store for your industry – choppy waters ahead? Or a fruitful and secure future?

The future is extremely bright for energy managers in construction in my opinion. With science telling us that the human race is the most probable cause of climate change, and the recent Paris agreement, there is much certainty for energy managers in being tasked with delivering the carbon emissions reductions that world leaders are now much more educated and engaged with. With this engagement and support, energy managers are fast becoming one of the most respected professions within a company's’ support functions and it is becoming easier than ever to demonstrate real value.

 

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