As it is Sustainability Careers Week, we are going to be writing a series of blogs, one from each member of the team to share our experiences, how we got where we are today and offer some advice about establishing a successful career in the sustainability industry.
Today we are going to find out about Kerry Horvath, Head of Sustainability at Queen Mary University of London.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I am the Head of Sustainability at QMUL and ensure that we achieve our sustainability commitments. This includes creating a new sustainability strategy which we will be publishing this year, implementing our management systems and helping lead the team to deliver an extensive number of projects and programmes all designed to enhance sustainability at QMUL.
What was your first job?
My first job was at Morrison’s working as a bag packer two weeks before I turned 16. When I turned 16 I then started working in the cake shop, bakery and deli. I loved the job as I was able to work pretty flexible hours around my sixth form lessons. Even though I thought all I was getting from the job was money to set me up for university it was so much more. It gave me independence and a chance to take on responsibility for relatively small tasks but to see how they contribute to the success of the whole store. During the summer, before university, I provided cover for all areas across the store and this not only meant I was able to get some savings behind me before university but also work with such a wide variety of people and personalities!
How did you get to where you are today?
I left university 6 years ago and was very fortunate that the day I handed in my Masters dissertation I got offered a job as a Greener Living Assistant managing the engagement programs and management system at London South Bank University (LSBU). I then became LSBUs Energy and Environment Officer and took on the full environmental and energy remit for the organisation.
I joined QMUL in May 2013 as Energy Reduction Manager and since then I have worked my way up and now lead the team as Head of Sustainability. As Energy Reduction Manager I had a very clear remit. I had to gather and analyse current and historic utilities data, assess our carbon performance and work on increasing efficiency. However it quickly became apparent that a wider sustainability and environmental role was needed so I also took on legal compliance, environmental management, engagement and anything else sustainability related we fancied doing. Since then the team has doubled in size and I became Sustainability and Energy Manager then shortly after Head of Sustainability in October 2016.
I am also very lucky that by working in the HE sector I have been able to get an extensive and varied amount of training and experience. I am an Advanced Certified Sustainability Practitioner, Lead Environmental Auditor, BREAAM Assessor, SKA Assessor, PAS 55 Internal Auditor and hold Practitioner Membership at the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA).
What is your educational background?
I always knew I wanted to work in an environmental role, I have never wanted to do anything else, except for the brief Astronaut phase when I was 8! However as I completed my GCSEs and A-levels the wide variety of careers and sectors I could work in relating to the environment was astounding. I decided to do a BSc (Hons) in Environmental Sciences at Plymouth University, which had a broad curriculum but a very strong practical and science based focus. I then stayed at Plymouth University and completed my MSc in Sustainable Environmental Management. Throughout my degree and masters I realised that energy, economics and legal compliance really interested me so I started looking at how to get into a broad sustainability management role to work in these areas. Both my degree and masters were accredited to different professional bodies and I decided that the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment was more relevant than the Institute of Environmental Science given my careers path so I became an associate member. I have also completed a large amount of training since leaving university and most of these are listed on my Linkedin profile.
What extracurricular activities do you do/have you done in the past?
When I was at university I spent all my time volunteering and I honestly think it is the reason I got my first role and is the reason I am where I am today. I was the Raising and Giving Society (RAG) Treasurer and President and I then became the Volunteering President for the students union. These gave me endless experience and transferable skills. This included everything from financial, project and event management to pitching for funding. I won awards from the SU for my contribution to volunteering. The local paper gave me an award for my support to the community and I also received two gold awards from Volunteer England for Outstanding Contribution and Volunteering. All of which went on my CV for my first role. Now I like to relax a little more in my free time by going to the theatre, watching gigs and swimming a few miles a week.
What do you want to do in the future?
I have been very fortune to progress in my career very quickly. I would like to build on my experience as a strategic manager and eventually take a role similar to my current position but in a different sector as I have never really left education. I am also working towards my chartered status. I would like to also support the members of my current team so they can progress at the rate I did so they can get lots of opportunities in the future.
What are you top tips for students who want to establish a successful career?
My top three tips are
- Find something you are passionate about and prove it– for me it was volunteering so I made sure I excelled at it. Whether you like sport, art or volunteering like me stick at it work your way up and be the best you can.
- Have a plan– I know everyone is different but I had a plan and everything I did at Uni and in my career to date has contributed to it. The plan can change that’s not a bad thing but it’s great to work towards something substantial and even better when you achieve it.
- Work through it– I started at the lowest run on the ladder on a 9 month contract but I stuck it out and did what I had to do to prove myself and I got made permanent. Work hard and you will be rewarded!