UCL Careers


UCL prepared me for an exciting and rewarding career in sustainability: Katie Robinson

As part of Sustainability Week (28 February - 4 March), we spoke to UCL Alumni, Kate Robinson, about her sustainability role and how her time at UCL helped to develop her skills for success.


14 February 2022

Degree programme: MA Cultural Heritage Studies
Graduation year: 2020 
Current job role: Education, Communication & Outreach Officer at Veolia 

What is your current job? 

I am an Education, Communication and Outreach (ECO) Officer working for Veolia on behalf of Lambeth Council.

I was drawn to Veolia because of its commitment to protecting the environment and conserving natural resources through its expertise in waste, water and energy management services.

I work on the waste stream, engaging with residents in Lambeth on recycling in its many forms such as sharing general information on the do’s and don'ts of recycling in the borough and introducing food waste recycling services to more properties. 

Veolia describes its employees as the resourcers behind the resources and in the current climate crisis, I knew I wanted to be a part of this.

The role offers me the opportunity to work with the community, on the ground, to develop solutions to local problems.

How did your time at UCL help you to develop?

After my MA in Cultural Heritage Studies, I went straight into an internship with Sustainable UCL which was vital in transitioning from my previous experience into the sustainability sector. My previous work experience was entirely in customer service roles and almost exclusively within the hospitality sector.

However, during my studies, I realised that I wanted and needed to move into environmentalist work. Making a career shift requires an understanding of where your strengths lie and of the transferable skills you’ve picked up along the way.

My time in hospitality gave me what I consider to be my greatest skill today and that’s the ability to talk to anyone so I knew that a role in engagement would be where I could offer this experience.

I also realised the potential of the internship was boundless and got involved in as many different and diverse projects as possible to really strengthen my CV and broaden my sustainability knowledge from rewilding campus to energy efficiency. 

What are the key skills that you use in your current job?

Open and inclusive communication is at the heart of everything I do with Veolia. This comes from my time in hospitality but was something I was able to really hone during my internship with Sustainable UCL and has been invaluable in my current role.

Time management and organisation - what I also refer to as obsessive list-making - are essential to my work as I am often juggling many projects alongside day-to-day tasks, some urgent and some less so. Learning to prioritise has therefore been another skill that I’ve developed to assess which of these tasks is more urgent and something everyone will have, whether they know it or not, from their time studying. 

These are just some of the key skills I know I rely on every day but there are many in between that help me to do my job.

The greatest skill that everyone needs working in the sustainability sector is adaptability as it is an ever-evolving and growing industry, responding to the climate crisis as it develops. 

What does a typical day at work look like for you?

It’s a really varied role which is why I love it. One day I could be working with a community group to help them build raised flower beds in an effort to green an area and deter littering and dumping of rubbish and the next I could be presenting to a primary school about waste minimisation and recycling.

What do you find most enjoyable and most challenging?

A typical day though largely consists of responding to residents either via email or over the phone about ideas they have to improve their area and working with the whole of the Veolia Lambeth team to maintain a smooth service across the borough.

In addition, I am usually working on around three different projects at any one time, all with different targets and deadlines so keen time management and organisation is vital to my day-to-day work. I work with designers to produce campaign materials and operations teams to determine the logistics of Lambeth’s recycling services.

My team also works closely with Lambeth Council so I deliver regular reports to share our findings and to continue to improve recycling in the borough.

What would be your top piece of advice for current students interested in a career in sustainability?

Everyone is compatible with working in sustainability. Every industry and sector is, or should be, responding to the climate crisis now so whatever your field of study, or past experience, it will be useful.

Understand where your greatest strengths lie and make a note of all your transferable skills (you’ll have far more than you think), and use these to look for the types of roles and organisations that are calling out for them. The sector is growing rapidly so the diversity of jobs out there has never been more exciting.

Understanding your strengths will be most useful if you can also be adaptable. The world is changing, and working in sustainability is about constantly adapting to the situation we have and if this past year has taught us anything, being flexible is a gift.

Do you want to be part of developing a sustainable future? Or discover how you can use your skills to create change?

Then come along to UCL Careers Sustainability Week 2022, to meet employers at the forefront of sustainable research, policy, consulting and innovation in business, infrastructure, government, energy and more! Whatever your degree, a career in sustainability could be your future.

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