Nikki Jones is the Energy Mentor at our Catalyst Bootcamp, here she gives us an overview of her education and careerpath
Job Title: Independent researcher / writer
Qualifications: BSc from London School of Economics; MSc (Distinction) from Bristol University
Why did you become an environment/sustainability professional?
In my late teens I became aware of the enormous inequalities between the Global North and South and my passion was to understand this better. At the time, I assumed I would go and work in what was then termed the ‘Third World’. To get practical experience, I trained as a nurse and then travelled in Asia for a year, and worked in a leprosy centre in India. I came back and did my degree at the LSE in International Relations.
However, I hadn’t factored in marriage, parenthood, and a move to Bristol…! My career got completely knocked off course and I spent several years working for UK-based charities – Age Concern England, National Council for One Parent Families, the Alzheimer’s Society, the Carers Centre and I even managed a care home for adults with learning difficulties for a while. For six years I worked for the BBC, doing press and publicity work for the Antiques Roadshow…
When my son reached late teens I decided to go back to study. I took a Master’s course in International Development at Bristol University, and again thought I would probably end up working for an aid agency.
How did you progress your environment/sustainability career?
Through my studies I came to understand better that the Global South problems are more to do with ‘structural’ issues, factors embedded in the North-South relationship and the last few centuries of history. I took the opportunity of my dissertation to understand one big global industry – the oil and gas industry – and I was hooked! I realised I hadn’t understood the practicalities of how the modern world runs – I found it fascinating.
Since graduating in 2011 I have been writing professionally about oil and gas. But I soon realised that many environmentalists do not understand the ‘bigger picture’ of how energy is produced, who consumes it, how markets operate etc.
What does your current role involve?
Over the last 18 months I have put together a series of talks that I give in and around Bristol. Climate change is urgent and it’s alarming how few people understand this. Behavioural change and informed public pressure are essential if we are to stay below two degrees of warming. I find writing and lecturing is the perfect occupation for me – I just wish I had realised this in my early 20s!
What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?
My advice to any young woman contemplating her career is to aim high, and stay focused. Think about where you will need to live – is living in London an essential stepping stone? I spent most of my 20s putting together the experiences and study I thought would be necessary – but I gave it all up too easily! Get advice – lots of it! – and talk through your decisions with family and friends. The good news is that careers these days can be very fluid – with lots of second chances to take stock and set off in a new direction. The important thing is to find out where your real strengths are, where you can make a difference – then make it happen.
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