Kate Bruintjes

Name: Kate Martin Bruintjes
Job: Director, Green Unlimited, Bristol
Qualifications: MSc Environmental Science

Why did you become an environment/sustainability professional?
I followed in my parents’ footsteps – they set up an environmental consultancy in the 1980s and, like them, I was always had a passion in geography/environment at school. For university I wanted to study something more modern and applied than pure geography and found that Environmental Science fitted the bill.

What was your first environment/sustainability job?
At university I considered different the options available at the time in the environmental field (“sustainability” wasn’t a ‘thing’ then) which included working for government/UN, charities (e.g. Greenpeace/Friends of the Earth) or in business as a consultant or in-house. I decided I wanted to work with companies from the inside to help make change so chose the ‘business route’.  My first job was actually as a Researcher in sustainable transport at the Transport Studies Group at the University of Westminster in London. I lasted for about 9 months as I quickly realised a life as an academic wasn’t going to be for me and I really did want to work in business!

How did you get your first role?
After I left university I wrote to what seemed like every single environmental consultancy/company with my CV. After receiving a few ‘thanks but no thanks’ letters but mainly not hearing anything back at all, I saw the Director of the Transport Studies Group interviewed on the Channel 4 news and so I took a chance and wrote to him asking if he had any openings…. he wrote back and I started as a Researcher three months later!

How did you progress your environment/sustainability career?
After my short stint as an ‘academic’ I have mainly worked for environmental/sustainability consultancies (four of them!) but have also worked in-house for an energy company and for an international sustainability charity. I moved on each time I was looking for a new challenge or something different and found each job in a different way: after success with the ‘writing to someone I saw on the TV’ method, I have been successful in getting two jobs applying via the standard job advert route, one job came from a recruitment consultant/agency and two via my network of contacts made along the way.

What does your current role involve?
I have recently started my own business as a freelance sustainability consultant and so I’m getting the business up and starting work with new clients, as well as marketing and building a network of other freelance consultants to collaborate with.

How has your role changed over the past few years?
For the previous six years I worked for a large environmental consultancy and during that time I had two children so my life has changed significantly as well as my ‘paid job role’! Becoming a parent has re-focused priorities and I don’t want to travel as much or work until midnight so much. Starting my own business means I have the flexibility and freedom to spend time with my family whilst working on projects and for clients that really interest me.

What’s the best part of your work?
The best part of my work is working with a great team to deliver top notch work to a happy client. And working on projects that make a difference are the most satisfying ones, coming back to my aim of working with business from the inside to help advance sustainability.

What’s the hardest part of your job?
The biggest change with my role so far has been the change from working in a big consultancy, managing teams of consultants based in a corporate office, to working on my own in my loft room!

What was the last development/training course/event you attended?
The last training course I attended was the best one I’ve ever been on! It was a ‘Mindful Leadership’ course developed and run internally by my last consultancy and it was aimed at developing your individual leadership style, along with mindfulness and meditation content. And being in a luxury spa hotel on the edge of a Norwegian fjord was also great!

What did you bring back to your job?
I brought back mindfulness and meditation to my everyday life. I now use the Headspace app regularly and it’s now part of my daily/weekly activities.

What is/are the most important skill(s) for your role and why?

Listening, being organised and being at least one step ahead are the most important skills for a consultant:
Listening, really listening to the client, your team, colleagues and any other stakeholders is critical, otherwise you won’t have happy clients or happy people!
Being well organised is essential as a project manager and project director to be most efficient and effective.
And being at least one step ahead of the client is another key skill for a consultant, as well as thinking on the go… which some might describe as “winging it”! Of course it’s all backed-up by years of knowledge and experience!

Where do you see the environment/sustainability profession going?
The ‘environment/sustainability profession’ is so diverse that there is no description that can cover the whole field. This means there are so many opportunities to carve your own niece, but it also means that it can be daunting to know where to start! Although the ‘profession’ has been around for over 30 years, it’s still evolving and still becoming mainstream in many ways. I see the field continuing to become more ‘professionalised’ via academic courses and qualifications, but meeting the challenge of sustainable development is an evolving task so the profession needs to adapt to be able to achieve this.

Kate Bruintjes  katemartin@hotmail.com   @KateBruintjes

Kate lives in Bristol and is a member of the Catalyse Change Advisory Board, she will be speaking about her career this Saturday 3rd February at our Green Careers Catalyst workshop