Lucy, one of our Catalyse Change mentors, tells us all about her own varied sustainability career journey and why she has decided to now also mentor young women.
Name: Lucy Gatward
Current occupation: Freelance communications specialist on various sustainability projects.
Current projects: Going for Gold Bristol – Food Sector Lead; City to Sea: managing Food Sector project.
My sustainability career journey
I can probably point to the start of my sustainability career in two parts. The first is accidental, the second, motivated by personal circumstance.
In 1996 I had a plan to move from London to Bristol. I was working for the BBC in the nascent website and digital department and struck a deal to launch a very low-tech website for the Natural History Unit in Bristol. I didn’t really know much about what they did – I was a London tech kid, good at design and riding the crest of the dot com bubble. But I absolutely fell in love with the place and the people, and their joy and passion for the natural world.
In 2001 my children arrived, in one package, prematurely. Their first 18 months or so were the most frightening of my life, not helped by the fact that my daughter was very hard to feed (she’s still a bit picky, 18 years on!). This is how I found my way to organic food. Every morsel that I got into her tiny, fragile body had to be the most nutritious, most easily digestible possible.
SELLING ORGANIC FOOD
I started to shop at Better Food, who had just opened as organic retailers in St Werburghs in Bristol. I was lucky enough to know Phil Haughton, the owner, and we came to an arrangement where I looked after their website in return for boxes of veg. When the children started school, I was offered a job as marketing manager. It was a fantastic opportunity, crazy, a little chaotic at times, but I learnt so much about food systems, sustainable farming, food in relation to social justice.
I also worked for 18 months at the Soil Association, which embedded my commitment further, before returning to a more senior position at Better Food. I eventually left at the end of 2019 with a view to delivering more campaign-led work – to deep dive into some of the issues I care most about.
HOW I BECAME A MENTOR
One of my motivations for becoming a mentor was a feeling that if I could do it, anyone could. If someone had suggested to the 18-year-old Lucy G that she might consider a career in environmental work, she’d have laughed out loud. I’m no good at science – it’s not a direction that would have come anywhere near my radar. So I wanted to demonstrate that there’s a depth and range of ways we can get involved in the issues that matter most. The crucial dimensions are passion and confidence. Mainly confidence.
WHY WOULD I RECOMMEND MENTORING?
I struck lucky with my mentee. Though very different personalities, we met in the spirit of trust and openness. I’d never done anything like this before. So I worried beforehand about my ability and usefulness, how to structure our time and what the measurable outcomes should be. Once we got going, I let my agenda go, setting smaller, bespoke goals as we moved through our meetings. I found the most useful tools for her revolved around self-belief, confidence, trusting her instinct. She asked me some tough questions about my life and choices – she was no pushover!
If you think this sounds interesting, don’t overthink it, just sign up. It’s not a massive time commitment and it’s a brilliant way to give something back. During the process, I’ve become more involved in a network of diverse and inspiring women. I’ve learnt new skills and reflected on my own career path and choices.
To potential mentees, I say go for it! You may not know it now, but the experience and wisdom of an older person who’s not your mum is a gift.
In fact, I think mentoring is something all young people should have access to.
If you are interested in being a mentor on our 2020/21 programme please email email@example.com