We are delighted that Helen Taylor has joined our Board. Here she shares some of the learning from her own remarkable green career journey.
“I’m really delighted to be joining the Catalyse Change Board. This is the perfect fit for me, given I passionately believe in providing young people with the opportunity to build their skills and experience and flourish in their career. Plus, with sustainability at the heart of all I do, this is a fabulous way for me to further my mission to make a difference.”
My Green Career Journey
The right career can build our self-esteem, shape our beliefs, and realise our full potential. It’s not the be all and end all, but if you do what you love, you’ll love what you do and have a bigger impact.
I’ve been fortunate in having achieved a lot in my career. I attribute this to having some amazingly supportive bosses and following my instincts. Importantly, I’ve always done things that I’m genuinely interested in. By starting out wanting to understand how foods were manufactured (I had a fascination with how cornflakes and rice pudding was made in factories). I now run my own consultancy, One Blue Marble.
It’s been a fun and informative journey, culminating in me now supporting many businesses and charities that I greatly admire, with their fundraising, advocacy, and future development.
Studying Food Technology was amazing. I learnt how to run food factories, source ingredients, and the many manufacturing and preserving processes used. This propelled me on to work for several food companies, overseeing the quality of our products: dairy products, biscuits, desserts (no cornflakes or rice pudding!). I had the enormous privilege of working alongside many other talented food technologists representing our UK supermarkets, ensuring that everything that left our factory met their stringent requirements. This was great grounding, but some foods we made were highly processed, which led me to seek a different way.
Working for the Soil Association
In 1999 I beat a path to the Soil Association’s door, to ask if I could help. To my delight I landed the perfect role – overseeing the certification of organic food, beauty, and textile products. Later, I established a Business Development support service, where I had the fortune of first meeting Traci and Jenna. Ever enthusiastic to promote the benefits of organic products, I offered to lead the charity’s marketing and events programme when an opportunity came up, and later volunteered to lead their fundraising activities, as development director.
Moving into the charity side was a real turning point for me. I was doing new things that I didn’t really realise I could do! I quickly learnt if you’re a ‘starter and a finisher’, good at project management and enjoy working with people, you can achieve a lot!
Another big lesson for me was the realisation that although you learn certain skills and knowledge when studying, you shouldn’t underestimate the other skills and unique talent you may have. Transferable skills are key.
In 2010, I asked Dale Vince, Founder of Ecotricity, if I could work with him. I’d watched Ecotricity grow and hugely admired (and still do) all Dale believes in. We created an ambassadorial role for me, to connect more people with the ethos of the company. Dale’s mission is to change the way energy is produced and used in the UK. By delivering talks, events, running education programmes and supporting the transformation of Dale’s football club, Forest Green Rovers FC (FGR) to being the ‘greenest football club in the world’, and the ‘World’s first vegan football club, we attracted more & more people.
when I WAS CEO of a FOOTBALL CLUB
Speaking of football, I was so involved in the club, Dale asked me to take over the operational side and be CEO of FGR when we were promoted into the English Football League. A great experience that put all my people and project management skills to the test. Not to mention my football knowledge!
What a career! By 2018, I knew my passion for sustainability needed to take even more of a precedence – and it was time to go it alone. I wanted to support lots of organisations to benefit from my connections and experience. Hence, One Blue Marble was born, and is doing just fine in fulfilling my dream!
Advice on taking a career path – is there ONE route?
There’s no one path to take. Please, please follow your passion and instinct. If you find yourself doing something that doesn’t feel right, for whatever reason, you can and should, make a change. I recommend spending time with people who are doing roles you’d like to do and those you admire, and may well take you under their wing. Support from people who believe in you helps enormously. As you’ll see from my career history, it’s also good to ask if you can help an organisation. Being proactive is a wonderful thing and greatly appreciated by many organisations.
My day and what I like most about my job
My days take a lot of planning. I like to start early, at 6:30am, and create my ‘to-do list’, to ensure each of my client’s receives the right attention and I complete all I’ve promised to them in a day. I allow time away from my working day too, to ‘let go’ and allow the most important things that need prioritising to float to the top.
I spend a good proportion of my time keeping in close contact with all my clients and friends in my sustainability sphere. From designing presentations, to development planning and creating campaigns, I keep busy all day. I also dedicate a proportion of my day to researching funding and partnership opportunities and accessing these funds, as needed. Most importantly, I like to help others. We’re all in this together – sharing best practice and giving something back goes a long way towards helping the world go round. It’s not all about the money, purpose comes first in my world!
The future for green careers
I feel (and hope) green careers will become ever more prevalent. But I do want to throw caution to the wind and encourage anyone seeking a career in sustainability not to just head to the very obviously green companies. The more those who care about sustainability work across any industry, the more likely this will influence change. We can all make a difference, wherever we work.
Recent roles have appeared for supporting charities who are focussing on sustainable food production and preventing plastic pollution. Many roles are typically aimed at the disciplines of fundraising and communications. I’m constantly chatting to people about what we do at Catalyse Change and the opportunities for organisations to think ‘Catalyse Change first’ – when looking for great talent – and I’m very excited about doing more of this now I’m on the Board.
Skills To succeed in sustainability
It’s important to note that whatever you’re skilled in, you could have an influence in the sustainability of the organisation you choose to work for. Clearly, there are some very obvious green and sustainable roles out there, such as those verifying how organic or ethical a product of a company is – requiring good communication, analytical and organisational skills. You may be financially trained, brilliant at project management or good at telling stories through visual and verbal communications, the opportunities are endless. My advice on all of this is, don’t box yourself in.
A little bit of advice
The key to a successful sustainability career, is to spend time researching and learning about your passion, even immersing yourself in the non-sustainability world, to gather a true understanding of how things are done and what can be changed. When ready, you’ll flourish into a role that feels right and fits with your beliefs. Things don’t happen overnight, it’s worth doing the groundwork.
My biggest motto is, ‘if you want something enough, you’ll get it’. Passion is key!
Welcome Helen, we are delighted that you have joined us 🙂
Helen Taylor, Director, One Blue Marble
Join Helen on her journey via Instagram