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Career Ladder talks to Sophie Sibley, environment and energy data analyst at SPIE UK

Q: How did you progress through the profession to your current role?
I actually started out at SPIE in a temp role after I finished University. During that period, I made sure I spoke with various people in the organisation to get a better understanding of the industry and what opportunities might be available to me. That is when I met George Adams, SPIE UK’s Director of Energy and Engineering. I was lucky enough for him to spot my enthusiasm and knowledge of the environment and energy sector and he subsequently gave me a job in his team.

Q:Do you have any qualifications or training in FM and related areas such as health and safety? And how have you benefited from them?
I have a BSc in Environmental Sciences from the University of East Anglia. I have also been fortunate to take various courses through SPIE, such as low carbon consultancy training.

Q: What is your greatest contribution to the FM sector, or your current role?
Currently, I look at environmental regulations and how this will affect projects. I also work with my colleagues to carry out energy management on sites and produce reports such as ESOS and SECR.

Q: What do you enjoy most about working in FM?
My job is incredibly varied from day-to-day, and as SPIE is an engineering business that provides many other services in addition to FM, it keeps me on my toes! I also have to keep on top of the latest legislation, which is very interesting.

Q: Do you have future projects or career goals in mind?
I’d like to progress my knowledge in the environmental area and how this will affect businesses in the future.

Q: What personal qualities do you think are most needed for a successful career in FM?
You’ve got to be able to think outside the box because often one solution will not easily fit another client. You’ve got to be eager to learn as the industry is always changing with new technologies being introduced. Therefore, taking a forward-thinking approach can help provide customers with the best and most appropriate solution, as well as taking into account their environmental requirements too.

Q: What do you think would make the biggest difference to the FM sector?
In terms of getting more women into the sector, accessibility needs to change. In my experience there is little wrong with the education level. STEM should be viewed as a normal career path for women but there are still many stereotypes and unconscious biases that act as barriers. We need to keep highlighting the fact that there are successful women in the industry, so women remain engaged. While my role is very varied, the FM sector can be very male dominated. To help create a more equal environment, I think women need to be integrated throughout the male cohort.

Q: Are you a member of any FM association or body and if so what benefits do you think they provide?
Not yet, but I’m working towards it! I think professional bodies have many benefits, in particular, they facilitate conversations with people that work across the industry, which in turn provides an additional opportunity to learn. You also get a range of perspectives on the most pressing topics facing our customers and the industry, which helps me impart better advice.

Q: What advice would you give to someone coming into the profession now?
I suggest joining a professional body and attending relevant events. Not only does this give you the opportunity to learn from others but helps you to start having discussions with the right people in the industry who might end up being a mentor further down the line.

Q: What are the greatest challenges of working in FM?
I think the greatest challenge in FM, is also what makes it more rewarding, in that no project is the same.

Q: What do you predict could be the main changes to the FM sector over the next few years?
I think the environmental impacts we will face in the future will be the main challenge. Right now, we can only estimate the regulations the government will put in place, so it is getting your business ready for those changes now that is key.

According to a recent report from City & Guilds, gender divides still exist surrounding the types of job roles that men and women do. The research found that women were four times more likely to work as a carer than men, and three times more likely to work as a shop assistant. Whilst men were six times more likely to work as an engineer and three times more likely to be working as a software developer or computer programmer. This suggests that there is much more work needed to divert women towards the STEM sector and into better paid careers generally.

Allied to this, the RICS Construction and Infrastructure Market Survey, found that 66 per cent of respondents in the UK reported shortages of quantity surveyors and 54 per cent said that they were seeing shortages of other construction professionals. In an effort to encourage more diverse groups of pupils to look at taking STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects the Institute launched its Inspire Workshops.

These flagship programmes are intended to promote the surveying profession to secondary level students. RICS members are being asked to volunteer as Inspire Ambassadors offering pupils a wide pool of access and input from RICS professionals, trainees and apprentices. The Inspire Ambassadors receive STEM training, are able to count volunteering as informal CPD and be able to take part in all Future Talent activities.

For more information visit: https://bit.ly/33I4rpD

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