United Utilities offers careers across a range of disciplines and departments. Whether you’re at the start of your working life or have a plethora of experience under your belt, there’s an opportunity if you’re ready to live your future.

Here we talk to Esther, who started her career at United Utilities as part of the graduate scheme and now works to protect the environment every day. 

What is your role with United Utilities?

I'm an environmental strategy manager, sitting within the Asset Management department. My role is looking at how we work with a mix of stakeholders, both internally and externally, to review how we manage our catchment land surrounding the rivers that flow through them to ensure that they are sustainable and resilient.

In particular, I look after a project called Natural Course, which is a collaborative project between a number of organisations, United Utilities as the water company, The Environment Agency, Natural England and the Rivers Trust. Collectively we're looking at designing projects to better understand and overcome some of the biggest barriers that are preventing us from achieving good ecological status in our water bodies across the North West.

We've been given the time and space to build capacity and trial new, innovative ways of doing things to ensure we can tackle the key challenges  we are facing head on.

It’s all about taking that holistic perspective to all elements that impact our rivers and their catchments.

The Westmorland Gazette: Esther is a keen wild water swimmerEsther is a keen wild water swimmer (Image: United Utilities)

How did you get into your current role?

I'm quite new to the industry, I've been working at United Utilities for about four years now. I actually started my career with them fresh out of university on the graduate scheme, as a general manager graduate, completing six month placements around the business.

Eighteen months ago, I moved into my current job, as an Environmental Strategy Manager.

Why did you choose United Utilities’ graduate scheme?

I did a degree in geography at the University of Manchester and I really wanted to look at a career within the environmental sector.  United Utilities stood out to me as their graduate scheme offered the ability to move around the business, so I got a lot of experience in a number of teams and departments.

The thing about green careers is that it doesn’t just apply to environmental practitioner roles that are boots on the ground. So many careers connect to the green sector, so being able to get a feel for all of those across multiple placements was beneficial. It enabled me to move into the department that I wanted to.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Every day is different. Some days I'll be out and about at various locations across the North West, speaking to different stakeholders about visions and ambitions for various rivers and their catchments or talking through different environmental challenges on the ground.

Sometimes we have site visits to certain locations to see the challenges first hand or to see best practice and look how we can apply that elsewhere.

One day a week, I also work at partner offices. That's part of the Natural Course project. When working collaboratively, it is really important that we are able to build close working relationships and co-locating once a week allows us to do this. We are able to talk about key challenges and possible solutions in person and learn more about different organisational perspectives. 

The Westmorland Gazette: When not in the office, Esther loves getting outdoorsWhen not in the office, Esther loves getting outdoors (Image: United Utilities)

What’s your favourite part of your role?

I really enjoy getting to engage with external stakeholders, being able to understand different perspectives, different ideas and different drivers for doing things.

Especially as someone who's recently started their career, getting to work with different organisations, I feel like I've been able to learn more because I’ve had the chance to engage and understand what their business does and their organisational perspectives. I've learned so much more quickly than if I hadn't had that opportunity.

It sounds really clichéd, but I also just love the fact that I’m doing good. I'm really trying to achieve good things for the environment and that has wider benefits for our customers, and people across the North West.

How important is protecting the North West's waterways to you, professionally and personally?

I couldn't work for a company that that didn't take their environmental responsibilities seriously.

I'm an active individual when I'm not in work. I love to go hiking and I'm a wild swimmer as well, so ensuring that we've got healthy environments, healthy catchments and healthy rivers is also important to me from a personal perspective.

What do you believe is the biggest issue facing the North West in terms of water health?

It's hard to draw out one particular challenge that is the biggest issue for rivers - and that’s probably the biggest challenge in itself. Each river is different and they all have different issues.

You can’t tackle one issue without tackling the others, it’s all connected, which is what makes my job and the wider remit of United Utilities challenging.      

What steps are United Utilities taking to tackle river health?

Our Catchment Systems Thinking approach really looks at all the elements that factor into catchment health. You can't consider one element in silo, you've got to factor in everything happening across the catchment to be able to make sustainable changes.

We’re also considering new and innovative ways of working to address things like climate change and increased population growth which put extra pressure on the network. We are making sure that we're working in the right ways to tackle these challenges.

We’re collaborating with partners more than ever and schemes like citizen science involve the public in collecting and analysing data to create baselines for our rivers and catchments. This all helps us become more robust and resilient.

What would your vision be for North West waterways?

I think to have resilience.

Resilient rivers, resilient catchments that provide clean water, and strong ecosystems for everybody to enjoy.

If you could give advice to anybody looking to get into a role like yours, what would that be?

Make sure it’s something you’re passionate about. Don't worry too much if you've not got loads of experience, because you can pick that up within jobs and volunteering. Just make sure that you've got the enthusiasm and demonstrate that when speaking to employers because that's what we need – people who are passionate about making the change.

United Utilities offers a graduate scheme, apprenticeships, and internships for career starters. Visit https://www.unitedutilities.com/corporate/careers/ or why not come along to The United Utilities Information Centre at 8 Crescent Road, Windermere, LA23 1EA - just opposite the Post Office - on September 14, 10am-5pm to learn more about early careers opportunities.

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