Dan Lean

Current employer: CH2M HILL

Current job title: Senior Environmental Consultant

Current location: Exeter

“I would advise undergraduates to start contacting prospective employers and applying for positions before they have completed their degree. Compile a list of prospective employers and send out your CV and cover letter before your final exams.”

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

I began my career in 2002 with a large multinational civil engineering and environmental consultancy as a graduate environmental scientist. I have remained at the same company, developing a technical specialisation in the fields of sustainability, resource efficiency, waste management, and contaminated land. During this time I have gained a significant amount of experience working with organisations to effect change in relation to sustainable design and construction. I have also provided technical inputs on a wide range of projects in the UK and internationally, including transportation, water, maritime, environment, and land development projects.

Has your career path changed since graduation?

No, I’ve continued on a technical career path since joining the company, as opposed to the other main consultancy career paths of project management and business development.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

I have been fortunate that I have not had to face many difficulties in my career, with the notable exception of the recession in the late-2000s which particularly affected the civil engineering sector in Europe and the Middle East, where I tend do a lot of work.  

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

Working on the London 2012 Olympic Park, which at its time was the largest construction project in Europe, was an amazing experience and a career defining moment. I felt incredibly proud to have personally contributed to this iconic national project, and I will always remember the fantastic people with whom I worked and the time I spent living in London. Saying that, getting to work overseas in places like Bermuda and the United Arab Emirates is definitely a close second.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could?

I’m not sure if there is anything that I would do differently; although, I sometimes regret not having continued my studies onto an MSc. However, at the end of the day the offer of a graduate position with a major international consultancy was simply too good to pass up, and I think that those early graduate years possibly taught me far more than I would have learned by continuing my studies.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

I would advise students to choose their dissertation with care and to think about aligning it with the type of career into which they want to progress. My dissertation was both academic and practical, involving desk studies, site survey, sample collection, laboratory analysis, and reporting, which allowed me to demonstrate to prospective employers that I had skills that could be directly deployed on their projects.

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

Studying at Plymouth provided me with the interdisciplinary technical grounding to allow me to adapt to an evolving market place and changing legislative drivers, industry goals, and client needs. I believe that this adaptability was one of the main reasons why I wasn’t too affected by the last recession.

What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?

Monday field trips in my first year, out in the minibuses. Well, that is when it didn’t rain - which to be honest wasn’t very often.

Do you stay in touch with other University alumni or lecturers?

I keep in touch with a few environmental science graduates and I’m continually running into other Plymouth graduates in my line of work (both civil engineering and environmental science graduates). I also used to bump into Dr Colin Trier at various Chartered Institution of Waste Management (CIWM) events around the South West. And my wife is also a Plymouth graduate as well.

Would you recommend undertaking a course with the University, and why?

I would definitely recommend studying at Plymouth. The environmental science degree courses are well recognised in industry and this is demonstrated by the significant numbers of Plymouth graduates that I have met throughout my career. The environmental science course gave me the knowledge of a broad range of disciplines (ecology, chemistry, geology, etc.), which helped me to determine the areas in which I wanted to specialise in. The largely taught course applied a diverse approach to learning (including a combination of lectures, fieldwork, lab work, tutorials, presentations, coursework, and exams) which worked really well.

Is there anything else which you would like to share with our current students?

I would advise undergraduates to start contacting prospective employers and applying for positions before they have completed their degree. Compile a list of prospective employers and send out your CV and cover letter before your final exams. In addition, sometimes it can be better to specialise in the less popular areas of environmental science (e.g. contaminated land, waste management, etc.) as this can often be where the majority of the work is: this was certainly my experience.

Students sampling dog whelks in Hong Kong