Dion Mellows – BSc (Hons) In Environmental Science

Current employer: SHA Environmental

Current job title: ESD Manager

Current location: London

“Every failure is the best way to know, how not to do something” 

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

Since graduating in 2012, I have been on a varied career path which has now settled down. I started by flying to Ethiopia two days after my last exam to work as a sustainability consultant on a gold mining project in the country. Neither I or the company I was working for knew much about the requirements of the government.

I took it upon myself to liaise with all parties which involved walking around the capital Addis Ababa knocking on various governmental doors to understand what was required and to understand the varied environmental factors that are important to Ethiopians. This contract lasted for six months as the project then moved to another company.

From this, I then went and worked as a business development manager for a combined heat and power (CHP) company based in Woking. My role was to look at the systems the company had and the data being obtained from the CHP units to develop strategies to improve the products and the offering. I left this job with a mutual agreement after six months, as the role and the company did not suit my aspirations. 

I then spent several months being un-employed until I set my own sustainability consulting company up. I started with no clients, no knowledge of the industry and no work. 

The first year was hard and a steep learning curve taking on and sub-consulting appointments so that I could understand the industry better and see how others worked in the industry. 

This worked well and allowed my company to grow and employ four people within the first four years of trading. I then got offered a managerial position at a much larger company (NDY) which I couldn’t refuse. 

The offer of being the principal sustainability consultant on some of the largest construction projects in London and the South East was too good an opportunity to turn down. This brings me to where I am today.

How has your degree helped/influenced your career path?

100%, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the skills and desire to learn that I obtained from the University of Plymouth. The course taught me a significant amount about environmental issues and how this links into human sciences such as psychology. It is easy to know that there is an issue with our environment, the trickiest part is to get people to believe this. Empirical evidence alone doesn’t help.

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

I had my first born son two weeks before starting my final year which included dissertations and exams etc. This was tough but enhanced the desire to succeed with the University of Plymouth as I knew what the risks were of failing. 

I have been homeless, jobless and felt “less” in many areas, I believe all of these have helped me to get to where I am today with the help of a great number of strangers that were willing to support me at various stages.

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

Being in a small light aircraft flying into the remote mining camp in Ethiopia and then landing on a mountain hillside was quite special.

Imagine you were about to start university again – with the benefit of hindsight - what would you now tell yourself to have done differently?

Fortunately, I think I ticked every box the first time around. I enjoyed all the samples and offerings Plymouth had. I was treasurer on the Athletics team, dressed as a bumblebee around campus as part of biodiversity week, played armies at the weekend with the OTC, and enjoyed all of the nightclubs.

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

Coming from a background where none of my family on either side had ever been to University and very few going to college it was the desire to be around people that were driven to succeed that helped me. 

The course itself was fantastic and the range of learning materials was brilliant but it was the people that make the University of Plymouth special from the surfers to business students.

What lessons/skills did you gain from your course?

Report writing is a hugely important skill and cannot be valued highly enough. The skills and feedback from the lecturers were fantastic and helped me to present my views and strategies clearly. This is of benefit as the Mayor and others regularly read our reports.

Did you undertake a placement during your degree and if so, how did this benefit you?

I undertook a placement with Devon County Council over the summer break to obtain data to use for my dissertation. As part of this, I created a video to be used as an education tool. The placement was of huge benefit as it allowed me to put into action some of the skills I was learning at the time to see how these worked in industry. I achieved a 1st for my dissertation which I would put down to this collaboration with the council.

What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?

I have so many memories from the University of Plymouth that couldn’t be summed up in one statement. I got engaged to my now wife, had two children in Plymouth (one more since), met lots of new people, joined all the societies I could, worked in the pasty shop, Plymouth Argyle, C103 nightclub, paper deliveries and more. I partied late into the night and then studied late into the night. Overall my years in Plymouth made me the person I am today.

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

I stay in touch with many different groups from my time at the University, the friends I made in Plymouth are my family for life. 

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

Without a doubt. The people, the location, the culture are great and to top it off the lecturers really do know their stuff.

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

Make the most out of your time at the University of Plymouth: get a part-time job, volunteer, sign up to societies. Try to have a go at as many things as you possibly can, because this is the best time to explore. If you feel like you don't have the time, make the time: it will be worth it. Say yes to every opportunity as you do not know where it will lead!

Dion is a member of the University of Plymouth London Alumni Committee

Students sampling dog whelks in Hong Kong