Tom Pashby – BSc (Hons) Environmental Science graduate

Current employer: Policy Connect

Current job title: Researcher and Coordinator, Energy Safety (and Health) Policy

Current location: South London

“If you’re looking at studying environmental science, Plymouth is seriously the place to go. The lecturers are extremely experienced in their field and are also great teachers.”

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

After finishing university, I found work at RenewableUK – the wind, wave, and tidal energy industry trade association. I worked in the external affairs team, and was responsible for coordinating communications regarding onshore wind development.

Having worked at RenewableUK on a five month fixed term contract, I then moved on to the Fleming Policy Centre to work as a campaign manager, advocating for the Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs) policy framework.

Most recently, I’ve started working at Policy Connect as a researcher. Policy Connect is a grouping of All-Party Parliamentary Groups, and I coordinate the All-Party Parliamentary carbon monoxide group.

How has your degree helped/influenced your career path?

My degree turned me on to ecological economics, planetary resource limits, and the need to improve public policy. It helped me to realise that we must get better at protecting the environment.

Has your career path changed since graduation?

I’ve shifted towards wanting to learn more about politics, and how to influence policy. This has led me to my current job, which involves working with members of parliament and peers in the House of Lords.

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

Being unemployed is undoubtedly the most difficult part when creating a career. I was unemployed for a couple of months after finishing my degree, and was recently unemployed for about six months. Unemployment can take a serious toll on your mental health, and the way you balance your relationships with family and your ambitions can be a challenge. The best way to keep going I’ve found is to communicate your struggles with people you trust, and to keep yourself interested in whatever it is you want from a career.

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

The most exciting thing I’ve done is probably going into parliament to help out at events and meet parliamentarians. I recently found myself sitting in a corridor in the Palace of Westminster, and had MPs wandering around me, and I could hear Big Ben tolling in the distance.

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

Meeting people and getting into networks is arguably the most important thing you can do. Most of the jobs and work experience placements I’ve had have been made possible by knowing people in the organisations. Get on LinkedIn, go to events and conferences, and directly contact people for whom you’d like to work. They might open a position soon, and you’ll already be on their radar.

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

Studying at Plymouth opened a huge variety of opportunities for me. I’d already got in the habit of saying ‘yes’ to as much as I could. This did lead me to joining fourteen UPSU societies at my first Freshers’ Fair, which in hindsight was less than wise.

It’s a cliché, but it’s true as well that you get out what you put in. Aside from studying for my degree, I threw myself into student society committees like Amnesty International, and I ended up founding Young Greens at Plymouth University. I also got elected to the student parliament as the Environment and Sustainability Representative, and ran with the Green Party for Plymouth City Council. This all helped me to develop both professional and personal skills like confidence, organisational skills, and public speaking.

What lessons/skills did you gain from your course?

I gained a lot of traditional skills like writing, time-management, and working in a team with people from diverse backgrounds. My degree has also helped me to develop my vision for my future, which is totally invaluable now.

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

I secured a week long work experience placement and a six week internship in the first summer of university. The week of work experience was at Glencore Energy in London near Mayfair, and the internship was at a renewable energy services company near where I lived in Hertfordshire. Working at Glencore, which trades in fossil fuels and minerals, helped me to realise that I really wanted to work in renewables and sustainability, and that I am not driven by money. And working at the renewable energy services company gave me the opportunity to learn about the sector, and how to do basic administration in a private company.

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

Yes I would. The location is excellent. If you’re looking at studying environmental science, Plymouth is seriously the place to go. The lecturers are extremely experienced in their field and are also great teachers.

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

I can’t stress enough how important it is to network. You should also try to make sure you commit to come kind of volunteering alongside your studies, and whilst working after you finish university.