Geography graduate profile - Ellen Clancy

Geography graduate Ellen Clancy describes her career journey from the University to employment with Associated British Ports.

"I was born in Hong Kong and then brought up most of my life in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. I moved to Plymouth to study BSc (Hons) Geography and achieved a 2:1, focusing almost entirely on physical geography modules with a particular interest in cold environments and processes. My dissertation looked at Dartmoor’s past climate and whether it was a periglacial or glacial environment through investigation of the relict stone stripes on the tors.  

At school, geography was always one of my favourite subjects and I wanted to study a subject at university which would give me the chance to be exposed to a wide range of topics. Geography offered me the chance to learn in a variety of ways including lab work, fieldtrips, group work and traditional lectures, which a lot of subjects just cannot offer.

The best part about my degree were the fieldtrips. In particular, in my final year, I had the opportunity to go to Iceland where I was able to learn practical fieldwork skills and see incredible natural landscapes such as the Jökulsárlón glacial lake and I even got the chance to walk on a glacier!

The September after I graduated, I started working for Associated British Ports (ABP) as a Management Trainee on their graduate scheme. During my time on the scheme I had the opportunity to visit a number of different ports such as Ipswich, Hull, Grimsby, Teignmouth and Plymouth and to see the wide variety of operations and cargo that is handled in our UK ports. The graduate scheme gave me the opportunity to experience many port activities such as fork lift driving, driving a CSU (continuous ship unloader) and helming harbour launch boats as well as climbing up the side of a ship with a pilot to navigate the vessel into Southampton.  

I am now working in the Port of Southampton as an Assistant Operations and Security Manager for Associated British Ports. I work with port users to ensure cargo handling operations are run efficiently and safely. My main work activities include compound management for cargo being loaded and discharged from vessels (in particular import and export cars and high and heavy cargo) and I am also the operational lead for bulk cargo operations. In addition I work as a duty terminal manager for cruise ship calls into the port where I am responsible for security and the operation of the terminal for a given cruise call.

My degree was very helpful in getting my job at ABP as it allowed me firstly to get a place on their graduate management scheme and I have been able to use my skills as a geographer to progress into a permanent management position in the port. Some of the most useful skills I learnt for my career were teamwork and communication, since as an operations manager, I am continually working with third parties around the port and other internal departments and without these skills very little would get done!

When I was in my final year I had no idea what I wanted to do; all I knew was I wanted to do something in the marine/shipping industry but wasn’t sure exactly what. Then, after lots of research, I found the ABP graduate scheme. I just knew it was the right career choice for me and luckily I was selected for the scheme. At the moment I hope to stay in the port operations/cargo handling industry and in the future I hope to work in some of ABP’s other 21 ports around the UK.

I would absolutely recommend a geography degree to other potential students! I had the best three years studying geography at Plymouth. The staff were so knowledgeable and supportive and lectures for me were always interesting. They ran excellent fieldtrips as well which were the best part of the degree for me! The skills you learn from a geography degree are applicable to so many careers - so it can set you up for a great career."