Saturday, 4 June 2016

Battling climate change and battling crime

Special Constable Jemma Howland

If you asked my children when they were younger what I did for a job the reply would have been ‘my mummy saves the planet’. If you were to ask them now, they would say ‘my mum manages energy and environmental projects’, but this would be quickly followed up by ‘she is also a Special Police Officer in Wantage’. I think my kids are really proud of both my jobs and are of an age where they understand my two roles. My teenager, who is going through the ‘grunt stage’ of communication, does manage to say ‘stay safe’ when I go out policing. Parents of teenagers will appreciate the significance of these two words strung together!

I am like a stick of seaside rock – I have been in the same job for over 20 years – my hubby jokes that the name of the company I work for can be seen through the middle of me. I work for Ricardo Energy & Environment, which is an international private consultancy firm in the field of energy and environment. We assist governments and private clients worldwide to solve complex environmental challenges in areas such as energy, climate change, sustainable transport, waste management, resource efficiency, air quality and chemical risk. 

I am a project manager specialising in energy and climate change projects. The value of projects I manage range from £3,000 to £10 million. My role, in a nutshell, is to ensure projects are completed to time, budget and to the satisfaction of the customer. Sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? But it requires strong communication, listening and negotiation skills; and having the ability to manage diverse teams, make quick decisions and constantly multitask. All good transferable skills to my Special Police Officer role.

I currently manage a team of 33 external consultants with a portfolio of over 100 energy-related projects that have been part-funded by the UK Government. Many of my conversations with these team members start with them asking me ‘how do I do…” and I advise them of the process and procedure – I am a newbie Special Police Officer and I now find myself regularly asking the same question on my way to jobs with my tutors. On a monthly basis, I review and approve over 25 project reports which detail how they are progressing. 

I am also responsible for a work package on a European Commission project to study energy efficiency fiscal policies. This involves developing a website, infographics and case studies. When I have spare time at work, I help with co-ordinating proposals, often writing the project management section, helping to select the team, pricing the work and ensuring the final proposal has been signed off by the commercial and finance team. 

When I first started my working life, I travelled to far-flung places like China and America, but these days my trips are mostly to the European Commission in Brussels. It is possible to leave Oxfordshire travel to Brussels for a meeting and return before the children go to bed. If I don’t come back home with a bag full of Belgium waffles my kids are very disgruntled.   

My day-to-day life at work revolves around email and meetings – face-to-face or by conference call. Most days I have 50 plus emails to wade through – sometimes it’s like a tsunami other days it’s like a mill pond. To keep us on our toes, we have annual targets to meet each year for revenue and ensuring a large proportion of our time is billable to a customer.  

Being a Special Police Officer is complementary to my day job in a very cheesy way – battling climate change and battling crime. I wouldn’t change either role for all the tea in china!

To find out more about how you can become a Special Constable for Thames Valley Police please visit our website.

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