Caroline Redrup – Conservation
Name: Caroline Redrup, 27
Degree: BA Geography at Jesus College, Oxford University
CAN YOU GIVE YOUR WORK TITLE AND WHAT IT IS YOU ACTUALLY DO?
I’m a Programme Officer in IUCN Headquarter’s Learning and Leadership Unit in Switzerland. IUCN is the World Conservation Union – an international union of environmental NGOs and scientists, and the environmental voice in the UN General Assembly on behalf of our members.
I manage a network of business professionals in Switzerland who are learning to integrate sustainability thinking into their core business, and I coordinate the World Conservation Learning Network. This is a network of universities offering environmental qualifications through distance learning to NGO professionals who can’t take time out of their career to study, but need to develop their skills. I also work more generally on capacity-development for sustainability.
WERE YOU ALWAYS INTERESTED IN THIS CAREER?
I wanted to do something environmental and realised during my masters that I wanted that to link to the private sector which I see as having huge potential to make positive change for sustainability on a really large scale.
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU’D KNOWN WHEN YOU WERE AN UNDERGRADUATE?
That to have credibility in the private sector you need to work within it for some time / be trained in a core business area or be the world expert on something (i.e. not somewhere you can get without 40 years work experience behind you). I wish I had known how important really understanding the private sector and how it works from the inside would be to me.
DO YOU HAVE A POSTGRADUATE QUALIFICATION? IF SO, HAS THIS HELPED YOUR CAREER?
I have an MProf in Leadership in Sustainable Development from Forum for the Future (which I highly recommend!). I know that this qualification (rather than being academic but instead being a work-experience-based Masters) helped me get my first job (in a London CSR consultancy) because I came with work experience, and the ‘postgraduate qualification’ part helped me get my job in Switzerland as virtually all the international organisations here seem to require one as a minimum.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?
The international network of really interesting people, the global scale of my work, and the differences I see working across cultures and countries, the feeling that businesses are really starting to ‘get’ the sustainability agenda and want to know what to do about it.
ARE THERE ANY DOWNSIDES TO WHAT YOU DO?
International organisations can be slow and bureaucratic to work in. We are often strapped for funding which can make long-term goals hard and job security an issue.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT SKILLS/STRENGTHS YOU NEED TO MAKE A SUCCESS OF WHAT YOU DO?
To have worked in different sectors (albeit briefly) and therefore understand how my work could interact with different audiences; speaking different languages (but that shouldn’t put people off, it just helps me to enjoy it more) and having good relationship-building skills; being able to pick up the phone and try to inspire people to do something voluntarily or put in some effort to something where the rewards aren’t clear at the start. Be positive – there’s lots of doom and gloom about environmental issues, you need to search out the positive people who are innovating and are excited about the opportunities, not just those who have the scientific data about how much we need to change and how quickly.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR BEST PIECE OF ADVICE FOR GRADUATES WISHING TO COME INTO THIS SECTOR?
If you want to work in the environmental sector, try to know in what capacity – if it’s the hands-on part then go out and get as much field experience as you can and find a niche; if it’s working with other sectors (society / business / government) then work in them to really understand them better and how you can affect change there; and don’t think that everyone is doing environmental things just because you are – keep a sense of reality behind everything you do. The value of a motivated network of colleagues (past and present) has been a good source of energy for me from the start.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO ADD?
More and more organisations and individuals are asking for answers to environmental questions, and are seeing them as a business opportunity – it’s an exciting place to be but it’s also becoming more competitive to work there – build up concrete skills you can take with you, and get work experience or field experience if you can. Enjoy!