Meet MCIWEM member: Sophia-Harri Nicholaou

Meet Sophia-Harri Nicholaou MCIWEM, Flood Risk Advisor (Thames Estuary Asset Management 2100) at the Environment Agency.

Below we learn more about Sophia-Harri's career, what being an MCIWEM member means to them and their advice to anyone looking to join.

Years of experience

Four years in the flooding sector


BSc (Hons) - Geography

CIWEM involvement

Early Careers Network Steering Group, CIWEM

Plastic Champions Network, Environment Agency

Women’s Network, Environment Agency

What's your day to day job role?

My role within the Thames Estuary 2100 Team is primarily supporting the implementation of the Thames Estuary 2100 Plan, working specifically within the asset management delivery programme (TEAM2100) to ensure we are optimising flood defence repair and replacement in the Estuary.

I am working with our delivery partners to implement new tools, processes and guidance for managing our tidal assets in the Thames Estuary, which can be embedded by area teams as asset owners.

With the Environment Agency trying to achieve carbon net zero by 2030, I am leading work to determine how the Thames Estuary can achieve this target, and how we can implement decarbonisation strategies to ensure a reduction in carbon intensities for the operation and maintenance of tidal assets.

What inspired you towards a career in this sector?

In 2015 I followed COP21 for the first time and became undeniably interested in how the world was tackling climate change. This is the moment I knew I wanted to make a difference and start a career in addressing the climate crisis.

My dissertation explored how sea level rise was accelerating active cliff recession in my very own hometown in Kent, where it was apparent that the impacts of climate change were closer to home than I thought (literally). So, when I graduated from University, I immediately commenced my career in the flood risk management, where I entered an industry with an abundant of opportunities and pathways.

What is the most exciting part of your career?

My current role in the Thames Estuary 2100 team has given me an opportunity to work with our asset management delivery partners (TEAM2100) and collaboratively develop tools and solutions for strategic asset management in the Thames Estuary.

Getting to work with a variety of people who have their own technical expertise has exposed me to innovative ideas, enabled me to continue expanding my knowledge, and learn new skills.

In my early career I was involved in an Interreg EU funded project for improving climate resilience through Blue Green Infrastructure across six European cities. It was amazing to network and attend workshops with the European partners and have knowledge-sharing sessions.

I am very thankful to have been given the opportunity to be involved in this project as it showed that multilateral cooperation is fundamental to solve the climate crisis.

What is the greatest challenge the sector is facing?

With climate change becoming more apparent, there is a requirement to incorporate sustainability in all aspects of flood risk management and develop adaptive approaches. This is something that has been implemented by the Environment Agency for the Thames Estuary - where we rely on climate change projections and modelling to make important future decisions such as defence raising. Our decisions merely rely on the data.

We need to develop innovative solutions and tools to be able to manage environmental change, but also ensure we are reducing our carbon demand which is achievable through collaborative working within and across organisations.

For example, tackling tidal flood risk on the Thames Estuary requires stakeholder engagement and collaborate working. It is evident that poor engagement and lack of partnership working leads to bigger problems. I believe all strategic planning should follow an adaptive approach as climate change is unpredictable.

Why did you apply for membership and how will it support you in your career?

I applied to become a member as it would help me with my personal development. CIWEM is a globally recognised organisation which champions professionalism, so definitely demonstrates to your employer that career progression is important to you.

Being a member gives you opportunities to network, access to webinars and events, and more importantly is a stepping-stone towards becoming a chartered member. I have been a member for 2 years and just started my chartership application to further my professionalism.

What advice would you give to someone considering CIWEM membership?

Start finding CPD opportunities such as training sessions and webinars and keep a record of all your CPD hours prior to the membership submission. This will also help you should you wish to become a Chartered member later.

It is useful to have a mentor in your organisation or within the CIWEM community to review your application and guide you with your professional development.

To learn more about all CIWEM membership grades, including MCIWEM, visit our dedicated membership page.

The next application deadline is 11 August 2022. Here you can find the rest of our 2022 application deadlines.

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