I am an Environmental Hydrologist with Mott MacDonald, based in their Cambridge office and that's where I've been living for about two years now. I’m a Member of CIWEM, which I recently upgraded to from a Graduate Member and I’m also part of the Early Careers Network steering group.
The qualifications I have are a Bachelor of Science in Geography and a Master of Science in Environmental Monitoring, Modelling and Reconstruction from the University of Manchester.
After I completed my master’s degree, I joined Mott MacDonald as a Graduate Environmental Hydrologist and I've stayed here for around two and a half years, having recently been promoted to Environmental Hydrologist. They've been really great, and I’ve had loads of opportunities and a real mix of projects which I’ve enjoyed.
Being part of this company has provided a lot of opportunities for me. These range from taking up an internal role as a global practice early career professional lead to facilitating external opportunities such as becoming a guest editor of CIWEM’s The Environment magazine for their Youth Takeover edition 2023.
The skills I've acquired day-to-day for my role involve a lot of data processing and modelling, particularly regarding water and environmental aspects. I also write reports and collaborate with team members in internal meetings.
There's plenty of opportunities to present work externally, whether in client meetings or at conferences and industry events. We have lots of regular communication with clients as well, making sure that our project work aligns with their goals.
Many of my colleagues also go out on site, which is something I'm keen to start doing as well. On-site work can range from supervising engineering work or from an ecological point of view, undertaking surveys on species like bats.
There are a lot of opportunities to learn new skills within Mott McDonald, through structured internal training. This is something which I've also been involved with the organization and coordination of.
I’ve recently completed Cranfield University’s nature-based solutions short course, which I've been lucky enough to attend. It’s been really useful for supporting all the work I do on nature-based solutions in my job.
There are also a lot of opportunities to learn on the job through mentoring, for example. A lot of the modelling software and technical skills I’ve learned have been through informal mentoring with more senior members of the team.
We also have a graduate scheme which focuses on the development of soft skills, including presenting, building your network, and communicating effectively.
(picture above: Murnane speaking on an early-careers panel at CIWEM's Flood & Coast 2023 conference)
In terms of finding opportunities within the sector (I promise I'm not just saying this), being a Student member of CIWEM whilst at university really helped me.
My membership provided me with events I could attend and contained useful information, which I found helpful in job applications and interviews. It also showed my interest in the sector and in the issues that were being discussed.
My university lecturers were also helpful in pointing out careers that related to the content we were looking at and career talks that were being undertaken. We received talks from a range of public and private sector organisations and that was how I first heard about Mott MacDonald.
And there are loads of reasons why a career in the water and environment sector is exciting. First and foremost is that we're dealing with, what I would argue to be, the most important issues facing the world: climate and ecological breakdown, and the impacts of these on wider society.
I think that really shows how critical the work in this sector is. It’s becoming increasingly important as time goes on. I would like to think it's becoming more and more appreciated.
Looking at the amount of investment that is planned for the water and environment sector and the resulting job security is another key thing. Particularly given the economic pressures facing the UK and elsewhere, I think this is really important. It means that you can have a longer-term plan of a career in this sector as opposed to some other more volatile sectors.
One of the most exciting projects I've worked on was helping to coordinate and deliver the design of a constructed treatment wetland, which is one of the first of its kind in England.
This project allowed me to channel my passion for nature-based solutions and work towards a more real, tangible, and positive environmental outcome. It was innovative and something which has not been done on the scale which we need in the future.
This project allowed me to develop a lot of skills, including project management, hydrological modelling, and wetland process modelling. The variety of work on the project in a relatively small space of time was interesting and kept me on my toes.
(pictured above: Murnane interviewing The Broads Authority project support officer Emily Leonard for an Environment magazine article)
For me, the best way to develop myself professionally is by throwing myself headfirst into the work that I do, both internally and externally. This includes some of the work I'm doing with CIWEM.
I think it's important for early-career professionals to not be afraid to voice their opinion and to be aware that they can make valuable contributions. This is something which people (especially young people) need to remind themselves of often.
And it's something I try and remind myself of every day which really drives the way in which I work.
Being a member of a professional body has helped me. It’s given me access to a real range of opportunities and events that I wouldn't have seen or had access to otherwise.
I’ve really enjoyed joining the Early Careers Network steering group, which has allowed me to contribute to the coordination of activities within the early-careers space.
Last year I was able to attend the Environmental Photographer of the Year Awards evening, which for me and the other attendees served as a useful and visual reminder of why we do the work that we do. It was also a great opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and kickstart conversations which otherwise I wouldn't have had.
For any early career professionals wanting a career in the water and environment sector, I have two pieces of advice.
The first is to seize your opportunities and be aware that there are so many roles, events, and discussions that you can get involved within our sector. And I think the number of these is only going to increase with the heightened focus on water and environmental issues.
A lot of people will be surprised at how a little effort in seeking these and trying to get involved with them really does go a long way.
The second piece of advice, which I think is equally important, is to try and facilitate these opportunities for other people.
I'm a white, straight male and consider myself to be in quite a privileged position because of this. I feel confident enough to reach for opportunities when they come around and don't experience (or don't knowingly experience) discrimination in the same way that others might. I think it’s important to be aware that a lot of other people don't have this luxury.
And that's why it's so important that people in these positions make sure to share and facilitate uptake of opportunities by more marginalized groups.
This is something which I've been keen to do as part of my global early-career professional role, helping to increase the exposure and diversity of other people at various events and talks. And it’s something I really want to push through CIWEM activities as well, with my involvement with the Early Careers Network steering group.
Read Kieran's most recent CIWEM article here: #AttackOnNature – has the cavalry come over the hill?
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