My Board Member Journey with CIEEM and Why Volunteering Matters – By Paul Whitby CEcol MCIEEM

I’ve been a member of CIEEM for nearly 18 years, joining not long after landing my first job as an ecologist for RSK ENSR back in 2006. Whilst CIEEM may have been founded 15 years earlier, the profession really was still a fraction of the size it is now and certainly a lot has changed since.

As the industry grew to keep pace with improvements in environmental protections and thus a greater demand for the work ecologists do, so did the CIEEM membership. With greater resources, I feel the profession has seen some huge leaps forward in professionalism over the last few years. This drive to advance the profession has been thanks to the efforts of both a fantastic team at CIEEM and a host of members working as volunteers.

To be honest, whilst I have always kept up to speed with the training CIEEM offered and the Professional Guidance Series, I did little through the first 10 years or so of my career to contribute towards this effort. It was partly because I was concerned about how much time I could commit and perhaps partly a sense of ‘imposter syndrome’. In my head there would surely be loads of more experienced and better-suited people than me to assist CIEEM.

Volunteering for CIEEM however, is not onerous and the truth is that any experience… experience. The staff at CIEEM are very understanding, conscious that the time volunteers offer is their own and are careful not to apply any pressure or overburden volunteers. I can speak from prior experience as a CIEEM mentor and assessor for Chartered Ecologist applications. I still volunteer in these roles, which take just a few hours a year and I feel immense reward from doing.

I had not given any thought at all to becoming a CIEEM board member. I suspect the perception most people have of what it might be like to be a board member at CIEEM was like my own – it would be time-consuming, come with a lot of pressure and regardless it was ultimately something out of reach. There would surely be others with better experience than me.

As the Managing Director of a mid-sized consultancy, I had perhaps overlooked what I might bring to the governing board. I do have experience that is shared by many in the profession and managing a team of staff gives me an insight into the needs of ecologists at all stages of their career. I was actually encouraged towards nomination for the board and before making a decision, I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with an existing board member to help me make up my mind. I was reassured that the time commitments were manageable and indeed after being elected to the board, my first-year commitments have included two in-person board meetings and two virtual board meetings. There is obviously some preparation time ahead of these, which I can usually cover in an evening in advance, but despite the demands of my day job, this has been perfectly manageable.

It has been a rewarding position to hold and talking to others that have previously or currently volunteer for CIEEM the feeling all around is mutual – it is very worthwhile. I have learned a lot, gained new insights, met some fantastic people and found a new appreciation for the hard work behind the scenes at CIEEM.

Still, however some of my most rewarding moments volunteering for CIEEM have come as a mentor. I have been able to help others progress in their careers, develop their skills and even land their first job. There are lots of opportunities as a volunteer that you could find rewarding too. On the Professional Standards Committee (PSC) you could help drive the rollout of CIEEM’s new guidelines, helping to raise standards. On the Training, Education and Career Development Committee (TECDC) you could help oversee training programmes, careers advice and the content for future CIEEM conferences. You could become a membership assessor to help others gain admission to CIEEM during a time of unprecedented demand from new applicants. You could volunteer for one of the Geographic Section Member Networks creating networking opportunities, sharing skills and putting on social events. There are lots of opportunities and can learn more about current vacancies here.

So please do consider volunteering for CIEEM. There is a wide variety of options and all come with benefits you may not have considered. Nobody’s time is truly free, but the benefits may be rich.

Paul Whitby CEcol MCIEEM

Paul Whitby is the Managing Director of The Ecology Co-op and has served as a member of the CIEEM governing board for just over 1 year. He lives in rural West Sussex and whilst most of his hobbies are effectively an extension of his job, he’s also partial to an occasional triathlon and more recently took up CrossFit. He has an obedient Labrador and a very disobedient spaniel. He has a broad interest within the field of ecology, but particularly enjoys working with bats, birding, botany, dormice, water voles and trying to develop his entomological skills.