About CSci

  • Claire Scannell
Back to the results
Claire Scannell
Featured Profile: 
At A Glance
Licensed Body: 
Scientist Type: 
Policy maker
First Degree: 
MSc Physical Geography
Environment Planning Manager
Works For: 
Dwr Cymru (seconded from Imtech Process)
Pet Hates: 
Waste in the office, especially from the coffee machine.
Being able to see into the future would be good
Big Picture
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 
I thought about being a teacher, probably because that’s what my mum did. I do think development is very important and I try to help others with their development, especially new starters at work. I am also heavily involved with people getting their charters though CIWEM
Who or what inspired you to become a scientist? 
I have an enquiring mind and like to have information on which to base my decisions. Therefore getting a good understanding of interactions and how things work, help immensely
What do you love about your job and being a “scientist”? 
My work is quite varied, which I need to stop me getting bored! I work towards minimising the impact of STW and CSOs on the water environment, by complying with legislation. I love the challenges this brings, how to deliver within strict monetary constraints. I also enjoy looking for new and innovate ways of meeting the requirements
What qualifications did you take at school? 
At A level I did History, Geography and English. I did modular science at GCSE so couldn’t do any A level science courses. Our school couldn’t timetable Geography, History and 2 sciences at GCSE, I’ve always felt I missed out. One day I might do a night course!
Why did you choose your first degree subject? 
MSc Physical Geography from Hull University. I was always interested I the environment and mans place within it. When I was in my last few years at school, the hole in the ozone layer and the birth of ‘sustainable development’ were in the news. Plate tectonics and continental drift really caught my attention, it all happens on such a huge scale, that made me decide on Physical Geography. I did struggle to get on a purely Physical Geography course as I didn’t have a science A level
Describe briefly how your career has progressed to date. 
I was fortunate to get a job, before I finished my Masters, so I finished uni on a Wednesday and started work the next week! I worked for the Environment Agency, first in Anglian Region and then in Wales for nine and half years. My first job was processing water quality data, to identify problem areas and check on progress in rivers where improvement works had been carried out. This gave me a good upstanding about the amount of data available and a reality check on how good it actually is! I then moved on with the EA and became more focused on Permitting. This is the mechanism the EA use to control discharges to water. The needs of the receiving water at each location are assessed before a permit can be issued. I specialized in the assessment of intermittent discharges and discharges to coastal waters, particularly designated bathing and shellfish waters. Just over 2 years ago I started working for Welsh Water (seconded from Imtech Process), on their environment program. Many accused me of being a game keeper turned poacher! My job now is to ensure Welsh Water complies with the requirements of new directives, but also that we keep the costs to bill payers down. I do have some heated arguments with my old EA colleagues. I still feel that I’m doing my bit and making water quality better. Having a different perspective has altered my thinking, I still want water quality to be good, but can see the need to balance the cost and benefits
How well is your job compensated? What is the starting salary for your field, and how much can this be expected to rise? 
New Graduates start at about the £20k mark, especially if they get on to a development program. There is usually a fairly steady increase in pay, obviously the best way to increase your salary is to take on new, higher level jobs. I’ve moved job quite frequently, roughly every 18 months, but only changed employer once. With about 10 years experience you can earn £35-40k
How do you see your field developing over the next 5-10 years? 
The Water framework directive is the next big challenge to water quality. This may result in a huge amount of improvements being required at sewage treatment works. My big challenge is to understand how the Directive is being implemented and how far water companies should go to meet the requirements. A big issue is that other sectors are not being pushed as far; this will no doubt lead to interesting challenges in the future!
Would you say you have a good standard of living/ work-life balance? 
I have an ok, work life balance, sometimes I work too many hours and my home life suffers, but usually this is associated with a short term peak in work load. I try to never work at the weekends, but I do some late nights! I try and make space for other things, we have a gym at work and I try to go to the lunchtime circuit’s class there. I also regularly take evening classes, I’ve done herbal medicine and permaculture gardening and I’m currently do an introduction to astronomy. I also spend a lot of time on CIWEM activities, not sure if this is work or pleasure!
What do your friends and family think about your job? 
Many of my friends are colleagues too, so they have similar jobs. With other friend and family I focus on the environmental aspect of my job rather than the sewage! Beaches are always a good thing to talk about. Also if I mention the budgets involved (millions), they think I’m important!
Why did you choose to apply for CSci and what do you value most about being a Chartered Scientist? 
I really only applied because CIWEM suggested it when I went for Chartership with them. I guess I always saw scientists as people working in the lab, not people like me who use all that data. Going for and getting Chartered Scientist really made me think about what science is and how it influences everything in my work – it all stems from analysis of water and sewage samples
What is the value of professional bodies? 
I think professional Bodies are very valuable. I am a member of CIWEM and I’m actively involved in the local Branch, I’m currently Chair (2009-10) and was secretary for 4 years. We organise a program of evening lectures covering a range of environmental, engineering and science topics. The magazines and e-mail updates from the institutions are also a good way of keeping up to date with current issues
How important is CPD? What do you think of the revalidation process in ensuring that CSci is a mark of current competence? 
I mentor and sponsor people who are going for chartership with CIWEM. Continued professional development is a must for everyone and joining a professional body offers an excellent opportunity to reflect on what you’ve done so far and where you want to go next. The CSci approach of reviewing CPD every year can sound onerous, but once you get into the habit filling in CDP is not difficult. I fill mine in on the CIWEM website
Advice & Reflection
What words of wisdom would you give someone interested in getting into your field? 
Doing a job you are interested in is the best way to get fulfillment. Doing something your passionate about is even better. When I started work I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, I don’t think many people are. I started out on a very low level job, but instead of seeing that as beneath me I used the opportunity to do extra work and get myself noticed. I soon managed to get a better job and more money! Linking up with companies when you’re a student is also a good way to find out what interest you and what opportunities are out there. Sandwich style courses are good for this. Another method is to approach local companies and offering to do a dissertation on something they want looked at, but can’t afford the time to do. Universities and companies need to build stronger links, I think engineering courses have good links but other subjects suffer
How important is the mentoring process in your field and to you personally? 
Mentoring is key, when I started work I was really lucky to have a great mentor, this really helped me to find my feet in my first job and establish the career I wanted. It’s unfortunate that not everyone is so lucky. I try to make time for the general development of people I work with, not just the skills for the job they have to do today. Most companies I’m familiar with don’t have strong mentoring, they have managerial structures and I don’t think your manager is necessarily your best mentor. That’s why networking with colleagues is a good thing, especially with those at different stages of their careers. Membership of professional institutions can also help, as here the focus is on development, not just the day job
Back to the results