My career to date at Omnia – from Graduate to Principal Geo-Environmental Consultant

Olivia Maxwell: March 2024

When I started taking an interest in Geography and Physics at school, often being the only girl in my classes, I could never have guessed it would have landed me here, as a Principal Geo-environmental Consultant. I had never heard of this career, and more often than not now spend my time trying to explain what it is I do!

When I was asked to write a piece about my career at Omnia to date, how I started out in a Graduate position fresh out of university, to now, where I am a Principal Consultant, I jumped at the opportunity to share my journey, and hopefully encourage others to do the same!

Why Geo-Environmental?

I studied Geophysics at the University of Southampton, stemming from my interest in how the world works, and wanting to always know ‘how’? When I was coming up to completing my fourth year and it was time to start thinking about careers, I wasn’t sure exactly where I would fit. I had been lucky enough to attend a research cruise for the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project during my time at the University, and got to see first hand how geophysical sea floor surveys were carried out. Unfortunately, it showed I really didn’t have sea legs, and a lot of geophysical careers need you to be out at sea 6 -8 weeks at a time, so that was off the cards!

When I heard about geo-environmental consultancy, it sounded perfect as it offered me a perfect mix of site works (where I could work outside), and technical work, where I could use my data processing and analytical skills I’d been practicing at University.

Finding the right geo-environmental consultancy

I first met some of the team from Omnia at a careers fair they attended, and it struck me how friendly and welcoming they were. It is so hard when you are applying to lots of jobs as a Graduate to know who you might be working with and how you might fit in. The great thing about working with a smaller firm compared to the larger companies is that everyone gets to know each other, and you can just go and talk to the Managing Director!

Its been great fun working with Omnia over the last 6 years, and they haven’t held back getting me to sign up to some crazy challenges including the National Three Peaks Challenge, Go Ape and my own Nine Peaks Challenge as part of our 10th Anniversary Challenge.

reusing soil on site
materials management plan

My time as a graduate geo-environmental consultant

I started with Omnia as a Graduate Consultant back in July 2018, fresh out of university and ready to get stuck in. My time was split pretty evenly between site works and reporting, and I suddenly found I was spending my days organising drilling rigs, logging soils and getting comfortable being on construction sites, something I never thought I would be doing. I spent the first few months shadowing more experienced Consultants who showed me how to log soils, take samples, undertake gas monitoring and groundwater sampling and run a site investigations.

Once I was signed off and out on my own, it was great to feel in control of my own sites, and although the days could sometimes be long, and the weather sometimes very wet (remember to always carry spare socks…), I got comfortable being in control of the works.

Back in the office I would process the data, schedule the samples for laboratory testing and write up the Phase 1 Desk Top Studies and Phase 2 Geo-Environmental Site Assessments. My confidence grew, and just after a year into the role, I was promoted to Consultant.

Progressing from Graduate to Principal Consultant

When I was promoted to Consultant, I couldn’t wait to Project Manage my own sites, starting to speak with the clients more, and see even more of the process – here at Omnia we really do get stuck in with every aspect of the project, from quoting, to doing the site works, and all the way through to issue of the final report.

I continued to learn more and more about the world of Geo-Environmental consultancy, and working on more complex projects, I knew my main interest was in contaminated land: analysing data, understanding the clients site specific requirements and drawing conclusions so that I could recommend what we did next, if they needed to undertake remedial measures and what that would look like. After about 2 years, my line manager, a Senior consultant, phoned me to say he was leaving Omnia, and that I should put my hat in the ring and apply for the role.

I asked myself, ‘was I ready?’, ‘should I stay in the role I’m in for a bit longer?’, but thankfully I applied, what was the worst that could happen! Our directors decided I was ready and was given the opportunity to be a Senior Geo-Environmental Consultant. This was a big step up, because not only was I now running my own projects but overseeing other team members projects and being a line manager for the first time. I was also now reviewing reports, rather than only writing them, and this really helped me develop my reporting skills, to see the sites as a whole, to step back and look at the bigger picture.

After a few wobbles of uncertainty, I started to find my feet with the role, and loved being a mentor for more junior team members, helping them figure out what areas they were particularly interested in, and helping them through any projects they weren’t sure on. With gaining confidence I also started to identify what areas I was really passionate about, and thanks to working with such a great team, have been able to shape the role to what I want it to be.

Last year, I was promoted to Principal Consultant, and I’ll be honest, the imposter syndrome really kicked in. There was a new level of responsibility, and pressure (granted, which I mostly put on myself), but I didn’t want to let my team, or clients, down. I wasn’t sure I was ready or had enough experience, but my managers could see it, and they believed I was ready. Once I’d had a stern word with myself, and really got stuck in with the role, I’ve loved it – I now not only get to mentor other team members, work on some really technical projects, go out to networking events and to meet our clients, but get to be involved with company wide conversations, putting new ideas forward and really developing the Geo-Environmental Team here in our Portsmouth office…and not getting wet on site has its perks!

If the above sounds like a career suited to you or find that your interests align with the role of a geo-environmental consultant, please get in touch with our team by emailing [email protected]

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