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Arcadis Sector MD Cath Greaves talks ESI

Arcadis Sector MD Cath Greaves talks ESI

 November 25, 2019

Cath Greaves enjoys a rewarding and challenging career as Sector Managing Director, Environment, Safety & Industry at Arcadis.

Her work is not only exciting, it’s also important - as infrastructure has become much more than simply roads and railways and forms a crucial role in the ongoing health of any economy.

Cath oversees a 600-strong team delivering large infrastructure projects with a focus on assessing environmental impact. She always keeps the environment front-of-mind and, quite literally, is helping build for the future.

Where Women Work caught up with Cath to find out how her career actually began, the key skills required, and why women might enjoy working in environmental consulting at Arcadis.

Rising through the ranks

Developing an interest in the world around her at an early age, Cath studied Geology at university and went on to achieve an Msc in Environmental Sedimentology. Upon graduating she went straight into the field of Environmental Consulting.

“Soon after graduating I was lucky enough to get a position with a company as a Contaminated Land Consultant. I spent the following years investigating contaminated sites across the UK and learning how to be a project manager. At that time, environmental consultancy was still in its infancy with a lot of emerging legislation coming out,” Cath recalls.

Cath soon rose up the ranks to become a Business Development Manager and then moved into operational management, taking her first step into senior leadership. She then had two children and continued working part-time. When her boss left to join Arcadis, Cath stepped into a Managing Director position but, after leading the company through acquisition, she realised she wanted to move over to Arcadis herself and take a further exciting step in her career.

Deciding to join Arcadis

“Arcadis was well known to me as we had come across each other in a competitive sense. I knew people who worked there, including my former boss, and I was excited when an opportunity came up to join the business in a transformation role - looking at clients’ development and pursuits. So at the beginning of 2016, I joined Arcadis,” explains Cath.

“The reason I chose to join was really about the people and the culture. I needed a change and I was attracted to the friendly, positive work ethos. I did the transformation role for a year and was then asked to be Client Development Director. Then, when my boss retired, I was asked to take on the role of Managing Director for the environment business.”

P&L responsibility and setting strategic direction

As Managing Director, Environment, Safety & Industry, Cath is tasked with running the environmental business at Arcadis rather than zoning in on individual projects. When asked to describe her main responsibilities, Cath says she delivers the profit and loss account, whilst setting and refreshing strategic direction. Last year was a particularly successful time for Arcadis’ Environment, Safety & Industry division, with the business smashing EBITDA targets, strong revenue and organic growth. These successes were largely due to a refreshed strategy delivered by Cath focusing on developing new propositions, digital innovations and a renewed client focus. The strategy resulted in significant client wins and continued success on major UK infrastructure projects.

“It’s important that I look out into the market and to our clients to understand how we can deliver for them. I need to find out what’s really keeping them awake at night. The role is about talking to clients and really listening to them,” Cath adds. “What’s going to be the next big thing for them? How do we keep ourselves relevant? What do they want from us?”

“Also, environmental consultancy is very driven by legislation so we need to support our clients through this. We work across public and private sector and I keep abreast of what is happening in government, what the direction of travel is, what it will mean for our business, and what sort of skills will be required.”

Arcadis MD environment safety Cath Greaves

Arcadis environmental consulting is a great place to work

Cath adds that environmental consultancy is a great career choice. She recommends the sector as it offers such varied opportunities and the chance to make a difference to the world

“When I drive around the UK I see roads, buildings and projects that I’ve helped create. That’s a great feeling. Our projects will leave a real lasting legacy and working in this sector means you can do your bit to make the world a tiny bit better,” she smiles.

“It’s a very rewarding career. No day is the same. Also, climate change is something that will affect everybody - so there’s no better time to be an environmental consultant. There is so much environmental work needed for major infrastructure projects and there are so many different areas you can get involved in - there’s a focus on energy and transportation infrastructure at the moment with significant spending in both sectors.”

Talking about why Arcadis specifically is a great place to pursue an environmental services career, Cath says environment is a big service line for Arcadis globally - and this is very exciting.

“We offer services to clients across the world and this makes a really big difference to the way our company views environment. Our vision is to improve quality of life and we bring this context into all the projects we work on,” says Cath. “We take the environment and sustainability very seriously ourselves in addition to helping clients - we encourage our people not to travel during the first week of each month (Sustainability Week in the UK) and we are working to reduce our carbon footprint. It’s not too late to make a difference to the world.”

Attributes and qualities valued at Arcadis

Cath describes herself as ambitious, determined and tenacious but also fair, and - she hopes - good fun. She brings these attributes into both her work and her home life.

“I’m determined and tenacious both professionally and personally, but kindness and fairness really matter to me,” she comments. “We should all try to be kind to each other and tolerant. I’m also quite exacting and expect a lot from my team, but work should also be fun and inspiring. Most people want to give their best within a great atmosphere where they really feel able to achieve something.”

For further women looking to work with Arcadis, Cath says qualities like the above will take them a long way: “We’re looking for people who have drive and ambition and want to come to a place where their ideas are going to be valued. We set ourselves very high standards around quality so we want people who are going to be diligent and hardworking.”

Leading from the front

Cath also emphasises the importance of leaders being seen by their team. And, more importantly, getting involved in projects.

“I still like to really get stuck in where I can. I get involved in some project delivery and I think that’s really important. Someone once told me that people like to see leaders and I think that’s true but what people really like to see is leaders being effective and authentic. When you’re expecting people to work to tight deadlines and put in the hours, it’s important you’re there with them - and never ask anyone to do something you wouldn’t be prepared to do yourself.”

Cath adds that she firmly believes leaders - and everyone working within the team - should be kind and respect everyone for their unique qualities and skills.

Cath comments that being ‘kind’ is not a particularly glamorous word but it is such an important quality to have in business, whether one works in leadership or is just starting out. Being open to different perspectives is also key. “Not everyone will think in the same way as you and we must respect each other. I firmly believe that everyone is good at something.”

Communicating and listening are key skills

When it comes to the skills needed for her multi-faceted role, Cath emphasises the requirement to be a people person, as well as the ability to listen and communicate successfully.

“Roles like this are very much about people,” she explains. “Getting 600 people to pull in the same direction and get behind the same plan is a challenge and I have to motivate them. This role is about so much more than the nuts and bolts around strategy and financial - it’s about ensuring Arcadis is somewhere people want to come to work, supporting them and offering them great career opportunities. A big challenge is attracting and retaining good talent and, with digital disruption of our traditional markets being a key challenge right now, we need to attract and retain a multi-talented workforce.”

In fact, ‘People First’ is a key part of Arcadis’ culture. The company invests in training and mentoring, with retaining and developing its people becoming a business critical initiative. “Through listening and communicating - both with clients and our own team - I can help ensure we keep our business relevant and achieve what clients are looking for,” Cath continues. “In addition, caring about others and an interest in health and safety is key. I have a lot of people who are out in the field and can’t help but feel personal worry for their welfare. There’s a pressure to ensure that everyone goes home safe at the end of the day.”

Making time for yourself

For those women potentially considering a future career with Arcadis, Cath also asserts the importance of keeping a good work-life balance. As a working mum, she takes Fridays off and makes sure she makes the most of the time she has with her children.

“Arcadis is very friendly, inclusive and respectful. We have a great flexible working policy and encourage people to bring their best selves to work,” she adds. “In my team, we have a really high proportion of women and we really celebrate diversity in all its forms.”

“It is important to me that my kids see we should work hard but also play hard. I want my daughter to feel able to follow her dreams and know that she can balance those dreams with a great family life too,” she explains. “In my spare time, I enjoy running and try to run a couple of times a week. The more senior I’ve become at work, the more I’ve found that exercise helps me de-stress and bring a refreshed self into work.”

Top tips for future Arcadis workers

Cath concludes with some salient advice for further women looking to join Arcadis: “A former boss once told me ‘everyone should proceed until apprehended’. How I’d reword that is ‘don’t be afraid to stick your neck out and take opportunities’. Be brave and be bold. Sometimes the things you are most scared about turn out to be the best things you can do.”

Join inspirational women like Cath at Arcadis

There are many exciting roles at Arcadis for ambitious women looking to make a difference in the world.

Search and apply for Arcadis’ latest job opportunities today.


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