Katie Sharp - My City Science Journey

31 March 2023

What’s your position at City Science (and what does that mean)?

My official title at City Science is Graduate Transport & Sustainability Consultant, though my role is split into two main areas. Around 60% is project work, which involves working with the Transport and Sustainability team to support decarbonisation projects in these sectors. The other 40% is business development, where I work closely with Simon Lusby (our Head of Transport & Sustainability) to write commercial bids and tenders.

How did you come to be working at City Science?

I studied BSc Geography at the University of Exeter and then did a master's degree in Global Sustainability Solutions. After graduating, I fell into a filler job as a teaching assistant at a local girls' school. I loved working there; gaining the girls’ trust and making a difference was incredibly rewarding.

Despite this, working in sustainability was always my main goal, and I was excited when I was approached about joining the City Science team in Exeter for tender writing. I had moved back home to London by this point, but Simon mentioned that there’s a City Science base in London too.

So I had an initial conversation with Simon, where he asked what I wanted to do. I explained that I had always wanted to try consulting, but the thought of applying felt quite daunting. All the roles in larger consultancies were so specific, and I didn’t want to get boxed into doing one thing for years. He suggested I could have a role that covered not just tender writing but also consulting, giving me the chance to have a balance. It was a no-brainer, really.

So after a successful, more formal interview, I started working here at City Science in June 2022, and it’s great. The variety of projects means that I’m always learning something new, and no two days are the same!

What is tender writing?

This is quite a common question, and I didn’t know much about tender writing before I started.

Essentially, ‘tender’ is a term that is used to describe a bid that we submit to try and win a project. We’ll start by looking for transport/sustainability/energy opportunities where we have the right experience and where the project aligns with our decarbonisation mission. If we decide to bid, the deadline to put a tender together can range from 2 to 4 weeks. Each tender will have slightly different specifications, but most usually ask for a method statement, an experience section and some project team CVs.

It's quite cool, because I feel like I get a real oversight into the work the whole company is doing as I’m usually involved in writing commercial bids across all our consultancy teams.

Can you give an example of a project you're either working on or have been working on?

I’ve worked on a range of projects since starting here, including a net zero route map and action plan, a sustainable parking strategy, an electric vehicle insight study and a local area energy plan.

My favourite so far has definitely been the Parking Strategy for Exeter. The project involved exploring parking as a lever to promote a host of sustainable objectives such as net zero, active travel, health and well-being, and city vitality. However, parking was an important source of income for the city, so it was a tricky balance to achieve.

My main role on the project involved leading the policy and literature review as part of our baseline report, supporting stakeholder engagement and writing up our findings and recommendations. It was also actually the first tender I ever wrote at City Science and we ended up winning, so it was great to see a project from the initial bidding phase all the way through to the final report!

What motivates you most about the work you do at City Science?

It can be hard to think about the environmental situation sometimes. I found myself feeling like nothing I could do would ever make a difference and that no lifestyle change I could make would ever measure up to the impact of huge organisations and factories.

But I strongly believe that what I do at City Science really does make a difference. I know that the projects I work on are going to help the world and make a positive impact on a bigger scale than I used to think possible. I’m thankful to be a part of it, and I’m grateful that I work every day to help organisations become more sustainable.

What do you enjoy doing with your free time?

I’ve always been quite sporty and I enjoy exercising to unwind. I used to do boxing at university but, since I live in London, it tends to be a little pricey so I don’t do it as much anymore! Currently, I’m training for the London Marathon, which has been a huge physical and mental challenge for me as I’m not a natural-born runner. However, I’m raising money for a special cause and I know it will be a great experience.

If I have any spare time left after running, I love walking and spending time with my crazy cockerpoo Odin.

If you could wave a wand and change some aspect of policy or legislation what would that be and why?

I think car dependency is a huge challenge for decarbonising transport, especially for people living in rural areas where sustainable transport options are often limited or not accessible. I would love to see the public transport system offered in London by TFL, or something similar, made nationwide. I appreciate that this won’t have an immediate profitable impact for organisations, which I guess is where the magic wand comes in, but I think the public transport system needs to truly rival the car in order to help people make the modal shift towards sustainable travel.