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Case studies

Charlotte Hatto

Charlotte Hatto, renewable energy and energy efficiency consultant and life cycle assessment practitioner

Charlotte Hatto

With a Physics degree and research experience from UMIST, Charlotte had a lot to offer potential employers, however she had virtually given up hope of ever finding a job to suit her lifestyle and interests. Looking after her children and living in a rural location had limited Charlotte's career choices and left her feeling that she would never find anything to use her skills and fit with her outlook on life.

Like many women, Charlotte had found a succession of part-time administrative jobs to fit in with children, recognising that she needed to be in a position to 'fetch and carry' as she put it. 'Finding out what is out there when you live in a particularly rural area is difficult,' says Charlotte. 'When my children were young we ran a small-holding but with the children at school, I began to think about looking for employment where I could use my background and skills' .

Charlotte started teaching physics in a school in Durham and eventually decided to do a PGCE through the Open University. Although she taught Maths and Physics for some years and completed the qualification she felt that full time teaching at secondary schools was not for her. She also completed an adult basic skills training programme and taught in the evenings and during school hours. However, insecure funding made this impossible as a viable long-term option.

Still searching for ways to use her Physics degree and interest in matters environmental, Charlotte found out about the free Open University T160 Returners course for women in SET and wondered if this would be a way of realising her goal.

'I almost didn't apply' she said. 'The case studies in the information leaflets were all high flyers and this was a bit off putting at first. I don't see myself as a high flyer, and they talked about childcare problems which were no longer an issue for me. However I completed the course and through this I came across the UKRC. I then took advantage of various courses available including the Built Environment Returners course at Sheffield Hallam University which included a work placement which was really what I felt I needed. I was also at the time studying the OU course, Energy for a Sustainable Future to provide me with a recent academic qualification in my key interest area.'

The placement was with North Energy Associates relatively near Charlotte's home. She found her new colleagues incredibly welcoming and flexible. During the few weeks she spent with the organisation she attended meetings and a one-day conference, completed a short biomass course, completed site visits and contributed to feasibility studies.

'They understood my situation - North Energy Associates pride themselves on being very flexible. It took a while before they felt they could offer me something, but then an opportunity arose to undertake life cycle analysis . I was thrown in at the deep end and am now working for them 4 days a week!'

Charlotte's work includes looking at the carbon dioxide emissions from products and processes, and energy feasibility studies. It can involve her in working with almost any type of organisation. She works as part of a team and feels that she is continually learning from her very helpful colleagues. For Charlotte the highlights of her new job are 'feeling that you are doing something towards addressing climate change'.

For anyone following in her footsteps Charlotte gives the following advice: 'Keep persevering - it often seemed as though there was nothing out there for me. I wasn't in a position to move and there was no-one out there to take me on. 'And now I have found something that suits my outlook, that I really enjoy doing and working with like-minded colleagues. I still feel new and need to work at it for a while and gain experience but the organisation is very willing for me to continue my development.'

'For anyone looking for that elusive job, take every opportunity to go to workshops and meetings and interact with people. It's the people you know who can help with contacts. The more people you know, the more opportunities that might come up.’

As well as working in the renewable energy sector, Charlotte also practices what she preaches, and her home in the North Pennines has a 5kW wind turbine and a 6 m2 solar heating system.

Added on: 07/08/2009