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Job roles and personal accounts

Job roles and personal accounts

Here are some personal accounts from our people to give an idea of what it’s like to work for Northumbrian Water Group:

Catchment Advisor

Name: Rob Cooper
Job role: Catchment Advisor
Department: Technical Strategy and Support / Water Resources
Time with the company: One year with Northumbrian Water
Qualifications: 1st class honours in Countryside Management BASIS Conservation Management

Description of my job role:
While we have all seen TV programmes looking at where our food comes from, how many of us have seen a programme looking at where your drinking water comes from? Well the Catchment Adviser role involves working from the source of our water supplies to the point of abstraction at our Water Treatment Works. Our aim to make sure the water quality entering into Northumbrian Water reservoirs and ground water sites is not negatively impacted by the surrounding land use. If the water quality is negatively impacted, a Catchment Adviser will investigate this, but the primary aim is to work on the basis of prevention by working with the surrounding land owners and organisations that influence land management; whether this is farmers, agronomists, the Environment Agency, railway companies, Natural England and a host of other organisations.

For example, we all know vital inputs such as fertilisers are used to grow the food we eat, so too, do these have the potential to get into our pre-treatment water supplies. One of my primary roles in this example would be to work with famers, agronomists and farming organisations such as the National Farmers Union (NFU) to raise awareness, thus reducing the risk of potential contaminants entering our reservoirs. Whilst the water treatment process will remove these, if the contaminants aren’t there initially, they won’t need to be removed.

Northumbrian Water is a large company with a large number of employees, which involves working with different teams with different skills. I am fortunate that being part of the Catchment team means no two days are the same. Whilst technically I am office based, it is not unusual to find myself out and about in the catchment. This may literally mean being up in the North Pennines investigating water colour coming from the blanket bogs in a project we are involved in to remediating and restoring degraded areas of peat, or investigating agricultural land use in Northumberland. I have to say, taking water samples on a summers day from the Pennines is not too arduous a task but come the winter, the sun is low and high winds and heavy rain make this a trickier and riskier task.

I am fortunate that I can manage my own work schedule to a great extent which allows me to get involved with a range of projects all linked to improving raw water quality. Different catchments present different issues and the north east of England has a rich mining heritage. Abandoned mines can impact water quality, so I work with other organisations such as the Rivers Trusts, the Environment Agency and the Coal Authority to understand the sources of issues, and potential mitigation measures that we can undertake to reduce potential impacts.

This issue related to historic mining impacts is new to me, having previously worked extensively within the agricultural sector as a Coordinator for the Campaign for the Farmed Environment in the East of England, and prior to that as a researcher for Aberystwyth University on a number of Defra research projects. The former role prepared me for working with many of the agricultural organisations that I liaise with currently, whilst the latter helped with researching issues but I had never worked with organisations such as the Coal Authority. For this reason, I think one of the key aspects of a Catchment Adviser is the ability to work with other organisations to understand and communicate issues, and to collectively work with the relevant industries to address these problems. The job requires a high degree of autonomy and the ability to research issues and ways to mitigate potential risks. I am fortunate that I have the support of a good team to assist me with queries and share their knowledge, experiences and best practices to resolve and identify issues which may be on the horizon.

Corporate Affairs Executive

Name: Janine Scott
Job title: Corporate Affairs Executive
Department: Corporate Affairs
Time with the company: 5 years
Qualifications: BA Hons (Journalism)

Description of my job role:
I support and deliver the communications activity for our exciting new Rainwise initiative. This project is all about working with communities to manage the amount of rainwater that gets into our sewer network to help reduce the risk of flooding.

We are working proactively with communities to reduce the amount of rainwater entering our sewer network, as part of our surface water management programme, Rainwise. This will help to reduce the risk of future flooding. It’s my job to deliver the communications and engagement strategy that supports this project. This includes engaging extensively with communities, to help our project managers identify the right flood risk solutions and making sure our key stakeholders are kept fully informed of our work through a variety of different communication channels.

I also raise awareness about how our customers can reduce the risk of flooding by installing some small-scale solutions around their property such as rainwater gardens and water butts.

My career path:
I’ve always enjoyed writing and had an interest in current affairs, so I decided to take a Journalism course at university.

After university I worked ad hoc as a freelance broadcast journalist for a local radio station before getting a full time job as a Customer Advisor at Northumbrian Water. Once here, I made initial contact with the Media & PR manager to let him know that I existed and of my skills and qualifications! He was keen for me to help out at Radio Tyneside (a hospital radio station), presenting my own radio show twice a week through our employee volunteering scheme, Just an Hour. It wasn’t very long after I started Northumbrian Water that a job became available in Media & PR and after a successful interview, I joined the Corporate Affairs team. Earlier this year, a new opportunity presented itself to become involved in the communication activity for a brand new project, Rainwise and I decided to take on this new challenge which involves engaging with the community, as well as using my written communication skills.

What I enjoy about my job:
There are a lot of reasons I enjoy my job, but the main reason is how varied it is. No two days are the same and I get to meet people from all walks of life, both internally and externally. It’s nice to see a project delivered and see how we can successfully change the way Northumbrian Water is viewed by customers through simple, effective communication.

There are many other benefits to working with Northumbrian Water, one of which is the company’s Just an Hour volunteering scheme, as it gave me the opportunity to present my own show at Radio Tyneside.

Forecasting and Resource Planning Manager

Name: David Bullin
Job title: Forecasting and Resource Planning Manager
Department: Planning and Scheduling
Time with the company: 8 years
Qualifications: Mathematics and Statistics Bsc (Hons)

My role at the moment as Forecasting and Resource Planning Manager is focussed on predicting field work demand and making sure we have enough resource to complete the work. We also report on the work that is completed by the field resource and what we deliver. We work with an array of programs such as Excel, R and Microsoft PowerBI.

In my role I manage a team of analysts and resource planners. We take historic data and look at trends to predict how many hours of work we are expected per month, week and day. We then liaise with operational stakeholders and other departments to make sure we have enough resource to complete the work. Sometime we work with Technical Strategy teams to determine what the priorities of the business are and look to flex certain work types to meet the ever changing customer and operational expectations. The team also reports on measures such as productivity, Service Level Agreement performance and travel time, to optimise planning efficiency and give operational stakeholders information to talk to their teams about.

I came into the company as part of the Graduate Scheme and trained to be a project manager. After six month placements in Asset Delivery, Sewerage Maintenance, Water Production and Contract Procurement, I applied for a job in water distribution. I was given the role of Trunk Mains Controller for Teesside where I was responsible for the large diameter water mains, service reservoirs and pumping stations in the Tees area. That role was a huge learning curve for me as I had little operational experience; however, the team helped me learn and gave me a huge amount of support to get through difficult moments such as large bursts and loss of water supplies. After three and a half years I joined a project to deliver an automated scheduling tool called Oracle MWM and then got my current role after that project finished.

What I love most about my job is working with different people from different backgrounds and with different experiences. I have enjoyed learning a huge amount in operations and dealing with emergencies under pressure. I also like using some of the skills that I took from my degree in my role, working with numbers and applying them to real life scenarios. Lastly, it’s great to be delivering a vital service to our customers - water is expected to be available when a customer turns a tap and waste goes when the toilet is flushed and we need to make sure that that is always the case.

HR Assistant

Name: Lauren Pearson
Job title: HR Assistant
Department: Human Resources
Time with the company: 2 years
Qualifications: GCSEs, A Levels, CIPD Level 3 Certificate in Human Resource Practice. Currently studying for CIPD Level 5 Diploma in Human Resource Management.

Description of my role:
My Role in HR is a varied role answering queries on the HR Operations Helpdesk from employees and managers across the company and helping managers to apply Employee Handbook policies and procedures with our employees.

The HR Assistant role involves responding to HR enquiries received by the HR Operations Helpdesk from employees and people managers from across the organisation which can be received by email, telephone or face to face. Depending on the nature of the query the HR Assistant will either resolve the query, escalate it to an HR Advisor or signpost the person to information sources. As well as responding to the daily flow of queries received on the HR Operations Helpdesk, the HR Assistants write to people who have successfully passed their probation, process leavers, help managers to deal with flexible working requests, provide maternity guidance and process maternity cases. Each month the HR Assistants look into which secondments and fixed term contracts are due to end that month and update the payroll team to make sure correct payments are made. We send letters to employees, update systems and keep files up to date. We also support projects. The role requires a range of skills including strong written and verbal communication skills, math’s skills, and strong organisation skills as well as in depth knowledge of the company’s employee handbook, policies and procedures and employment law.

My career path:
While working in London for a market research agency I told my manager that I was interested in further personal development and was given the opportunity to start studying for my first CIPD qualification in HR, as this was something that I was really interested in doing. After working for two years in an HR administration role for that company I realised that I would like to gain wider experience within HR and would like to work closer to home rather than in the city. I saw the HR Assistant role advertised at Northumbrian Water, based in Hanningfield, and it sounded like the challenge that I was looking for because it would be fast paced and I would need to have or quickly acquire knowledge about lots of different aspects of HR. I came to the office for an interview and the rest, they say, is history! I’ve learned a lot during my two years in my role and I have received lots of support from my line manager and team who are always willing to help me develop. The company is supporting me to continue studying alongside my role, so I am now studying for my CIPD Level 5 Diploma in Human Resource Management through distance learning.

What I enjoy about my job:
I really enjoy my job because it’s interesting, varied and challenging. I like to learn and have been given lots of opportunity to learn about things and experience situations that will help me to develop within my role and work towards my future career aspirations.

Marketing Executive

Name: Louise Fenwick
Job title: Marketing Executive
Department: Marketing Campaign Management
Time with the company: 19 years
Qualifications: BSc (Hons) Health Studies Diploma in problematic and alcohol use
Diploma in Communications

A description of my job role:
As a marketing executive in campaign management, I look after several marketing campaigns such as water for health, water safety, bogus callers, wrap up warm, and customer billing.

The main campaign I have spent the year working on has been clean, clear and great tasting, which aims to improve customers’ perceptions of their drinking water – that they have clean, clear tap water that tastes great, build reputation and just to get people drinking more water.

I’ve worked on this campaign from its inception to delivery and have been involved with some great experiential marketing such as our talking water cooler video. Take a look at

I also work on various other campaigns such as water safety, wrap up warm, bogus callers and redesigning customer billing literature. Part of my project management role is to develop literature and materials for other initiatives and events.

My career path:
When I finished my degree, I joined an agency as I couldn’t get a job relating to my degree which paid more than an admin role. An opportunity came up working for Northumbrian Water doing admin. I liked the brand and the sense of family of people working here so I applied for other internal jobs. I then worked in facilities and receptions and even chauffeured for the company. Later on I got a role in Corporate Affairs in the environment team and was fortunate enough to be given a role in internal communications editing the employee magazine. Eleven years later I moved to a marketing role where I am now.

What I enjoy about my job:
Each day is different and I get to work on some really interesting projects that I can get my teeth into. I really take pride in doing a good job and when you see an idea turn into something like a video, radio campaign, billboard or a whole suite of campaign literature it give you a really proud feeling. I did that.

Project Acceptance Engineer

Name: Ryan Lloyd
Job title: Project Acceptance Engineer
Department: Asset Delivery
Time with the company: 6 years
Qualifications: BEng Civil Engineering

Description of my job role:
My main role is carrying out structural inspections of our treated water structures which includes water towers. This is to make sure the treated water structures are maintained well and the water we store is kept clean, wholesome and safe to drink.

I am a Project Acceptance Engineer working in the Asset Delivery department. I have a background in Civil and Structural design and construction which I use to help the delivery of capital projects as part of our business plan. As a Project Acceptance Engineer, my job role is to make sure the quality assurance is carried out on each project, which includes compliance with our Engineering Standards. I work closely with the project team which includes working with framework contractors and our operational colleagues from the feasibility phase of a project through to the commissioning and handover of the work.

My career path:
I obtained a degree in Civil Engineering and started my career with a major design consultant, working on commercial building design and assessment. I gained some good experience working in the construction industry and joined Northumbrian Water Group as a structural/civil engineer, inspecting treated water structures and overseeing refurbishment works as my main role. I’m currently working towards becoming a Chartered Engineer, which the company is supporting.

What I enjoy about my job:
I get involved in all aspects of each project and enjoy spending time on site watching the projects come to life, from the planning and design stages. I enjoy the balance I have of spending time both on site and in the office.

Project Manager

Name: Kay Silver
Job title: Project Manager
Department: Asset Delivery
Time with the company: 15 years
Qualifications: Degree in Mechanical Engineering

Description of my role:
I’m a Project Manager so when the company has a technical problem with its equipment, it’s up to someone like me to solve.

A more detailed description of your job role:
As Project Manager I’m responsible for investigating problems and identifying how they should be solved. This can involve surveys, feasibility studies and design work, and always includes lots of communication with others, both within the company and beyond. Once a solution is agreed I need to secure a budget to cover the cost of the work and arrange and manage it through construction to completion. There are many internal procedures to follow to make sure I comply with the law in all areas and that the work meets company requirements, and satisfies the needs of the users. Projects have included all sorts of things, from new pipelines many miles long or new pumping stations costing millions of pounds, to road repairs and security systems. It′s a job of great variety and demands a flexible and creative approach, good organisation, planning and communication skills, and a fair level of technical expertise.

My career path:
I graduated from a polytechnic and worked for four years as a project engineer, both in the office and on site, on the design and construction of new water treatment works. Then I had a couple of years as a volunteer in Africa before getting a job as a project manager for small industrial water treatment plants. The experience from there got me my job as a project manager at Northumbrian Water and I’ve managed a number of big projects, as well as countless smaller ones.

Team Leader - Affordability

Name: Nicky Weavers
Job title: Team Leader - Affordability
Department: Collections
Time with the company: 25 years
Qualifications: NVQ level 2 Team Leading and NVQ level 3 Management

Description of my role:
My current role in the team is to provide affordable bills to our customers that are struggling to pay their essential household bills. We offer a reduction in current charges of up to 50% and help to write off water arrears that they will never be able to afford to pay. The schemes are new to NWG and my day to day duties include the promotion of the schemes to our employees, customers, and key third parties such as StepChange/Citizens Advice. I currently have a team of four people who work very hard every day assessing if a customer is eligible for additional financial support and then applying any discounts/write offs and letting the customers know by phone/email or letter. We have a target to have 3,000 on the scheme by the end of the year and we are in a very strong position of achieving this.

Being part of the Affordability Team is a very rewarding role. Some of the circumstances our customers find themselves in can be very difficult and knowing that we can help in difficult times feels great! To qualify for additional help a customer’s first steps is to seek independent budgeting advice. The can do this with our key partner StepChange or use their local Citizens Advice or any free debt advice service. Once we know their financial position qualifying customers can have a discount of up to 50% and have their water arrears written off over two years. The key to this being successful is making sure that we are setting up affordable payment plans that customers continue to pay. The idea being that customers pay affordable bills rather than not paying anything at all. Great for customer service and for supporting our values.

My career path:
After leaving school I went to college to study a BTEC National Diploma in Travel and Tourism, I really wanted to be an Air Hostess. After completing this course I was not ready to leave home and all the comforts of living with my parents so I went to work at Norwich and Peterborough Building Society for 18 months. In 1991 Essex & Suffolk Water were two separate companies and they had just started to merge the companies together basing the Customer Accounts Department in Lowestoft. I applied for a position as Customer Advisor and was successful and joined the company on 11 November 1991. I have never looked back since, I love working for Northumbrian Water and have enjoyed every day (well almost!).

What I love about my job:
I love coming to work to make a difference to my team who works for me and to the customers we serve. Knowing that I can develop my team and help them to enjoy their job role to deliver excellent service to our customers and great rewards for them is a real motivator for me. I also like to make a difference to our customers. Working in the Affordability team means talking to customers who are experiencing very difficult times. Helping them with just one small thing can really make a difference and make their day just a little more bearable.

Technical Support Advisor (2)

Name: Matthew Brough
Job Title: Technical Support Advisor (2)
Department: Sewerage Operations
Time with the company: 2 years
Qualifications: BSC (Hons) Geography and Environmental Management 2:1, A-Levels: Business and Economics, Geography, History.

Description of my job role:
My role involves making sure the sewerage network is fully operational and addressing problems that arise on the network while keeping customers and stakeholders updated throughout.

As a Technical Support Advisor our role is to make sure the sewerage network is well maintained and operates smoothly. On a day to day basis I deal with current sewerage issues, identify the problems causing these and rectify them in the aim of reducing repeat incidents. These issues deal with repeat blockages, collapses, odours, pollution to watercourses, sewer flooding contacts and generic customer queries. As a Technical Support Advisor I deal with a large variety of stakeholders. These include household and business customers, Environment Agency and Local Authorities to name a few. Within the role it is an important requirement to keep customers up to date throughout from their first contact with us to completion of works. As an advisor the job involves both office work and site attendance. Site attendance is crucial for pollution incidents to watercourses, customer complaints and for sewer flooding contacts so decisions can be made more efficiently as well as keeping contacts up to date.

My career path:
Graduating from university in July 2014, I applied for a role that was advertised on Northumbrian Water’s website. I started the role at the end of October 2014. During my time at college/university I worked as labourer for a landscape gardener.

What I enjoy about my job:
The best part about the job is the variety of jobs that we deal with. As jobs are dealt with on a reactive basis it means that you never really know what you will be faced with when you come to work. Being an office and site based job means that you are not stuck in the office all week and breaks the day up making it generally fly by!
This picture illustrates a pollution to a watercourse that is entering from a Northumbrian Water Surface Water Outfall. The outfall is only meant to discharge surface water. The problem was reported by a member of the public. As a Technical Support Advisor it is our job to investigate what is causing the issue and to get it resolved ASAP and then investigating what we can do to stop this occurring again. The cause of this pollution was caused by a blockage on the foul system that backed up and entered the Surface Water System.

Water Quality Scientist

Name: Ian Corbett
Job title: Water Quality Scientist
Department: Scientific Services
Time with the company: 16 years
Qualifications: BSc (Hons) Neuroscience

Description of my role:
My role is to provide technical support, guidance and advice to all areas of the business on matters of Water Quality and the protection of public health. I make sure NWG meets all its regulatory requirements relating to drinking water.

I work as part of the Water Quality Team for Essex and Suffolk Water. We are responsible for leading the business in all matters of Water Quality by providing technical support, guidance and advice. I work with all areas of the company following the water supply chain from source to tap making sure the water we supply to customers is of the highest quality and adheres to regulatory requirements. This is achieved via 365 day-a-year programme of water samples that are collected from every point in the supply chain, from our company assets and customer properties. Part of my role is to scrutinise the results of the samples and identify any infringements of the drinking water limits set by our regulators. On the rare occurrences that a sample does breach the standards it is my job to investigate the cause of the breach and advise on a solution to prevent recurrence; protection of public health is paramount at all times. My role also involves auditing of any process that has the ability to impact on water quality. Through audits and a pragmatic risk based approach we are able to advise and influence company investment and help mould future strategy and policy.

My career path:
I joined the business in January 2000 after graduating from Manchester University. I had no experience of the water industry but as a science graduate I was successful in my application for a job as an analyst in the newly opened Cryptosporidium Laboratory. In the lab we tested water samples for the microscopic protozoa Cryptosporidia, which can cause a nasty gastrointestinal disease if ingested. From the laboratory I moved into a more customer facing role reporting laboratory results to various clients. My role also involved setting up contracts between the laboratory and clients, this allowed me to gain more experience in customer services. Following a secondment to Water Quality I gained a full time role as a Water Quality Support Scientist. Joining the Water Quality team gave me access to areas of the business that I had no previous experience of and was a steep learning curve. I had to learn aspects of water treatment and the supply network. I gained knowledge of the laws and regulations which govern our industry and how we meet those regulations. In 2011 I had the opportunity to move from Northumbrian Water to Essex and Suffolk Water to cover a colleague’s maternity leave. The role was the same as my previous job in the north but with the added challenge of having to learn a whole new area of supply, with its treatment works and distribution network. I managed to secure a permanent move to Essex and Suffolk in 2012 and gained promotion to my current job as Water Quality Scientist in 2015.

What I enjoy about my job:
The aspect of my role I enjoy the most is the variety of tasks I get to carry out; whether writing reports for our regulators or supporting our operational staff. I get to work with some amazing people from all parts of the business. My job is to help make sure we provide an excellent product to the public; drinking water that is clean, clear and tastes good. Clean water is such an important part of our lives that we sometimes take for granted. By knowing that I’m a part of the industry that supplies water to millions of peoples’ homes really gives me a sense that I make a difference and great job satisfaction.

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