Kate Hawley MICFor, Forestry Commission
When I first told my image-conscious, bad weather-averse university housemates that I was going to work for the Forestry Commission, I didn’t get the best reaction. “Do you mean, like, with chainsaws and tractors? Outside?” one asked, horrified. Graduating from Edinburgh in Earth Sciences, they had assumed I would work in an office job for BP or Shell. As it was, I had applied on a whim for the Forestry Commission Graduate Programme and, to my surprise and delight, had been one of only two young people accepted that year. I wanted to show my housemates that forestry could be all things they expected from a profession and more. I couldn’t wait to get started!
My first few years were a whirlwind, as I worked in a number of forestry positions across Scotland, England and Wales. Each post was exciting, stimulating and gave me an opportunity to experience a different side of the complex, wonderful forest industry in the United Kingdom. As well as managing the public forest estate in Scotland, I got the opportunity to work in Tree Health and Disease Prevention in Forest Research, Woodland Grant procedure in England and Woodland Policy in Wales.
I loved each job, but struggled at the start of each position establishing credibility in a relatively male-dominated industry, and without a technical forestry degree. ICF was suggested to me early on in my career, and I joined as an Associate soon after. Attending the conferences and study tours each year gave me the opportunity for an intensive learning experience, developing my knowledge of forestry and silviculture. The friendly, supportive members of ICF gave me the confidence to persevere in an industry where I sometimes felt out of my depth, or struggled being a young female employee managing older staff who had worked in forestry since before I was born! The professional standards to which ICF members hold themselves inspired me to reach for such standards in my own working life, and I was proud to be part of the local ICF network.
In 2014, colleagues encouraged me to apply for full, chartered status of ICF, and I was delighted to be accepted, making me the youngest female Chartered Forester in the UK! I am proud to display my post nominal MICFor letters, and am looking forward to getting more involved with ICF as a full member as I move onwards and upwards in my career.
As a member of ICF entering a new workplace, I am thankful for the credibility my affiliation gives me and the ICF support network to help me settle in. Moreover, ICF’s commitment to continued professional development has given me the opportunity to develop my management, teamwork and communication skills as I move into management within the Forestry Commission.