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Nick Townsend

Nick Townsend

Having dropped out of university in the early 1980s, seduced by the attraction of travel and numerous seasons in the Alps, I returned to higher education as a mature student.

On completing my degree, I was keen to differentiate myself from my fellow graduates and to ensure potential employers didn’t just bin my CV. The Applied Environmental Geology course attracted me as it offered both the opportunity to build on the foundations of my first degree and a work placement to gain crucial industry experience.

Completing the course with two young sons helped me develop time management skills and precluded the need to enjoy other aspects of the university lifestyle that some pursued.

Thoughts on the course

It’s hard to believe that over 20 years have passed since I graduated from Cardiff. Stand outs from the course were the practical projects; the camaraderie of fellow students; and the support of staff and their willingness to explain - often more than once! Most importantly, on completion of the taught section, I had the tools and confidence to take on the work placement.

Professional project

I joined the WSP Due Diligence team in the London Office, whilst this was not my career aspiration, it afforded the opportunity to learn the skill of writing concise accurate reports, which has stayed with me throughout my career - I can feel myself almost reminiscing about binding reports late on a Friday with a courier waiting impatiently (pre-email and PDF days!). I was becoming increasingly anxious about how I was going to write a dissertation on a due diligence topic, when an old course colleague asked if I would be interested in assisting the investigation a xylene spillage at a small chemical works in Barking, which ultimately became my dissertation topic. Incidentally, WSP was just entering the Remediation business with a base in Cardiff, and I was able to transfer to the fledgling business and the site became the first remediation project.

Career journey

Much water (some contaminated) has flown under the bridge in the last 20 years, I have progressed to become Associate Director and am now overviewing the remediation of a former oil terminal site, ensuring that the contractor complies with the agreed strategy (designed by WSP) and meets the client’s objectives. I’m grateful for the opportunity that the Applied Environmental Geology (MSc) course gave me – my sage advice is “never be afraid to ask that 'stupid' question!”