By Mia Tarrant, Process Scientist, Severn Trent

It’s been another busy quarter for the Rising Stars, starting with a workshop with Water Aid hearing about their strategy for the next year and how we can all be involved in raising awareness and support.

In September, the rising stars played a big role in the Institute of Water’s Annual Conference. The busy 4-day trip to Cardiff started off with the rising stars facilitating discussions in a ‘Meet the Leaders’ event, where we were able to have great conversations with some industry-familiar faces. Day 2 was a jam-packed day at the conference, networking and hearing some thought-provoking discussions around trust in the industry. Day 3 carried on the theme of trust, whereby the rising stars were invited to both facilitate and be panellists on their own session, discussing the topic of trust with someone new to the industry. Some really interesting points were made, including, “have you been told your manager trusts you?” Despite being the last-but-one session to conclude the conference, it was a brilliant session with an engaging question and answer session. This was a great way to conclude the conference as it was many of the rising star’s first time on a panel.

The final day in Cardiff was spent at Arup, hosted by Welsh Area Rising Star, Kathryn Evans. The day began with a leadership and career insights workshop, followed by a discussion around modelling and catchments. This ended with a trip to see Cardiff’s innovative rain gardens.

By Mia Tarrant, Process Scientist, Severn Trent

The busiest quarter for the rising stars, an excellent summer, with some interesting visits.

Late May, our Scottish Area Rising Star, Isla Jones hosted the 2023 Rising Stars cohort in Edinburgh for a jam-packed 2 days at Scottish Water’s Juniper House. It was an incredible visit focused on scientific services and innovation. There were some fascinating tours of the microbiology, organic
and inorganic chemistry labs; great presentations about scientific services, DWQR and Scottish Water’s research and innovation; and engaging discussions with about their careers and CPD.

The trip culminated at The National Robotarium, where all our Rising Stars were left thinking about how the world of robotics could be incorporated into the future of the water industry.

In June, the Rising Stars went to Belfast for a trip of NI Water and WSP hosted by NI Area Rising Star, Sian Walker. The trip started off with a visit to the iconic Silent Valley Reservoir for a presentation about NI Reservoir act and a tour of the reservoir and tunnels underneath, followed by an innovation workshop back at WSP. Day 2, they visited NI Water for presentations on NI regulatory model and asset performance, followed by a CEO masterclass with Sara Venning. The trip finished back at WSP to learn more about water resource planning and CFD modelling.

The next trip for the Rising Stars will be to Exeter hosted by SW Area Rising Star, Gulshen Unveren and then the IWA UK YPN conference in Birmingham.

By Natalie Lamb

I was fortunate to join the 2022 Rising Stars on a visit to Severn Trent to have an informal chat with Liv Garfield, CEO at Severn Trent. We asked her so many questions and received such a detailed insight into her as a person, her role and Severn Trent as a business. I really enjoyed meeting Liv, we learned an awful lot and I really loved the energy she brought to the room. In today’s article, I just wanted to share a few things I learned about how to manage your career, some tips from a CEO without a career plan.

Your job should be something you love, something that you feel is worthy and something with people you like. But successful careers take judgement, luck and effort. There will always be roles you are unsuccessful in obtaining but it is how you cope with these setbacks which can change the outcome for next time.

Getting some perspective will help you to realise nothing is shocking or a disaster or a real issue. No matter the setback or the scale of the problem, it can be worked out. Like the Thestrals from Harry Potter, you can’t get perspective without seeing difficult things, whether that is having a family or another big life event. This will help you take bad news better and counter it more effectively.

Liv’s take on the 3 characteristics you need to do well in a career are:

  1. Be smart enough for the job: not the smartest, not the smartest in the room, just smart enough for the job
  2. Be likeable enough for people to want you, to choose you, for their team
  3. Be resilient: you can’t be amazing then crash then amazing then crash

And to help you on your way to resilience, managing that stress as and when it comes is invaluable.

This is Liv’s breakdown on how she manages stress as a CEO:

  1. Exercise: Do 3 exercise sessions a week religiously, whether that’s a 5 or 10k run, a class etc. It helps you clear your mind to make better decisions.
  2. Cleanse every day: Start every day with a clean slate. Don’t allow yesterday’s stress to impact today. Today could be the best day you’ve ever had!
  3. Like and respect your team: If you don’t like someone in your team, they don’t like you either. Share your problems with the team, with a running worry list and happy list.

One thing I really saw from Liv was how well she knew herself, back to front. She loves spending two days a week going out and about speaking to people, listening, engaging, making people happier but she knows she needs people around her who are reflective. Liv really understood her strengths and weaknesses and how to balance these to make her such a resounding success.

One way you could learn a little bit about yourself is through 360 feedback. Ask your colleagues, your peers, your manager 3 good things about the work you do and 3 things that you could improve on. As noted above, you will have to be resilient for this type of feedback to work but you can learn a lot about how best to apply yourself in future.

And one last piece of advice, which you have all been taking on board by reading this article, learn from people you think are good. Thank you Liv for giving us the chance to learn from you!

By Grace Wilson

As the 2022 Rising Star for the Eastern Area, myself and the other 7 Rising Stars were fortunate to be invited to The Consumer Council for Water (CCW) for a masterclass with Emma Clancy, CEO.
From my customer service background, I was aware of CCW, however I was going into the masterclass with little in depth knowledge of the service they provide.

CCWater is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. I was surprised to hear they are a relatively small company, with around only 70 employees, and they cost each bill payer only 24p in England and Wales.
CCWater are ‘the voice for water consumers’, they have helped thousands of consumers resolve complaints against their water company or retailer, while providing free advice and support.

It was fantastic to hear first-hand from Emma and the CCW employees just how passionate they are about the work they do, their innovative spirit and delivering on their promises to customers to enable positive outcomes. Given the current cost of living crisis, they are particularly invested in campaigning for water companies to lean into the current struggles and focus on the needs of individual customers.
Emma believes the water sector is very well trusted, however there is always room to challenge the industry to do better.

We discussed long term objectives and short-term campaigns; which are between 12 and 18months long. Before going onto an eye-opening exercise of Story Telling. Where we were split into small groups and given a scenario in which CCW had personally dealt with and successfully resolved for the consumer.
Not only was this an exercise in which you could turn a problem into a solution, it also put us in the shoes of the customer who were struggling and had reached out to CCW for assistance and support.
My scenario was a gentleman who had been struggling to pay his water bill for his young family. Following countless calls to his water provider he was advised different things by multiple operators, without reaching a solution that could assist in his situation.
In reaching out to CCW, the customer was made aware of a tariff, the social tariff, which is provided for customers who struggle to pay their bill.
This tariff is not readily advertised on most water companies’ websites and is mainly only used when the customer asks about the tariff directly to the call operator.
Following this session it really opened my eyes to how much we need to legislate change; in the energy sector we have the warm homes tariff to support people however the social tariff in the water industry is not readily available for customers to be put on to support them, at the moment it very much seems like a postcode lottery – when will this change?

I thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent at CCW, it was especially insightful to see it from a customer’s perspective. We have been invited to return to CCW, which would be fantastic to learn even more!

By Abbie Mowatt

After an exhilarating first in-person event at Severn Trent, the 2022 Rising Stars were joined by some of the previous Rising Stars at the Ofwat office in Birmingham for an afternoon of eye-opening presentations. This event gave the group the opportunity to see the Water Industry from a different perspective and to hear talks from well-established professionals in the regulatory sector. For me personally, the most inspiring of these talks was centered on the Innovation Fund.

Ofwat, the Economic Regulator for England and Wales, created this £200 million Innovation Fund to grow the Water Sector’s capacity to innovate. This, in turn, enables the sector to better meet the evolving needs of customers, society, and the environment. Through this fund, Ofwat is delivering a series of innovation competitions that water companies, in partnerships with others, can enter. The Innovation Fund is delivered in partnership with Nesta Challenges and is also supported by companies such as Arup and Isle Utilities. The fund is designed to complement Ofwat’s existing approach to innovation and to help deliver against Ofwat’s strategy. This is achieved by highlighting the role of innovation in meeting many of the challenges the Water Sector faces today and how important new ideas are in moving it forward.

In order to secure the funding, water professionals enter competitions that are focused on rewarding entries that deliver innovation in line with five key strategic themes which are:

  • Responding and adapting to climate change
  • Restoring and improving the ecological status of our water environments
  • Understanding long-term operational resilience and infrastructure risks to customers and the environment, finding solutions to mitigate these in sustainable and efficient ways
  • Testing new ways of conducting core activities to deliver wider public value
  • Exploring the opportunities associated with open data, stimulating innovation and collaboration

The most recent competition was the second round of the Water Breakthrough Challenge. This challenge called for innovative initiatives that deliver benefits for customers, whilst also considering impacts on society and the environment. While the entries to this specific competition are now closed, it is expected that a new wave of challenges will not be far behind. Those who have already entered will be waiting with bated breath until the winners are announced in Spring of 2022.

From the presentation given, it was evident that Ofwat is passionate about this project and believe in the innovation capabilities of the Water Industry. It was also clear that Ofwat has  dedicated time and resources to allow this fund to become a reality. Our group took many key insights away from this session, including the importance of investing in new ideas, listening to others when they show potential to propose positive change, and to think ourselves about how we can bring innovation to the Water Sector during our careers.

Different rounds of these competitions are expected to run until 2025, however it’s clear that the impact that these competitions can have on the Water Industry as a whole will continue well beyond this date. The Rising Stars would collectively like to thank Ofwat for showing us the fascinating projects and for continually investing in the betterment of the Water Industry in England and Wales. Many new ideas can be overlooked at time due to a lack of resources and funding, especially during trying times. However, it is through projects such as the Innovation Fund that these ideas are allowed to flourish which, in turn, creates a more dynamic and adaptive Water Sector – something from which we all benefit.

The 2022 cohort of Rising Stars attended the postponed Utility Week Awards 2021 in London at the Grosvenor House Hotel in March – a highly regarded event to celebrate excellence within our industry.

Following the awards being postponed in December 2021, it was great to be able to reunite with my fellow Rising Stars at the re-arranged awards, as well as being able to get dressed up and return to normality with a large in person event.

Having never attended an awards evening like this before, I was unsure what to expect, however any expectations I did have were exceeded. Located in the heart of Mayfair, I was in awe of the venue on arrival; numerous star-studded events have taken place at The Grosvenor House Hotel and it felt surreal that I had been invited to a prestigious event like this.

All dressed in our best glad rags, we made our way to the Ballroom for the drink’s reception, before being shown to our table. The table was hosted by the Institute’s President, Bob Taylor and Chair, Catherine Fearon. It was fantastic to be able to speak personally to Bob and Catherine about their careers and invaluable experiences within the industry. As well as hearing about their pivotal roles that they play being on the Institutes Board of Directors. It was lovely to be able to enjoy this experience with them.

We were treated to a tasty three-course dinner, which was then followed by some evening entertainment before the awards presentation began.  

Much to everyone’s surprise and delight, the awards were presented by stand-up comedian and television presenter Dara Ó Briain, who is best known for hosting Mock the Week, Blockbusters and Robot Wars, and many more. He had the entire venue in hysterics from his quick-witted humour about the utility sector – I am sure you can imagine the jokes that were made given some of the industry’s current climate!

There was a total of 14 awards, which covered Innovation, Customer Experience, Collaboration, Net Zero and Team of the Year just to name a few. With the most prestigious Utility of the Year award also being awarded.

The Industry Champion award was the first award to be given. This was awarded in memory of Audrey Gallacher OBE. Audrey sadly passed away in January of this year, she had served as Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Policy of Energy UK. She received an OBE for her outstanding contribution to the industry and it was inspirational to hear of the legacy she has left that has directly benefited consumers.

The entire evening was truly inspirational, and I felt extremely lucky to be in a room surrounded by like-minded people in the utility sector who are committed to going above and beyond to help and improve customers lives; it was great to celebrate the stories and achievements from the nominees and winners over what has been a tough and unsettled year.

I have worked at Anglian Water for 5 years so I was excited but nervous that we were up for the biggest Award of the night; Utility of the Year. We were up against some tough competition such as UK Power Networks, Octopus Energy and SPN. I couldn’t believe it when Anglian Water were read out as the winners! I was thrilled and felt so proud to work for such a fantastic company. It really did top the night off for me, from what was already an amazing night.

As the award presentations came to a close, the celebrations began, and we were treated to live music on the dance floor and a casino where all money went to charities such as WaterAid and supporting the crisis in Ukraine. 

It was so much fun to mingle and network with people across the sector that I would not usually get the opportunity to do so, as well as being able to enjoy an amazing evening out with my Rising Star’s cohort. We enjoyed the face painting, ice cream stand and dancing the night away until the early hours, celebrating what was an incredible opportunity for all of us.
It was such a memorable experience, one that I won’t forget.

Thank you to the Institute of Water and Utility Week Awards for the invite and for such a brilliant night!