24th Nov 2023

Emerging Leader Programme: Get Acquainted with Grace Ryder, Projects Director (Climate & Carbon)

Designed for ambitious professionals aspiring to be in a leadership role, our blended learning 12-month Emerging Leader programme encourages participants to think beyond the confines of their current roles and areas of responsibility, broadening their horizons to embrace the mindset of a future leader.

Throughout the duration of the programme, we are delighted to provide you with the opportunity to get to know the individuals who are participating. So, without any further delay, it is our pleasure to introduce Grace Ryder!

Tell us about you... what's your work history to date?

I have always had a passion for the natural environment and learning about ways to protect the world we live in. It may sound silly, but as a child I always imagined I’d grow up to be a storm chaser, chasing down tornadoes in the American Midwest before I quickly realised that storm chasing isn’t as simple as jumping in a car and hoping for the best! Still fascinated with the hazards we face in from the natural world, I did the next best thing and completed a degree in Environmental Science, specialising in Environmental Hazards (BScHons) specifically studying earthquakes, volcanoes, flooding, tornadoes and other environmental events alongside other environmental specialisms.

After graduating I trained to be a secondary school physics teacher but decided that I wanted to progress in the environmental field and look for roles more specific to my degree. Since then, I’ve worked as an Environmental Specialist for over 10 years within the Public and Private Sector, starting my career on cruise ships as an Energy Efficiency Controller, to working as an energy and sustainability manager in the NHS before pivoting to environmental consultancy. At GEP Environmental, I specialise in topics such as energy efficiency, carbon management, climate risk and adaptation, carbon foot printing, Net Zero Strategies, ISO 14001 & ISO 50001 design, implementation and auditing, energy and environmental compliance, and stakeholder engagement.

Who or what inspired you to peruse the career you have today?

The inspiration for the career I have today is threefold, and can be attributed to global figures, university mentors, and in recent years, the people closest to me.

As cliché as it sounds, David Attenborough is one of the biggest inspirations to my current career. Blue Planet and other programmes hosted by Attenborough had a huge effect on me growing up – I remember being so struck by how beautiful the earth was, which went hand in hand with a real desire to protect it, this led to me attending university and studying environmental science.

When I got to university, I really enjoyed studying the impact of environmental hazards – volcanoes, earthquakes, floods – but I don’t think the seriousness of the environmental impacts of climate change really hit home until I attended a lecture on the effects of flooding. The pictures of the damage, along with the lecturer’s notes on the statistical likelihood of worse floods soon, were sobering to say the least. I approached the lecturer after class to speak to her about it, and she became a mentor – we are still in touch today.

Finally, my family is a tremendous inspiration – I don’t think I fully appreciated the urgency of climate change until I realised that my children will certainly have to live with the impacts, and I want to do everything I can to limit them.

Can you provide details of a professional accomplishment in the group that you are proud of?

Early in my career, I was tasked with implementing the ISO 50001 energy management system while I was working in-house at one of the UK’s largest cruise providers. It was a ‘sink-or-swim’ task – I didn’t know where to begin and received minimal guidance and support. I was successful in implementing the system, and experiencing the mishaps and wins of a project in real time provided me with a solid foundation for the rest of my career.

It also left me with some clear ideas on how I wanted to manage my own team someday – the kind of support I would have benefitted from, how a project should be managed (and how it shouldn’t be) – and the skills I wanted to be able to pass to others and carry into my time at GEP Environmental.

At GEP, I manage a team of six environmental and sustainability consultants. I try to remain as approachable and trustworthy as possible – someone that they can come to with questions. One of the biggest successes of the past six months has been watching my team expand their knowledge, and it’s nice to think that my guidance could help someone else as we move into more complicated projects, such as Science-Based Targets, climate change mitigation and supply chain management.

What inspires you, and do you have any personal goals that you are hoping to achieve?

My children are my biggest inspiration – I want them to know that they can be ambitious and achieve anything they want to in life if they just try. I want them to be unafraid of failure – it might not always be easy, but the most important thing is to try, and to try again if things go wrong.

Naturally, the climate is another serious inspiration. The effects of climate change can’t be denied, and it’s never been more important to do our part for the environment.

What motivates and energises you at work?

I find managing my team incredibly motivating – supporting and inspiring others is hugely important to me and brings a lot of personal satisfaction. Because I began my career at a time when environmental science was quite new, I felt a bit like I had to teach myself a lot in the beginning – and have a lot of hard-won experience that I want to share. Supporting my team to give them knowledge and develop their careers is extremely motivating and energising.