Sport gives you a sense of purpose – and that’s what I wanted from my career

Lucy Shaw was a water polo player for England and Team GB and competed at the 2015 European Games in Baku. She is now an Environment and Consents Specialist at Ørstedone of the world’s leading renewable energy companies and is based in their office in the Wirral. You can reach Lucy on LinkedIn.

Sport led me directly to my career now in renewable energy, strangely enough. My sport was water polo, and I grew up playing at the City of Liverpool Water Polo Club. It’s a fantastic sport if you love being part of a team, and want to feel that sense of collective purpose. It’s so much fun but in the level of funding and opportunities, it’s relatively limited.

I represented the north-west, then went into the England talent development squad at around 14, and I was finally selected to represent Great Britain at the final qualifying tournament in Nice, for the inaugural European Games in 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. The highlight of my career was winning the match that qualified the team for Baku, which was an incredible feeling – we weren’t actually expecting it!

It was when I was competing in Baku that I first considered a career in sustainability. I was on a bus to the arena and we drove along the coastline of the Caspian Sea, and saw a line-up of old non-operational oil and gas rigs close to shore. That was the first time I’d been exposed to the world of oil and gas drilling and carbon intensive energy.

And for me, to see those mammoth structures, set against the turquoise blue of the Caspian Sea, was so striking. It stretched my mind. I’ve always loved the outdoors, I’m an open-water swimmer now, hoping to do an Ironman-distance event this year. I’m a crew member for the RNLI and I just love being in the marine environment. My career now, at Ørsted, allows me to feel like I’m joining up a sense of urgency in tackling the climate crisis, with my passion for marine renewables; and also allows me to feel purpose and stewardship of the environment and ecology it supports.

Ørsted is the one of the world’s leading renewable energy companies, and the world leader in offshore wind. Which for me is an incredible thing to say about a company I work for. We develop, operate and maintain our offshore wind farms as well as onshore wind farms, solar, and other renewable sources – but the role I work in is concentrated in offshore wind. I’m an environment and consents specialist. I support our environment and consents team, who are responsible for helping apply for and manage the consents we need to develop and operate an offshore wind farm.

The parallel with sport is that sense of purpose, of a meaning to what you’re doing. That was a key part of my commitment to international sport for so many years. I love the fact that I’ve found that again in an industry I’m so passionate about. Sport gives you a sense of social good so it’s understandable that athletes might be drawn to careers like mine.

Particularly in the environmental and renewable sector, you’re working across a range of multidisciplinary teams. The sense of dynamic teamwork, communication, moving at the speed of trust that you get coming from a team sport, translates really well to the kind of environment I’m working in now where I’m in a number of different teams, all with different skills and capabilities. I also need to be able to think strategically; and translate the tactical strategic thinking into my professional role. There’s a clear link there from sport.

In my previous roles prior to joining Ørsted, I was predominantly working with Environmental Impact Assessment and natural capital appraisal.  Fundamentally, the natural capital approach seeks to value the benefits nature delivers, partly to the environment and biodiversity but also to people – these benefits can be defined as ecosystem services. I worked across teams including planners and engineers. In both my previous roles and my current role at Ørsted, I have had to be able to communicate with a massive range of people efficiently.

When my sport came to an end, I really had to dig deep to figure out what I wanted to do next. And for me, like huge numbers of the younger generation, it’s a sense of urgency about the climate crisis. A sense of urgency, global concern, and a need to find rapid, and practical solutions.