In this month’s blog, we’ve handed over to ADEPT’s new Deputy CEO. Many of you will be getting to know Kylie over the coming months, so this is an opportunity to find out more about her.
Hello! When I was working through the application process for the ADEPT position, I was prepared for the role to be exciting, challenging and wide-ranging, but little did I think I would be asked to write about myself!
One of the things that first drew me to ADEPT, apart from the opportunity to contribute to an organisation that is ever changing and able make such a difference across place, was its expanding work on climate.
My interest in climate change first started in 1989, when aged 17, I watched a documentary presented by lead scientists from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (UEA). From then on, I was determined to work in this field. I did my undergraduate degree in Environmental Science at UEA, specialising in climatology and meteorology, and was excited to be lectured by those at the cutting edge of climate change research and authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports.
Following a Masters in Atmospheric Sciences, my first role was at the Met Office as an Air Pollution Scientist. Although the work was great, the office was based in Bracknell and having grown up in Cornwall, I struggled with being so far from the sea. I then got a job with Exeter University and bizarrely, not long after, the Met Office moved down to Exeter!
I then became Manager of the Centre for Climate Change Impact Forecasting (University of Exeter) which was researching and communicating the impacts of climate change on the south west (SW) region. I also worked with the UK Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP). It’s funny to think I was working solely on climate change adaptation over 20 years ago. As you can imagine it was an even harder sell at that time. When talking to sceptical businesses, farmers and other sectors, I would focus on preparing for the severe weather that was already happening, emphasising that flooding, droughts and heatwaves would only become more common.
After a career break, a role came up at the Environment Agency (EA) for a SW climate change lead. I loved this job! When I was challenged by our regional director to present to all 1000 of our staff on climate change to bring about a culture change in knowledge and understanding, I managed to present to 95% of staff through sheer persistence and determination. I would often go desk to desk in regional offices encouraging staff to come and listen to my lunchtime presentation. I once presented seven times in a row to our operational staff at an open day. I was sick of the sound of my voice, but I won a climate change hero competition that the national EA team held!
I went on to have several other roles in the EA including in the national mitigation team where I provided expert advice on renewable energy technologies and greenhouse gas emissions.
One of my favourite roles was as Climate Ready Business lead. Climate Ready was created by government to advise and support the public, private and voluntary sectors on climate change adaptation. At the time, climate resilience was not a business priority so I needed that persistence. I worked with a wide range of businesses including Sainsbury’s, ASDA, M&S, the Federation of Small Businesses and across government departments. Learning how to ‘pitch’ climate change adaptation to businesses so that they could see it as a win-win for them and a way of meeting their corporate ambitions was great experience.
I’ve had a range of leadership roles in flood risk management such as strategic planning, flood and coastal erosion risk management strategy. Most recently, I led leading the £8M Adaptation Pathways programme for the four adaptation pathway locations (Thames Estuary, Humber Estuary, River Severn, and Yorkshire) developing investment strategies for managing flooding and coastal risk in a changing climate to 2100 and beyond.
I’m excited for my new role and to help take forward ADEPT’s vision to create resilient, sustainable, inclusive, and prosperous places. I’ll be continuing the work on adaptation pathways through the collaborative agreement we have with the Environment Agency, and in the longer term, I’ll be going back to where it all started for me and looking at ADEPT support around air quality.
First and foremost, most of my role will be focused on our offer to members. I’m presently reviewing the outcomes from ADEPT’s recently commissioned report looking at members’ perceptions and the ways we engage with our members to refresh our approach to communications.
I am also looking at one of the biggest challenges for local government - recruiting and retaining staff. There is a real risk for the future if we don’t ensure we have the right skills and knowledge in place. So, I’m excited about our potential new recruitment campaign aimed at GenZ (16-25 years old). We are currently seeking funding for a pilot social media campaign using channels such as TikTok and YouTube, those with the most appeal for younger people. I’m also creating a ‘great practices in retention’ toolkit to showcase some ideas about how to retain staff.
I’m only a few weeks in but am already really enjoying the wide and varied work and learning a huge amount!
Kylie Russell: LinkedIn