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Elias at one of his charge point projects

Elias at one of his charge point projects

Episode 7

5 Sep 2022

20 min 🎧

8 min 📖

Elias on Building His Career in Green Mobility

With a degree in civil engineering, one can have many options of career pathways. In Elias' case, he started in the transport sector and is currently riding the new wave of electric vehicle charging facilities. Today, he’s speaking to us from London about what it’s like to work at an EV charge point operator. He's also sharing a fun sidestory: initiating a recycling programme in a Greek army camp.

Listen to the podcast or read the transcript below.

Greensider: You are working as a Build Programme Manager for an EV charge point operator. What does your typical day look like?

Elias: I’ll first provide some background about my company. We focus on the end-to-end design, installation and operation of an EV charging network across the UK. There are various stages in that process, from planning to delivery and operation. I work specifically with the delivery. That means I oversee the journey of sites, from the initial site surveys to the details of site design, from the build to the installation of the charging points.

On a typical day, the design part takes quite a bit of my time. I look into the initial site design, checking if there are any issues or any conflicts with other infrastructures, ensuring the design is compliant with traffic and electricity regulations, minimising the disruption to the public.

I also participate in many meetings. They can be weekly calls with our build and installation partners to discuss the pipelines and timelines of the different projects that we have. They can be calls with local authorities to discuss the site selection, design, timelines, permits for the work.

Another big part of my job is quality. I need to ensure the sites are signed off and ready for the different parts of the work. Also signing them off when completed, ensuring they are done to the specification and according to our designs. Any works done by the local authority, like bay markings onsite and the signage, are put up correctly so that the site can be ready to be live and operational for customers to use.

But it’s hard to describe a ‘typical day’ working for a startup since no day is the same. For example, this morning I found myself helping with a promotion video. On another day, I had a chance to be an exhibitor at an EV conference. I have also worked on tender and helped the marketing team with some tasks. It’s really exciting working in a startup, especially a growing sector like EV charging.

Greensider: So there are a lot of things going on in your position. What do you enjoy working in an EV charge point operator?

Elias: The main thing is that it's very fast paced. It's hard to get bored with this job. There are always new challenges and a lot of new players in the industry. We always have to seek new ways to do work faster, cheaper so that we can stay competitive. I enjoy that element of the job.

The projects are big in number but quite small in scope. In that sense, it doesn't take long for the project to be completed. But there are a lot of projects. You have to stay on top of many potentially conflicting timelines in order to deliver projects to scope.

Despite the challenges, it's a very rewarding sector to work in. It's mainly because our coworkers tend to share the same passion. You get the charge point geeks sharing pictures of charge points in different countries where they’ve been on holidays.

There is also this feeling that you work for a higher purpose. One of the UK’s main challenges is to stop selling internal combustion engine cars at the end of the decade. Under this common goal, our company is an essential player in pushing that agenda, working with different local authorities to complete our projects faster and better.

The culture of the company is intense but not cut-throat. In order to scale fast, we are deploying essentially the same type of project over and over again. These are opportunities for continuous improvement, which is something that I enjoy.

Greensider: Before this role, you had five years experience in traffic and transport. Was it a deliberate choice to switch work for a green company?

Elias: I worked in the transport and traffic industry primarily in London, which is a leader in promoting cycling infrastructure. Therefore, I got to work on many projects with a major focus in promoting green transports. I started my career at Transport for London. I was involved in quite a few projects for the cycle superhighways and traffic signals that prioritise cycling and walking.

However, that was mainly in London. When you work in a consultancy, you follow what the local authorities have in their agenda. If you work out of London, they might have different priorities, such as still promoting car usage, more traffic lanes, etc.

What prompted me to apply and work for this company (the EV charge point operator) was that it's a company that leads the change to more sustainable transport. We're not expecting a client to give us that agenda. We're pushing the client to promote that agenda.

It was indeed a deliberate choice. It started when I got the chance to work on a charge point project at Jacobs Engineering. We were contracted to deliver the highway designs for several of London's first rapid charging points. That was when I got the charge point bug. I thoroughly enjoyed the fast deadlines and the political agenda behind. That was what made me want to go full time working for a recharging company.

Greensider: Alongside with the experience in green transport projects, what else did you do to prepare for this career change?

Elias: One important element is to keep your LinkedIn and CV up to date. That’s because so much recruitment now happens online using search engines. Stating in my profile clearly what I am interested in probably has helped me get contacted on LinkedIn and recruited for this position.

Another point is doing a lot of research, learning the industry that I'm interested in. That gave me knowledge that helps me even to this day, as we look at different products, different charge points to work with and understand the different charging speeds and what the demand is in a location. There's also a variety of online courses. In my case, it helped me build on my interest and make it marketable in a way. 

As I said before, I was quite lucky to have that directly relevant experience. After working in this company a year and a half now and meeting a lot of recent hires, I realised they tend to be people that have had directly relevant experience or different experience that is transferable. For example, people having worked in energy companies or in battery storage companies would have transferable skills that they can offer. 

To summarise, keeping my LinkedIn up to date, learning the industry and having that relevant experience was quite helpful in preparing for that career change.

Greensider: Finally, I know that you initiated a recycling program in one of the Greek army camps. Could you tell us more about it and was it helpful to your career development?

Elias: Back at the start of the pandemic in 2020, I went back to Greece to serve in the army. The service started in a bootcamp in the middle of nowhere. It was a great experience, from which you get to meet people from all over the country who may or may not share the same views as on certain aspects. One of these aspects was caring for the environment and things like recycling. 

What I noticed in the bootcamp was that even though there were water fountains, no one was actually using them. I think partly the reason was that plastic bottled water was subsidised and sold at 10 cents per bottle. That was five times lower than the country standard. Therefore, the recruits would just buy the bottled water in batches and keep them by their beds. All of those bottles would end up in landfill as there was no recycling infrastructure. 

I thought this had to change. After the bootcamp, I got stationed in another camp where there were some recycling initiatives, but there was no complete programme. There were a lot of offices that were quite paper heavy. Some of them may have been doing their own individual paper recycling, but there was nothing official. Most importantly, there was nothing for plastic.

I started ‘lobbying’ by talking to my superiors about this. The first three layers of management completely ignored me. They were just not interested or it just wasn't a priority for them. I ended up being in the office of the commander in the base, as a last resort to push for that change.

I mentioned that recycling issue. The commander gave me an approving smile. He responded that it was his vision to make the basic green base. That was one of the key things that needed to change. We discussed different things like reducing the plastic cups by providing reusable cups and initiating a recycling programme for every office. Two weeks later, we had the local authority representative coming in for a meeting and we started planning a programme. We got different bins ordered and placed around the base. We had agreed on a collection program and started raising awareness and informing the base on how to use them.

I was really glad that within my short time there, we managed to get this change. I'm not too sure if it helped with my career development. But in terms of personal development, it helped me to be more confident in what I want to do and how I want to impact my environment. It helped me understand that if I persist enough, I can find support in the most unlikely places.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this podcast are solely those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the mentioned organisations. Greensider Foundation does not accept sponsorship for the production of this content. The above interview transcript has been edited.