Career path: Charlene Baker - principal consultant at Temple Group

A working trip to New Zealand introduced planner Charlene Baker to large infrastructure projects and since she came back to the UK that has been her focus.

Charlene Baker, Temple Group

What is your job?

My job involves managing and coordinating large infrastructure and property projects, focusing on environment and planning issues. Using project management skills I aim to deliver projects that are technically robust and satisfy the client in terms of cost, quality and programme. I am also the people manager for the planning and sustainability team.

Why did you decide to go into engineering/infrastructure?

I had been working in a local authority as a planning officer and decided to take a year off and travel. I went to New Zealand with a work permit and secured a job with a large engineering firm working on infrastructure projects. During that time I really enjoyed working on large infrastructure schemes and have continued to do so since then.

What did you study? How did that lead to this career?

I studied Urban Studies and Planning at Sheffield University, with my second year in the University of Illinois, USA. I always enjoyed geography at school but I wanted to do something that was more practical and more orientated to a career path at university, and the Urban Studies and Planning course offered that.

Who was your first employer and why?

South Gloucestershire Council as a planning officer. After my degree and a post graduate course in Town Planning I wanted to gain some experience working at the heart of planning, in a local authority.

Brief CV since

Following my first job I moved to New Zealand and spent nearly a year working for an engineering consultancy. Since then I have been in London for seven years, and have worked at two environmental consultancies. I moved to Temple Group four years ago.

Did you have a career plan? How has reality panned out against that plan?

Over my career I have set myself mini targets to achieve. The first was to get a graduate job, and then I planned to get my membership to the Royal Town Planning Institute. Since then I have set myself milestones around location and sectors I have wanted to work in and then the type of skills and experience I wanted to gain, such as line management and business operations experience. Having mini targets has allowed me to think about where I want to take the next step of my career.

What is special about where you are and why did you stay?

Temple Group offers me the blend of large and interesting projects within a small company setting. This allows me to continue strengthening my project skills and provides me an opportunity to develop other business skills. The people are great as well!

What is exciting?

Working on big nationally important projects, and being part of them.

Who has had the most influence over your career and why?

I wouldn’t say there has been one person that has influenced my career the greatest. In each job I have learnt from work colleagues, clients and other professionals. I have tried to use what I have learnt and put it into practice. 

What about work keeps you interested?

I really enjoy variety, I can go from detailed contract management issues, to reviewing reports about noise impacts or protected ecological species. Large projects provide different challenges and new people to work with.

What can employers offer to make you most happy in your career?

For me it is variety, and clear understanding of progression. Employers need to understand what motivates individuals to achieve a high performing and happy team.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Just keep learning as you go, and not to worry about mistakes, they are a learning opportunity as well.

What is the one thing you have done that has been fundamental to your career?

I think it would be moving to New Zealand and getting to work on my first infrastructure and engineering projects. From that point onwards I have continued to pursue a career in infrastructure.

What is the best thing so far in your career?

So far it has been working on the Chiltern Railways Transport and Works Act Order, getting really involved in the project and Public Inquiry was a great experience.  


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