People Spotlight: Helen Smith

25 October 2022

In our latest People Spotlight, we chat with Helen, Project Manager within our Business Development team.  Helen has a wealth of knowledge across the water industry and is always on the lookout for new sustainable projects.

Hi Helen, tell us a little bit about your career journey so far…

I studied environmental science at Stirling University and started with Scottish Water’s predecessor East of Scotland Water in 1998…feeling quite old thinking about that!

After a brief spell in an asset mapping role, I moved to the trade effluent team as an advisor and joined Horizons shortly after it was formed in 2008 in a technical advisor role. 

After having my second child I moved away from Horizons, working as a consultant.  I gained my chartership and worked with companies on various environmental compliance and feasibility studies, permitting and implementation of environmental management systems.

More recently I returned to Horizons working with Irish Water on a trade effluent contract for Horizons’ International arm, then finally two years ago I came full circle! I’m back with the Horizons team and now work in the Business Development team as Project Manager which I’m really enjoying.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I work with a range of internal and external stakeholders to help deliver projects, so variety is definitely part of my day-to-day schedule! It’s great being back on site meeting up with colleagues to discuss projects face to face.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Helen and her family

I would say the different dynamics of the teams I work with, the innovative and clever ideas which are generated through working together with both colleagues and industry and the ability to push Net Zero projects (which wouldn’t necessarily happen in the commercial and public sector without our involvement). I’m working on a number of new ‘heat from waste’ projects where we have a unique opportunity to provide low grade heat from the sewer to new commercial and housing developments, using an existing and previously untapped resource which could make a real difference to the way we heat our homes and businesses in Scotland.

What has been the biggest highlight of your experience so far?

Most recently I have been involved in a collaborative project which enabled the first full scale co-digestion trial in Scotland of organic substrates from industry (distilleries and breweries) together with sewage sludge. This was a real breakthrough, especially as I sat on an UKWIR co-digestion group around 15 years ago which looked at the benefit of increased biogas production, and local treatment of organic wastes. Reaching Net Zero by 2040 is a key ambition for Scottish Water, and it’s great to see boundaries being pushed to make it happen.   

What do you like to do in your spare time?

For the last six years I’ve volunteered with the local Scout group as a Beaver and Cub leader, which has been a great way of spending time with our two boys while having lots of outdoor fun together. I’m also Chair of my local ‘Christmas Lights’ committee and help to organise an annual switch-on event and festive fun…I suppose all of this just makes me a big kid at heart!

Where would you most like to visit in the world?

I’ve been to lots of wonderful places over the years, Canada in particular. I would love to visit Iceland to see a completely different environment – geysers, midnight sun and one on my bucket list, the Northern Lights!

What would your perfect Saturday look like?

A day spent camping with pals at Comrie Croft, kid’s running feral, walk in the hills and finished off with a campfire, few drinks, good company and chat.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

Most folk don’t realise that I have an identical twin sister. Despite being very close, she lives quite far away so when she does visit it’s always quite amusing to watch neighbours and locals mistakenly chatting to her or looking rather puzzled as they see double!

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