Blog: Paul Tait on starting a new job during a pandemic
Having graduated from the University of Aberdeen in Marine Biology in Summer 2019, Paul Tait moved home to save before going travelling. Then COVID-19 hit and Paul was furloughed from his job in hospitality. Luckily for Paul (and EMEC) we advertised a maternity cover post of Environmental and Consents Officer which fitted perfectly with Paul’s degree.
Starting any new job is a scary prospect but starting a new job during a pandemic when you can only meet your team ‘virtually’, especially as a new graduate, is going to be particularly daunting.
Now a few months into his role, Paul wanted to share his experience in joining EMEC during a pandemic. This is his story.
Starting a new job during a pandemic
After a successful ‘virtual’ interview and a few emails with Molly in Human Resources, my contract was signed. I started at EMEC as the new Environment & Consents Officer at the end of June 2020.
Due to the pandemic, it meant that I would be starting in my new position from home. First of all, EMEC made sure that I was properly equipped to ensure I was comfortable and it was iterated to me on several occasions to let HR know if I needed anything to improve my home setup.
The handover process from the Environment and Consents Specialist, Caitlin Long, couldn’t have been smoother. Over the first two months Caitlin provided specific training on the consenting processes at EMEC as well as a broad range of knowledge on the company (from the Orkney test sites, to developers, regulators and the role that EMEC plays in the marine energy industry). I got the opportunity to shadow the consents team at various meetings which was a great way of learning the role and types of situations I may be exposed to.
A series of incredibly useful induction sessions are set up for new employees at EMEC over their first two months. Throughout these sessions, you get walked through all things EMEC, with a chance to speak to almost everyone at the company, including a chat with the executive members of staff. Before my interview, I had read a lot about the company, but learned so much more speaking to the people here. I was amazed by how involved EMEC are within the marine energy industry. It’s not just a test site; there’s an incredible amount of consultancy work going on, as well as industry engagement, lobbying and project development to help further the sector.
Over the induction period I learned all about the wave and tidal test sites, EMECs project’s, the services EMEC offers, environmental monitoring, Power Performance Assessment, project management, marketing strategies and consultancy work.
Helping me to understand how EMEC operates as a company was the Integrated Management System. There are two things that stood out for me upon joining: safety – priority number one; and quality – a close second. EMEC has its own quality manager to ensure that the highest quality possible is achieved not only in the services it provides but covering aspects of how the company functions. All staff are encouraged to identify opportunities for continual improvement.
This was invaluable in making starting a job from home much easier. One of the ways in which it did this was through the vast number of internal guides and standard operating procedures on EMECs document system. Along with the ‘navigating EMEC’ induction document that new employees receive, there’s a wealth of guidance all accessible from your desk. One of the things I thought was going to be most challenging was the inability to turn around and tap someone on the shoulder for help, but I soon realised (probably after some silly questions to my peers) it was all there ready for me.
I think I was the first person to receive an ‘online induction’ at EMEC, or certainly during Covid-19, so it was interesting that it was also a new experience for the people putting me through it, although it did not seem like it was their first time.
When lockdown began, as I understand it, EMEC had the means for employees to essentially collect their IT equipment from the office and set up at home on the same day, leaving a minimal amount of disruption to the operations at the company. I think since EMEC had been working from home for three or four months before I joined, it perhaps helped the induction process as well.
The flexibility that is embraced at EMEC has also really added to the experience working from home. You are always encouraged to get out of your seat and take a break, get the most of the sun (when it’s out, which can be seldom in Orkney), and generally just make the most of working from home. The working environment at EMEC is one of fairness and honesty, where everyone is valued equally. Even during the pandemic, important workshop sessions for equality such as “Women at EMEC” have taken place. These types of sessions are not only learning opportunities but also allow the team to become closer as well.
Another worry of mine was the potential of being left out due to the lack of in-person interaction, but EMEC’s has this well covered. From the beginning, the Senior Environment & Consents Officer, Donald Leaver, has spoken to me almost daily which has really helped. There are also weekly team and staff meetings to make sure everyone is doing OK.
I have now been here for five months, or what feels like two weeks in “EMEC time”. Time moves incredibly fast, but at the same time you feel part of the furniture – I think that says a lot about how welcoming everyone is and how quickly you settle into the team. Since I started, I have seen several people join the company and I like to think I have helped them settle in as well.
I think if other companies have even just a fraction of what EMEC have achieved during the pandemic, whether that is a good induction programme, easily accessible online tools/guides, or the ability to maintain such a high level of teamwork from home, the way in which people work is about to change dramatically.
I can safely say that starting a job at EMEC during a pandemic has been a great success and I am delighted to be a part of the team.
Environmental and Consents Officer