Ailsa Watt - Sustainability Programmes Consultant, Standard Life Aberdeen

Ailsa took a non-graduate route into CRS, successfully turning a school leaver internship into a permanent, CR-specific role. Read about her route in and what she gets out of her role.

ICRS membership level: Organisational member


How did you get into CRS, and why?

I joined Standard Life Aberdeen in 2014 via our school leavers employability programme, the Edinburgh Guarantee Scheme. After completing a six month internship, I had the opportunity to remain in Marketing, but I opted to take up a temporary position in the Sustainability Team as an administrator. Now, two years later I’ve been promoted to a consultant role.

Describe a typical day.

Currently, it involves managing the on-boarding of the latest cohort of interns via our employability programmes and working with our people and local charities/organisations to ensure Standard Life Aberdeen is an inclusive place to work. I manage the same programme through which I joined the business and I’ve found that has really helped me understand and improve the scheme because I’ve been through both parts of the process. I also manage our community impact reporting and collate and distribute this information on an ongoing basis.

What do you need to do your job brilliantly? 

Building strong relationships with people inside and outside our business is very important in my role. I’m conscious that I’ve followed a very different path into this sector than some of my peers – however, this means that I can learn from their experiences and hopefully they can learn from mine! It’s important to be adaptable and accept that a lot of our work is reactive; working collaboratively with people across our business and community allows us to drive real positive change.

Why did you join the ICRS?

A number of my colleagues were members and suggested I’d sign up. I’ve found it so helpful, especially as someone who is still new to CRS and is keen to learn.

If you didn’t work in CRS, what would you do? 

I’d love to work at a radio station! When I was 19, I did two weeks work experience at one of the main radio stations in Edinburgh and it was an amazing experience.

What makes your sector unique from a CRS perspective?

I find working in CRS in a financial services company very interesting. We know there is a lack of trust in businesses like ours, which is why we need to understand the reasons, and work hard to address them and make changes. I enjoy working for a big company because we have this amazing platform and voice that we can use to work with other charities and organisations in our community to have a big impact and help drive and influence positive change.            

What advice would you give to others on getting into CRS?

I would say that there are lots of different routes and would advise to meet and speak to as many people in this field as possible. For me, I find it really inspiring to hear others’ experiences about how they got into CRS because for a while I felt a bit self-conscious that I didn’t have any relevant qualifications. I’m lucky enough to work in a team where we’ve all taken a variety of different routes to CRS and I think this makes our team work well.

What one question would you like to pose to the ICRS community?

As someone who is early in their career and has come from a non-graduate background, many of the people I come across in sustainability talk about not only their first degree but their second ones too. I don’t mean this as a criticism – everyone I have come across in the CRS profession, whatever their backgrounds, is really open, welcoming and wants to do great things. But aside from formal qualifications, what should I do in the next few years to build my experience and learn to have the biggest positive impact in my career?

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