Jennifer Newton works as a resilience coordinator at PD Ports. Previously, she worked as resilience officer in the financial sector. She graduated from Coventry University in 2020 with a 2:1 degree in Disaster Management and Emergency Planning and she has since then completed her CBCI. At the moment, she is studying for her MBA in risk and resilience.

Jennifer was recently shortlisted for ‘Newcomer of the Year’ in the CIR awards. Her profile is a great example of how to step into the business continuity and resilience industry. She agreed to tell us about her experience so far.

  1. You have been recently shortlisted as CIR Newcomer of the year, what were your initial impressions of the business continuity and resilience industry?

One of the things I have initially noticed in my short career so far is how nice and supportive the business continuity and resilience community is. I’ve been given so much support by so many people in the industry from career advice, university support and overall mentoring in the industry. There’s a great bunch of people around, from all over the world, who are happy to connect and share best practices and ideas with you and this has been vital for my career progression. I think the importance of our industry has really come to light over the last few years too, which seems to have given the industry as whole a new spark of excitement and enthusiasm, along with the exhaustion of working in the area during a pandemic!

I initially gained interest into the resilience world back when I was looking at university options and I came across the degree Coventry University offered – Disaster Management and Emergency Planning. I was instantly intrigued and went on to do some research into what career options came from there. My degree gave me a great insight into the resilience world, and I really enjoyed the excitement of it. I was always worried about having a mundane job where every day felt the same and that’s definitely not the case for business continuity and resilience. Every day is so different and there’s always new challenges to keep things interesting.

  1. You currently work in the supply chain and logistics field, which has been facing tough challenges since the outbreak of Covid-19. How important was BCM in ensuring resilience in this sector?

Supply chains and the logistics sector undeniably has a lot of time pressure on operations. This meant that when Covid-19 first started to appear in the UK, ensuring there was a formulated plan in place to deal with any disruptions which might follow was crucial. I only started my role in this area recently, about 3 months ago, so it’s difficult to say much about how the sector has been impacted since the outbreak. I was previously working in the financial sector, so I have definitely seen a significant difference in impact and how you need to respond in different sectors.

The pandemic meant that many of us worked from home, as we had the ability to carry on delivering our roles as usual whilst working remotely. However, that was not an option for those operating at the port. Several members of staff in more operational roles still needed to carry on working on site, loading, and unloading vessels, working on the river, in warehouses and many other areas that help maintain businesses obligations, also in light of the legal obligation imposed by the Statutory Harbour Authority.

The importance of Business Continuity Management, along with emergency planning and other resilience aspects, has become even more visible as a result of recent events such as the Suez Canal blockage and fuel shortages. While these examples refer to extreme circumstances and triggers, they really emphasise the need to be resilient by planning, exercising and most importantly, learning from past problems.

  1. How important was having a certification in learning best practices? How applicable was it to real-life challenges?

Continuingly learning and having a professional certification has certainly helped me with my role. Although it would be hard to pinpoint to exact times and examples of when I have used either my degree or my CBCI qualification towards my day job, the methods I have learned have become embedded in my daily job. The CBCI certification allows me to view my job from a wider aspect, allowing me to better understand the BCM lifecycle.

I think, perhaps more importantly than certified courses, the continuous professional development which you manage to gain and have access to once you’ve achieved your CBCI is more applicable to the working challenges you face. The courses will give you the knowledge and the theory, but the added benefits such as webinars and networking events will give you the real insight on how to implement the concepts you have learned, while giving you an idea of the challenges that come with working in the resilience world.

Having a certification in what you do, in any field of work, will only benefit you. It allows you to learn theory around your area and how to apply it, and also gives you the confidence to do so.

  1. What advice would you give to upcoming professionals in our field?

Network, network, network! My biggest advice to any upcoming professional (in any field) would be to network as much as possible. The resilience community is always a great bunch of people who genuinely do want to help and talk with you. I’ve had numerous great opportunities which have been a direct result of networking. This is much harder in current virtual environments; however, pushing yourself to speak to more people, messaging someone you find inspiring or joining a professional (or even more casual group) will only help your career and knowledge.

Another bit of advice I’d give would be to challenge things. Don’t just do things because it’s the way it’s always been done, ask why or share an idea on how to improve. Younger people will often have a natural advantage in terms of upcoming technology, with fresh ideas on how to turn a new tool into a benefit. So, there’s no harm in proposing an idea and trying to improve things. Even if it can’t be done, you’re showing a positive attitude towards innovation to your peers. Also, you never know, it could be a ground-breaking idea that no one had thought of yet.

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Author: Gianluca Riglietti