Updated: Feb 10
This month marks our third careers blog, 'Take a leaf out of my book', where we ask people who work in an environmental area to write about their career journey to date: highs and any low points, challenges and accomplishments.
I’m Deputy Director for Domestic Fisheries and Reform at DEFRA. It’s a fabulous, wide-ranging job, covering policy on how we manage our fisheries now and after we leave the Common Fisheries Policy.
There’s a heavy EU Exit focus at present. Amongst other things, I am
responsible for the Fisheries Bill, stopping scallop wars, allocating fishing quotas, licensing fishing boats, managing discards, recreational angling policy, lots of stakeholder management and engagement with the Devolved Administrations. Never a dull moment!
My career has been very varied. The experience that variety has brought has played a key
part in getting me to where I am. I have gone from AO to Deputy Director through every
grade, largely through spotting opportunities and sometimes taking risks (e.g. going for roles
outside my comfort zone). I’ve loved pretty much every role and learned from each of them
and from those I’ve worked with. Whether that was about subject matter (e.g. who would
have thought that septic tanks can impact water quality, or milk is one of the worst pollutants
if it gets into water courses?) or new skills (leading teams, improving personal resilience, or
how to work with scientists and stakeholders).
I ended up doing roles with an environmental tinge courtesy of the machinery of government
change when DEFRA was created. I started in the Intervention Board as an Administrative
Officer paying whisky export refunds and then administering some other of the rather
unpalatable aspects of the Common Agricultural Policy, including milk quotas and beef
mountains. All of these schemes were introduced because the original objectives of the
CAP (to ensure food supply and a guaranteed income for farmers) had unintended
consequences (creating surpluses). This experience in delivery has been helpful during my
career. Ensuring our policies are deliverable and will have the impact that we intend has
been a key lesson.
I worked in the European Commission for a year, which helped me in a number of
subsequent roles about working and negotiating in a multi-national environment. Again, this
has been a key skill as we cannot deliver our environmental objectives on our own.
In MAFF/DEFRA, my roles have covered policy areas as diverse as cattle identification,
organic farming and water quality. I’ve done roles that were more delivery or corporate in
focus, like delivering affordable flood insurance, or helping to set up the Marine Management
Organisation, or sponsoring bodies such as Natural England and Kew Gardens. All these
have helped me develop a rounded set of skills that I can take to any role: leadership,
problem-solving, analysis, working with Ministers, navigating the Whitehall machine etc.
In a number of these (including my current role), a significant challenge has been to manage
the trade-offs that have to be made. So currently we are grappling with how to make fishing
truly sustainable – environmentally, economically and socially. Its been important to set a
clear trajectory (through the Fisheries Bill) and then work with industry, stakeholders and
scientists openly but carefully, whilst managing expectations about pace of change and
If you want to get in touch with Anne to ask any further questions, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org