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An engineer and a poet walk into a bar…

Engagement Director Jack Straker (JCS) interviews new-starter Emily Pugsley (EP) 

JCS: When you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up?

EP: I never really had any idea! I went through the classic astronaut-or-athlete phase. Then I realised I had no sporting talent and no desire to go to space, so there were some practical obstacles to overcome. I later thought about being an archaeologist due to my interest in history, and I was also an eco-warrior... so the last part has translated a bit to my career!

JCS: What appealed to you about RIG during the application process?

EP: A focus on sustainability was a massive tick for me, and the fact it is a small company appealed. During the application, people were so friendly. The first meetings were calm and casual at first so that was quite relaxing. Then later in the process, it was good that we had to do assignments; I was a lot less stressed when I got the job as I knew what was coming.

JCS: What’s your favourite bar in Leeds?

EP: I would have to say Hyde Park Book Club. They do books, games, music nights, food – really a great all-rounder!  

JCS: You have a first-class degree in engineering. How do you think this helps in your role at RIG?

EP: Firstly, as we work with deep technology it helps with the technical side of things. I am hoping for some more overlap. Secondly, the workload of an engineering course was good preparation for managing when there is a lot of work, and we have to push to get something done.

JCS: Does the Practice benefit from having an engineer to complement its Italian poetry credentials?

EP: Well, realistically you have been in the space a while so you have a lot of knowledge e.g. about the German biogas market, so it’s not as though you’re a random history grad off the street... that said, it was useful to coach you through how a steam turbine works!

JCS: What has surprised you about RIG?

EP: First, the range of activity: when I asked in the interview what a typical day is, and the answer was “it changes,” I thought that wasn’t too helpful, but it actually makes sense now I’m in the job. It feels like ‘seasons’ of work rather than the same stuff all time, which is great. Second, the amount of responsibility we’re given early on: only a couple of weeks in and suddenly I’m presenting to a client and leading a call with a local council about its decarbonisation strategy. Third, the work includes so many business fundamentals as well as technology specialisation: everyone at RIG knows both sides of the equation.

JCS: What were your first 48 hours at RIG like?

EP: So on my first day, there weren’t many people in the office; after an initial ‘RIG 101’ and getting set up with a computer and the like, you introduced me to our main client and the sort of work we would be doing. I also met Matt from the Deal Support team who spoke at length about financing vehicles for fundraises. I took a lot of notes that day!

On the second day, we took a train to Cornwall for RIG’s Away Day. We did some good work on the train with Ffion and Shields; when we got there we settled into a fantastic meal. It was great to meet everyone in a relaxed setting and hear their stories over quite a few drinks... I think I tapped out near midnight after finding myself part of a deep and meaningful conversation between the MD and a few practice leads!

JCS: If you were to run your own practice, what technology space or challenge would you like to focus on?

EP: I am not sure yet. I am passionate about the circular economy – it is interesting that RIG does not have anything to do with synthetics and fabrics. This may be a space we could go into as a company. The fashion industry is one of the largest polluters.

JCS: Was any part of your degree in materials?

EP: Yes, in my first year we learnt the basics and then I applied that throughout my degree for my various projects. For my Master's dissertation, for example, I designed a novel ankle replacement with a team so we had to understand and apply material properties for prosthetic parts.

JCS: Would you rather fight one elephant-sized mouse or one hundred mouse-sized elephants?

EP: Elephants are a lot less aggressive. Realistically, their main danger is trampling which is out if they are mouse-sized – the threat is minimal unless they can coordinate well, but that’s low-risk. Mice have sharp teeth and claws... if one was elephant-sized – it’s all over. A lot would disagree, but I’m set on this one.