Menu

A promotion to Project Officer. Well done Sanjana

Sanjana Bushra

Sanjana Bushra

Congratulations on your promotion! What does this new role involve?

Thanks! In this role, I will be supporting Dr Aleksandra Koj, FLEXIS’ Project Manager, with overall project delivery. I will assist with liaising with our funders, the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO), and along with the core management team and research and innovation services, I will oversee the implementation of  the cross cutting themes (CCT), monitoring and evaluation (M&E), marketing and project promotion and stakeholder engagement.

How is this different from your previous role?

In my previous role, I was responsible for the organisation and coordination of all FLEXIS events and engagement.

Breakfast launch of FLEXIS, Royal Welsh Show, Builth Wells, 2017

When I joined the project in 2015, I had to help establish the FLEXIS brand in the low carbon energy world of Wales. I had to ensure that information about our research capabilities was disseminated in the right networks, so attending and organising conferences/seminars was a key responsibility. Thanks to the efforts of our team, in each year of our operation, we have participated in over 20 events, which include UN COP24 and ministerial visits. I am particularly proud of our Demonstration Area launch in 2019, which I helped Dr Koj organise along with my predecessor, Mrs Dawnn Lubin.

FLEXIS Demonstration Area Launch, Margam Orangery Country Park, 2019.

It was during that time I realised that I had the skills to take on a managerial role. Adjacently, I was doing a part-time MSc in Construction Project Management where I formalised my training of managing projects and gained enhanced knowledge. So, when this role was advertised it was the perfect opportunity to transition!

Have you always wanted to work in project management?

As a child, I was always steered towards pursuing a career in Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) for which I am extremely grateful to my parents. I was fascinated by how engineers, in particular, used their skills to change the world and keep it running. I decided to do my undergrad degree in architectural engineering from Cardiff University.

MEng Architectural Engineering Graduation ceremony, Cardiff University, 2012

By the time I completed my MEng, the issue of Climate Change was gaining critical momentum. In the same year, the Geoenvironmental Research Centre advertised for a job opening in their project SEREN, another WEFO project led by Professor Hywel Thomas. SEREN focused on ground energy schemes used to address issues such as fuel poverty, environmental injustice and social inclusion in deprived areas of Wales. This served as an ideal opportunity for me to follow a career path in environmental sustainability and contribute to the cause somehow. SEREN was in its final year of operation when I started my role and I gained first-hand experience of working on project completion, event management and the cross cutting themes. Furthermore, I was working with an amazing group of people who inspired me on a daily basis. Needless to say that when the same team was applying for a bigger grant, I wanted to be part of the project straightaway.

What attracted you to the FLEXIS Project?

My initial reason to be part of FLEXIS was to continue working with Professor Hywel Thomas, Dr Aleksandra Koj and the SEREN team. When I learnt more about the potential impact that FLEXIS could have on tackling carbon emissions in Wales, I had to make the most of this opportunity to make my work worthwhile. Once again, I had the chance to learn and contribute towards net-zero research and development that will also be economically sustainable. Moreover, FLEXIS was taking on the exemplary work done in SEREN, cross cutting themes and implementing it on a larger scale. I was particularly interested in doing some meaningful work under the Equal Opportunities and Gender Mainstreaming theme.

Charity bake sale for Breast Cancer Care for the Equal Opportunities & Gender Mainstreaming theme under cross cutting themes 2018.

Being a woman of colour, I wanted to use my position to address issues of inequality and discrimination. Aligning with our CCT strategy, I was selected to be a member of the Committee of Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity (ED&I) for Cardiff School of Engineering. In my two-year involvement with the ED&I Committee, I assisted in the application for Athena Swan and we achieved the Bronze award. It is through FLEXIS that my aspiration to drive a positive change, however small, is taking shape.

What does the year ahead look like for you in your new role and what are you most looking forward to and why?

FLEXIS is in its fifth year of operation; we have a great team of extremely talented professionals setting milestones for the project each year. Now, all I need to do is maintain this work pace. With the current restrictions in place, there is a lot we cannot do in terms of engaging with the industry. Our focus now is to keep WEFO, our partners and the wider FLEXIS team updated on our progress. When the project comes to a close, there will be an increased workload in terms of reporting and documentation. For a project of this scale, the entire process will be a mammoth task and a challenge in itself. In the meantime, I might take up a few online courses that will expand my knowledge on management.

Working from home during lockdown.

Recently, a spin-off project called FLEXISApp was awarded by WEFO to commercialise the research carried out under FLEXIS. In due course, I would like to be part of this new venture and explore the possibilities the energy industry has to offer.

FLEXISApp Logo

Through my role as the Project Officer for such a distinguished research operation, I will be taking the next big step in my career, aligning with my dream of contributing towards Climate Change mitigation. I am grateful to Dr Koj, the management team and my research colleagues for always motivating me and being an excellent group of people to work with. I look forward to taking on this new challenge!