For World Earth Day, we spoke to Olena Samsonenko about her role in Environmental Compliance, Sustainability and Business Management at Harsco Environmental.
What is your job?
That is a question that I was asked recently by my six year old niece, and I was trying to find the words to explain to her in a way she could understand. I answered with the first thing that came in my mind – ‘I am focusing my efforts to save the Planet and all forms of life on it’. Those words surprised me, as I began to understand even better the full scope of my responsibilities, but at the same time, this has not scared me as I am always open to new challenges. But, in short, my current job title is Environmental Compliance, Sustainability and Business Management Systems Lead EMEA.
What does this entail?
A complex challenge that I have always been interested in, is sustainable development. Where a development is only sustainable, from my perspective is when it is economically, societally and environmentally sustainable. Sustainable development therefore in itself requires the interchange between different disciplines. My professional goal is to enhance the problem-solving capacity with complex challenges by trying to align the different stakeholders. My role in this process is to function as a multidisciplinary intermediate who facilitates a good interaction between the different parties involved.
Simply, it is about care, of people and our planet, and by doing this the financial performance is also significantly improved.
What/Where did you study?
My grandmother was a teacher of mathematics and I absolutely loved the subject. So I started out by studying at a Mathematical Gymnasium. But, later I decided to enrol in the Law and History Gymnasium.
My parents expected that I would continue a career within Law, however, I decided to explore more about Physics and Chemistry at Lviv National Polytechnic University. At that time, I did not have sufficient finances for private studying, but I was lucky enough to win the government scholarship which enabled me to complete BSc and MSc in Environmental Engineering.
A few years later, I decided to continue my education in the United Kingdom. Another scholarship enabled me to compete MSc in Environmental Management at Glamorgan University (now the University of South Wales). Later I was also lucky enough to complete a MSc in Occupational Health and Safety there too.
I have also been working since I was 16 years old, in order to keep the balance between this theory and practice.
Where are you based?
I was born in Lviv, Ukraine. However, I have had the opportunity to live in many different places. Currently, I am based in Port Talbot where one of the largest in Europe Steelworks sites is based.
How long have you worked at Harsco?
This year will be 10 years of my work at Harsco! During this time, I have had the opportunity to work with the sites, country, regional and even global teams.
Before Harsco, I was leading the EHS team within the large Oil and Gas company and therefore did not have experience within the Metals industry. However, I am very thankful to all my colleagues who shared their knowledge with me at that time and who continue to do this even now. It is important to adapt and integrate in order to be able to improve.
What do you like about working at Harsco?
Our People - I am very lucky as I have the opportunity to work with people who have different levels of responsibility, different backgrounds, cultures, beliefs etc. I see every person as a unique individual with a very interesting story. There's an old African proverb that says “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.
Thank you to those who support and trust in my abilities. Thank you to those who tell me about my weaknesses and at the same time are helping me in my continual improvement journey. Thank you to those who are always open and honest with me to help understand the reality and allocate the resource effectively.
What is your favorite element of your job?
Logical thinking and having a processes approach. A process is a coordinated set of activities designed to produce a specific outcome (achieve objective). Every complex process can be dropped down to less complex processes. Consistent and predictable results are achieved more effectively and efficiently when activities are understood and managed as interrelated processes that function as a coherent system
Have you always wanted to be in the role you are in now?
According to research, a British worker will spend an average of 3,515 full (24 hours) days (almost 10 years!!!) at work over the course of their lifetime. Therefore, in order to get the full pleasure of life, it is important to do the job that we love to the bottom of our heart. I am lucky enough to say that within my professional life I have always been in the role that I wanted.
What is an average day like in your job?
My day will be similar to any other Harsco employee, it is about planning, implementing, analysing results, improving skills and experience and sharing knowledge.
Why do you think other people should consider a role in your field?
Every person has a unique journey. A role in my field is for those who care about People and the Planet. Let’s be the best we can be, there is no time to waste.