NAME: Marcela de Leon Perez
ACTION/SECTOR: Education, Industries, Services, Voluntary Sector
POSITION: Sustainability Consultant
My Background and Career
My career goal is to gain experience and contribute to developing networks and partnerships between organisations and individuals who work for sustainability in Europe and Mexico.
My commitment to environmental and social projects began at the age of 19 in Mexico. During two years I participated in the Community Environmental Leadership volunteering programme ‘Amigos de la Naturaleza’ (Friends of Nature) and worked in various environmental education & conservation projects with local communities across Mexico.
Since then, my work has been dedicated to sustainability. I have studied and worked in Europe, In 2005 I was awarded a Scholarship to study my first MSc in Madrid, Spain. In 2006 I got a scholarship from the Shell Centenary Scholarship Fund to study at the University of Edinburgh. I started working as a researcher and environmental consultant in 2001 and have worked in the UK since 2007. I have experience in the public, private, non-governmental and academic sectors.
Through my career, I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with organisations such as Scottish Water, Tecnológico de Monterrey (Mexico), Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation (Greece), Oxfam, National Wildlife Federation (USA), Friends of the Earth Scotland, CEMEX and Mott MacDonald, providing specialist advice in projects, renewable energy and environmental assessments.
I aim to continue working for the conservation of natural resources, environmental & social justice and to understand what are the social & economic challenges that we need to overcome in order to achieve a sustainable future.
Economic: Money was a big limitation for me as I finished my undergraduate degree. I was completely aware that if I wanted to carry on with my plans of studying and working abroad, I had to secure a full scholarship. However, I did not let that be a limitation to my aspirations.
Family: Being far away from my family is the most difficult challenge that I face in my professional development. However, it is their unconditional support that has helped me throughout my career and I wouldn’t be where I am now without their guidance.
Personal: I consider myself very fortunate as I have not had any major personal problems during the course of my career and I have been able to balance the ups and downs of my personal life with my professional development.
Social: Being a young and non-European woman working in Europe has been challenging. In the UK, it has been challenging to prove that I am as capable as any British professional to do a good job. However, during the time that I have been living here, I have never been directly discriminated either racially or socially.
Only once I was told by an HR Manager that the experience and skills that I had gained in Mexico were not relevant in the UK. I did not let that affect me because I could see that many colleagues over the course of my career have valued and recognised my skills and acknowledge my professional experience.
Competencies: I am organised and can easily adapt to various working environment. I am very driven and passionate about the work that I do. I am an optimistic and confident person, I am talkative and a good communicator. I believe in continuous professional development and I enjoy networking and sharing knowledge with colleagues.
Qualities: I am able to learn and put into practice new information in my work. I am organised and manage to keep a good balance between work and my personal life. I listen and I pay attention to other people’s problems and I am a good negotiator. I work hard to meet objectives and I have been able to adapt to cultural change, having lived in different countries. I understand how challenging projects can be depending on how they are perceived in different places.
Opportunities: The fact that I was awarded several scholarships was crucial for me to develop my career. Studying and living in different countries in Europe has given me the opportunity to broaden my knowledge in many ways and I have had the opportunity to meet and work with incredibly inspiring people with which I continue to be in touch. Threats: One of my biggest challenges has been to prove myself as a female, non European professional in the UK, and to show that I am capable of doing things right, that I am committed and dedicated to my work.
Hints & Tips
"The more you know who you are & what you want, the less you let things upset you"
Inspiration: My inspiration came from doing voluntary work across Mexico, after witnessing the limitations that sustainable growth faces and how this is linked to social, political, cultural and economic factors. That was a decisive period in my life, as I realised that I wanted to dedicate my career to working for the environment and empowering local communities. It is very much my ambition and goal to develop projects that have a social element as well as environmental. I want be able to provide useful & specialist consultancy advice in different countries.
Your advice to other women who want to start a business or project: My best piece to advice would be to never give up. Life is full of challenges, but being persistent, passionate and dedicated to your work pays back. But the most important thing is to network with people, share ideas, discuss projects, find out if any collaboration is viable. Talking to people will make you leave behind any fear or worry about your project. These people may share some of the same concerns and probably have faced the same challenges.
Suggestions and advice to give to women:
- Never give up
- Always set your goals high
- If you fail, try again
- Always be diplomatic and polite, talk to people, dialogue rather than argue
- Browse the internet! Find out about scholarships, bursaries, funding, work groups, courses or anything that may be relevant to your field
- Meet people & professionals who work in your area,
- share ideas, & network.