Our People – Get The Job Done Right First Time

This month’s theme is ‘Our People’ celebrating Tilhill Forestry’s staff and their fantastic work.

We asked Andrew Vaughan, District Manager for Central Scotland all about his job role and working for Tilhill Forestry.

Q. Can you give the audience some insight into what it is you do?

A. I was appointed District Manager for the Central Scotland District in 2012 and my role is to lead the district team of forest managers, managing properties from the urban fringe of the Central Belt north to the Highlands. This involves a complete range of work types (from woodland design and establishment, maintenance, management, harvesting and replanting) and often very varied client objectives.

A large proportion of my work is managing the administration of the district. I also work with colleagues to market our team, ensure compliance, consider resource management and support my colleagues, including John Gallacher the company Senior Ecologist who is also based in Dunblane. I have a number of additional industry responsibilities, including the delivery committee of the Central Scotland Green Network Trust, the Forestry Grant Scheme Customer Representatives Group and I have been an examiner for the Institute of Chartered Foresters for 12 years.

Q. Tell us about your typical day?

A. Most days I’m in the office and I prefer to get in early to make the most of the quiet time before the daily rush picks up from 9am. I plan my diary quite carefully to make sure that I leave sufficient time to get through the district admin, but also to be on-hand to deal with queries from colleagues – my door is ’always open‘ which means that the team can feel I am always at hand, the downside being it can sometimes be hard to get on with tasks that require that extra bit of concentration. We have developed a good system of admin support and the day-to-day district admin gets processed irrespective of what other deadlines are pressing. My main concern is thinking and planning ahead, making sure that key deadlines are understood and resourced.

An average week will include 2 to 3 external meetings and I plan ahead for these, reviewing agenda items and preparing my contribution. I try to make sure I get out to site at least once a week – either to meet potential new clients, to review work on our managed properties or to just drop in on a property that I have not visited for a while. I ’know’ all our properties, thus can have rational conversations with the managers (and clients!) when needed.

My office includes a spare desk, currently with a neat pile of 17 document holders containing the various papers and maps for the current live projects I am either responsible for or contributing to. Thus, I am never at a loose end and 5 o’clock comes round very quickly each day. If I have a pressing deadline, this is the start of my ’golden hour‘ when I can generally focus without disturbance to push on with a report, budget or get caught up on the day’s emails. Home time varies each day, but I try to be away by 6pm.

Q. How did you get into forestry?

A. Purely by accident! My family was originally from Birmingham and we moved to Scotland in 1969 when I was 6. I was fortunate to be brought up in a small East Lothian coastal village, which is not well known for its forestry and we had no family connections to the industry. Having enjoyed hillwalking and rock climbing through my teenage years, I realised I wanted to work in the outdoors and, purely by accident, I came across the Forestry course at Aberdeen University. I had no real idea of what this would entail, but I was intrigued and applied.  At that time, students were required to gain a year’s practical experience before joining the degree course, so I made an appointment at the Finnish Consulate in Edinburgh and within an hour had an offer of a 6 month work placement with Enso based at Kotka in Finland working for 3 months in a massive sawmill and panel board complex and 3 months in the forest. So, at the tender age of 17, my parents dropped me at Felixstowe port, and I travelled to Finland on a ro-ro container ship, arrived in Turku and somehow managed to find my way to Kotka. Since then I have never looked back.

Q. What do you like most about working in the forest industry?

A. I am very lucky to work in a beautiful part of the world, with a fascinating and stimulating job, diligent and caring colleagues and no two days ever being the same.

Q. Why did you decide to work for Tilhill Forestry?

A. Throughout my early career, I moved jobs and roles every 5-6 years, looking for a new challenge and to experience different facets of the industry. In 2004, I had my own small, local forestry consulting and contracting business in Perth, in partnership with a friend from University days. We were approached by Tilhill Forestry who were interested in acquiring our business and we joined, initially, as a separate entity. We were then subsumed into the local district office, and I then led the forestry team for a number of years before becoming the District Manager in 2012.

Q. What do you like most about Tilhill Forestry?

A. That we actually care about what we do – and this shows through in our working environment, ethos and evidenced by many of our colleagues some of whom have been with the company for many more years than me.

Q. How do you feel Tilhill Forestry contributes to its employees’ professional development?

A. Tilhill’s strength is the quality of the people working for it and, of course, we need to keep developing as people and industry professionals and thecompany readily supports professional development, through membership of the Institute of Chartered Foresters, the many external industry training events and meetings, and also through internal standards, procedures and training. It really is down to the individual to decide what they want or need and to just get on with it.

Q. What sorts of changes are occurring in your occupation?

A. Devolution of forestry has just occurred and there are many new policy developments coming down the track, both from within the industry and from outside. We are lucky to have an environmentally aware Scottish Government who are leading the way on their climate change policies – things are going to change and keep changing. We (and our clients) need to accept and embrace this and, as industry professionals, we need to ensure that the practitioners voice continues to be heard.

Q. How does a person progress in your field?

A. Keep learning, focus on our customers, be mindful of stakeholders, get the job done right first time.

Q.What is your advice to anyone wishing to pursue forestry as a career?

A. We are frequently asked to host an aspiring forester or ecologist to work shadow in the district – and I always say “yes” because gaining any practical experience, particularly from our experienced managers, is invaluable. A knowledge or interest of the environment is also important, but I think the best trait is to have an enquiring mind, to keep asking questions and to “just do it” – you won’t regret it.