Olivia Knight-Adams started her career in marine biology, took the Forum for the Futures Masters course, and is now coordinating Coca-Cola’s role in the London 2012 Games. Here’s what she learnt along the way.
Class of: 2007 – 08
Currently: Sustainable Games Project Coordinator at Coca-Cola
Why I chose the MProf
I had been working for Quest Overseas for about four years, organising voluntary conservation and community projects in South America. It was a very small organisation and I was at the top, so there wasn’t any room for me to progress. When I started looking for other jobs, I didn’t quite have what it took to get them. I came across the Forum Masters, and it just seemed like the obvious way forward.
What I learnt
Before the Masters, I was probably quite naïve and idealistic in my attitudes towards big businesses – thinking, ‘Gosh, I would never work for that kind of company’. But that changed as a result of going on the work placements and understanding the Forum way of thinking. Now, I find it’s best to work with big business to make change, rather than constantly fighting against it – although you do need the whole spectrum, the activists as well as the collaborators.
Career to date
After the Masters, I got a job working as a Sustainability Advisor for the Olympic Delivery Authority, which was fascinating, and then worked on a behaviour change project with universities across the country, funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. It was quite a contrast moving to a big corporate like Coca-Cola after that, but I love it.
What I plan to do next
I’d like to stay at Coca-Cola and use what the Olympics have catalysed there to drive the sustainability of their operations further forward. I think if you can positively change a big corporation by just 1%, you’re making a far bigger difference than some of the lovely, small charities I’ve worked at before. I believe I’m working in a company that wants to do the right thing – it’s in their interest to, both from a business and a reputational perspective. If they want to be around in 10 years’ time, they have to look after the resources on which they depend.
Advice for future leaders
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s this: don’t ever stop thinking of things from someone else’s perspective. It puts you in a much better position to influence them if you do.
Olivia Knight-Adams was in conversation with Katie Shaw.
Look out for the Green Futures Special Edition on the 2012 Games, Beyond the Finish later this year.