Emma Salter Career Profile picture

Role: Principal Consultant

Career Area: Research, Modelling and Analysis

Location: Woking

My role at SYSTRA

I’m a Principal Consultant in SYSTRA’s in-house Social and Market Research Team. Social and Market Research involves the collection, analysis and reporting of data on a wide range of social policy topics, from the future of transport, accessibility and inclusion and decarbonisation.

As a Principal Research Consultant in the team, my day-to-day involves managing several research projects, being hands on in research design and data collection and overseeing data analysis and reporting. I also write proposals to win the team more work and develop marketing materials to shout about the team’s fantastic experience and skills!

I get to work with clients in a variety of technical fields, including different teams across the SYSTRA consultancy business, and external client teams too. However most importantly, I get to manage project team members from SYSTRA’s lovely research team, ensuring we deliver high quality work to our clients, on time and to budget.

My career journey

I definitely fell into a role in social research. At school, I loved creative and humanities subjects like English Language, Art and History, and from an early age I knew I wanted to work in a field that allowed me to be creative and curious about how humans, cultures and society work. This spurred me to choose English, Law and Psychology at A-Level, and after becoming fascinated with the human brain and behaviour, particularly the role society plays in our own personal psychology, I decided to continue my education in Psychology with a BSc.

At university, my favourite modules were social psychology; consciousness and cognition (I got to hold a real human brain!); anything involving statistics and research methods; and a module on consumer behaviour that I picked up from the marketing department. This led me to consider a career in market research.

We asked Emma…
When did you realise this was the career path for you?

During my degree, I had the opportunity to complete modules on real-world quantitative techniques and consumer behaviour, as well as a placement at a market research agency that specialised in eye tracking research for fast moving consumer goods. These all opened my eyes to a career in real-world research and when I was looking for graduate jobs, I found a role at SYSTRA that brought together my interest in real-world research with my curiosity for human behaviour and how society works as a whole.

Have you got any words of wisdom for someone starting out in a similar role?

Be curious! Ask lots of questions and be open to learning new skills and techniques, and meeting new faces – this will broaden your experience and help you access new and exciting opportunities. Don’t worry about being perfect or getting everything right the first time! You learn a lot when things don’t go as planned.

How does SYSTRA stand out from the rest as a Great Place to Work?

Working within the Social and Market Research team means I get involved with work across the Consultancy business, as well as having my own clients too. This means I get to work with people from across different technical disciplines and across the whole of the UK and Ireland, broadening my own knowledge and understanding of the UK and Ireland policy context.

SYSTRA is also great at getting everyone involved in the development of company policy, professional development and wellness. I really value my role in the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Steering Group and as a Wellness Champion – both mean I get to make instrumental changes to how SYSTRA works for the benefit of all colleagues, and I get to meet lots of new faces from across the business too!

With such power in diversity, what unique perspective do you bring to the table?

As someone who fell into a role in the transport industry, I bring a unique perspective in that I am not a transport expert by education or training, only by experience and learning through my work at SYSTRA. This has been important for my role as a social researcher, as it often means I view technical information on schemes, strategies, policies and interventions through the same lens as an uninformed member of the public, meaning I can develop effective research materials to measure accurate and valid feedback.

What does true sustainability really mean to you?

For me, everyone from the government, businesses and the public have a responsibility to ensure that the environment and economy can continue to be viable for current and future generations. A big part of the sustainability puzzle is ensuring these groups have the ability to make changes, and that’s why it’s so important to understand attitudes and behaviours in response to different sustainability schemes, strategies, policies and interventions. It’s only when we know attitudes and behaviours, that we can ensure sustainability moves forward with social equity in mind – it’s no mean feat that’s for sure!

What would a green future look like?

A successfully green future will have some pretty major changes to the way we travel, as well as produce, move and consume goods, create energy and use water. I don’t think there is one solution that addresses all of these areas, and there definitely isn’t one person who could design, manage and deliver all of the solutions required! That’s why it’s so important that we all work together to deliver a successfully green future. In working together, we will not only come to learn how different people view a green future (including how they imagine this might be achieved, encouraging innovation) but we will also come to learn how some groups might face barriers in changing their current every day. It’s only by listening and learning from these perspectives that we can design a future that has social equity at its core.

How do you look after your wellbeing outside of work?

I really enjoy a good book, time with my friends and family, cuddles with my cat Stella, exploring new places, good food, good coffee and a visit to my local brewery!

If you could spend your lunchbreak with someone you really admire, who would you choose?

I’m very lucky that SYSTRA’s flexible working policy means I have lunch with my partner on most days. If I got to extend the invite it would go to my grandparents. We probably wouldn’t stop talking for the rest of the afternoon, so I’d end up having to rearrange my meetings!

If you had to pick, which mode of transport would you use for the rest of your life?

I’d choose to walk! My favourite thing to do when I’m somewhere new is to walk around the local area and look up. There are so many amazing views you miss when you’re in the car, or on public transport, and you wouldn’t find the hidden treasures buried deep into the side streets if you stuck to driving around the main roads.