David’s role lets him bring together energy and the environment in this increasingly connected, digital world – helping make energy affordable and reducing the impact we have as a society on the world by using energy more efficiently. Find out his journey from Environmental Sciences graduate to Chief Executive.
David Thorne, Chief Executive, Gemserv
Tell us about your journey from starting out to your current role?
I took an Environmental Sciences degree before it was fashionable (back in the 80s), but once graduated, I had no clear idea what I wanted to do next. In between travelling, I tried a range of interim jobs including Off Licence Manager, window blind salesman and even a Bingo Caller! This rather odd variety of roles helped me work out what suited me and my strengths, but more importantly, the aspects of these roles that I definitely didn’t enjoy.
I spotted a role at the Department of Environment and they offered me a position at the new organisation, Ofwat, which was going to regulate the water industry (to make sure it delivered for customers and the environment). From there I moved to the electricity regulator, Ofgem, supporting the transition to customers being able to choose their supplier. Then I took a role at an energy company, British Gas, so was able to see things from the differing industry perspective.
In 2008 I joined Gemserv and in 2010 I became Chief Executive.
What do you do now and where do you do it?
Gemserv is an energy and environmental consultancy focusing on governance, assurance and information security. This means we work with government, regulators and energy/environmental companies on transformational programmes – from smart meters to solar panels. Our offices are in London, above Fenchurch Street station.
"I hope that as a business we can make a positive difference, however small it may be, to people’s lives and the planet."
What does an average day look like for you?
My days fly by with my diary pretty full for most of the week. However, it is important to have thinking time so I use my 90 minute journey into work to collect my thoughts before the day begins. When I arrive at the office, it’s a mix of emails, meetings and networking. This could be internal such as meeting with my leadership team or with new starters (I have Meet & Greet 1-2-1 sessions with all new recruits to get to know them). On external work, I frequently engage with our clients or head off to a networking event or lecture – it’s really important to keep in touch with your customers and to be continually learning. On my journey home, I try and relax by watching an episode from a Netflix series – currently I’m on the final series of House of Cards.
Would you recommend your job to a friend?
Absolutely not, because I’ve got it! But, more seriously, I would definitely recommend my role – it is the best job that I’ve had in my career. Whilst it can be hard work and challenging at times, it is very rewarding being at the heart of, and supporting, major transformational programmes. Moreover it is great to be working with people who really care and are passionate about what they do.
"I would definitely recommend my role – it is the best job that I’ve had in my career. Whilst it can be hard work and challenging at times, it is very rewarding being at the heart of, and supporting, major transformational programmes."
What are the elements of your job that you enjoy most?
There’s two aspects that I enjoy the most. The first is working on projects at a national level, which exposes me to many different perspectives with the challenge to bring people together to make a difference. It’s good to be involved at the centre of positive change.
The second is the people. Over 60% of my current team are millennials (those born in period 1980 to 1995) and it is great seeing them grow and develop. I’m regularly blown away at the rate at which our people develop and build new skills in just a couple of years.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in their career?
I’d say three things:
Be willing to try new things
Accept that you will not get everything right…..but learn from your mistakes
Listen and respect other people’s views (even if you don’t agree with them)
Of the three, I believe the most important is to value other people’s perspectives – if you can understand where they’re coming from, and appreciate their concerns, you can begin to find a way to resolve any issue. Often there is not a right or wrong, just a different perspective.
What makes your role important?
I hope that as a business we can make a positive difference, however small it may be, to people’s lives and the planet. Energy is critical to us all, for warmth and power, but, also with the rise in the use of data, it important stay secure in this increasingly connected, digital world. By working to bring energy and the environment together, whilst embracing the pace of technological change, we can help make energy more affordable, allow innovation to flourish, and manage our impact on the environment.
If you enjoyed David's story, read our other Stories or if you're thinking about applying for a role, visit our Current Vacancies page.