13 May 2014
Each year, at its AGM, SCI presents Distinguished Service Awards. The awards celebrate the hard work and goodwill of longer-serving members from all component parts of the Society. They recognise time given as volunteers to organise conferences, edit or peer-review the material published in our journals, share enthusiasm, or lend leadership and vision to sustain regional or technical group activities.
This year, the Society is pleased to present a Distinguished Service Award to Mrs Marie Connor for her contribution to the promotion of SCI in the Liverpool and North West region, in particular for her contribution to the committee since her early career.
When and how did you become a member of SCI?
I became involved with the SCI Liverpool and North West Regional Group (formerly the SCI Liverpool Section) in 1999, just after I started my first job as a graduate Process Engineer at ICI in Runcorn. One of my University Professors (Prof Gert Goltz) met up with me at ICI and asked if I would be interested in attending the next Liverpool Section committee meeting as the Section was looking for some 'new blood'. I duly attended a few meetings to see what was happening and decided to join as an SCI member the following year
Why did you decide to get involved in committee work?
After attending a few committee meetings I felt it was a little tedious for me if I didn't actually get involved in helping out with something, so when I was asked by some fellow committee members to join the Programme Sub-Committee I decided to give it a go. After helping out with organising a few venues and posters for AGMs and family events, the first event I had ownership for myself was a lecture on The History of Beer. It was a really enjoyable evening.
What has driven your continued involvement?
After organising the above event, I felt I had found my niche. I enjoyed the feeling of having ideas with the Sub-Committee for events, then going out and finding a venue, pulling together an event idea and getting on with it; catering, guests, preparations etc. to seeing it run smoothly and successfully on the night. I was never one for being a 'strategic leader' and hence have felt the Group Chair position is not one for me. However as a natural organiser and grafter, during the organisation of the 2006 Manchester and Liverpool Section merger the opportunity arose for me to become the Honorary Secretary of the newly formed Liverpool and North West Regional Group. Mike Pitts had been a tremendous Secretary before this but as he was to be the new Chair I decided to give it a try and found that I thrived at the role.
How has being involved in SCI activities had an impact on your professional career?
As someone committed to improving the perception and image of the chemical industry, of which I am passionate and very protective about, my involvement in SCI has made me a very credible professional and I believe does give me a marketable edge in my career. The organisational and networking skills involved in the Secretary role are the type of skills that you cannot learn academically but which are essential in your professional career. Being involved in SCI gives me a chance to practice those skills in a non-competitive environment. My company see the benefit of my involvement in SCI not only in the image it presents to them about me, but also about the image of them I take forward in my SCI work. They have been supportive about my involvement by hosting committee meetings and sponsoring local events, to our company directors attending prestigious local SCI events. They are incredibly proud of me receiving this DSA and have already written up a piece in the internal site newsletter with their congratulations.
How do your SCI activities reflect your personal/professional interests?
As noted above, since I have worked in the chemical industry now for almost 16 years, I see the benefits of the industry, and feel very protective that this industry continues to thrive in the UK. My involvement with SCI allows me a vessel in which to promote this industry in a very enjoyable way.
What motivates to you to participate in SCI activities?
I feel that I found my niche when I started helping to organise local SCI events. Being involved in the local SCI group is a choice, not a job which pays the bills, and I get a kick from seeing an idea at Sub Committee meetings turn into a successful event that a lot of people have enjoyed and which has showed off the Groups collective talents to the SCI in general. The people on the local committee also play a great part in this - without them I wouldn't be involved. I count them as dear friends and ones whom I wouldn't want to part with. The people and the enjoyment it gives me keep me doing what I do. Sometimes life gets the better of your time and SCI work falls to the back of the queue, but I couldn't envisage giving it up as I would lose the camaraderie, the passion and the contentment I get from being involved. It's not a job: it's a choice and a pleasure to be involved.
How do you think that your contribution has helped shape SCI?
We have a vibrant committee team in the L&NW Group and the people involved make it a joy. There are so many people on our local committee who I have been inspired by and I have felt the time and effort they commit to SCI puts my relatively small contribution in the shade. But I am happiest in the local Group activities where I feel I can make a difference to our local causes, and I feel that the effort and organisation I have put into the Local group has helped keep us as one of the most active and successful SCI Regional Groups. We have developed excellent links with our local universities through the local events, which in turn gives us a chance to shout about SCI's member benefits and ultimately generates more up and coming SCI members.
What are your thoughts about receiving a Distinguished Service Award?
I am absolutely over the moon to have been selected for this award: having only really been involved at a Regional Group level, rather than a more strategic level in SCI, I felt that reward for the efforts I have put in would come from the satisfaction I have gained in being involved and having some thoroughly enjoyable events with my fellow committee members. I feel very honoured and actually quite humbled that this is being recognised at a national level. I am delighted and very much looking forward to receiving the award in London in July.