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Staff Spotlight - Meet Åsa Gilbert

Meet Åsa Gilbert, who has been working in mine action since 2004 and says she loves working for SafeLane because it’s an unparalleled, dedicated community.

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Staff Spotlight - Meet Åsa Gilbert

Meet Åsa Gilbert, who has just taken on a new role as Business Development Manager for SafeLane’s international projects.  She’s been working in mine action since 2004 and says she loves working for SafeLane because it’s an unparalleled, dedicated community.

Staff Spotlight is the regular SafeLane feature that shines a light on members of the teams that work for you, our valued clients.

This week, we caught up with Åsa to discuss her diverse background in mine action, projects she's worked on, and her commercial drive.

How long have you been at SafeLane?

1 year!  I can’t believe it, it’s gone very quickly.  I’m enjoying living in the English countryside, it’s a massive change from Colombia where I was living before joining.  It’s also very different compared to Sweden where I grew up.  

You like Herefordshire in spite of the rain?

Haha, yes – and the mud!

So, what did you do before joining us at SafeLane?

I’ve been working in mine action since 2004.

My experience has been pretty varied, I’ve worked for the United Nations (UN), for the Geneva International Centre for Demining, and extensively in the non-governmental organisation (NGO) world.

I’ve done quite a bit of field-based work.  When I worked for the UN, I did a lot of quality management work.

I’ve also worked in roles where I’ve done research, I’ve been part of writing aspects of the International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) and expert papers for the industry. 

Directly before joining SafeLane I was an operations manager for 2 years based out of Colombia. 

I’ve worked internationally in many countries including Sudan, Lebanon, Burma, and Laos.  I’ve developed a good understanding of the global impact of landmines.

Mine action is a niche area; how did you get into it in the first place?  

I didn’t set out to work in mine action, it was a bit of a coincidence really.

I did a degree in mechanical engineering, but then I took a course in the socio-economic impact that landmines have on people and communities.  The course had some amazing lecturers and I was hooked.

I found the opportunity to go on an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) course and just found everything I was learning incredibly interesting.

I ended up as a civilian who worked as an EOD trainer for the Swedish army.

What surprised you most about mine action?

What I find really interesting about the sector is being able to dissect it from so many angles.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work in the field, research international standards, I’ve provided advisory and consultancy services, I’ve run NGO operations across the world…

Mine action, although niche, is a hugely diverse space.  It means I’m always able to develop my skills and learn something new - which keeps me interested.

Why did you decide to apply for a job at SafeLane?

I’m big on operational efficiency!  It’s a huge drive for me, I find it very interesting.  I also believe cost efficiency is important no matter what job you’re doing.

So, I knew at SafeLane I would join an exceptionally efficient operational team and have the opportunity to develop my commercial awareness.

During my time working for the UN I worked closely with commercial companies and SafeLane (formerly BACTEC) was one of them.

I remember I was so impressed with how the company was run.  This nice memory had sparked an interest.

It’s very different to the nonprofit world!  In the NGO world you have very different pressures on budget and timelines.

What is the favourite part of your job?

I think it’s the teamwork aspect.  Everyone has their dedicated roles, and everyone is really committed to what they do.

It’s much more of a community than where I’ve worked before.  It’s nice to work with a team who are so on the ball.  Everyone is really dedicated and will go the extra mile for the client and to help each other.

I’ve wanted an HQ job for some time as it’s one area I’ve not done before.  It’s as ‘normal’ as you get in mine action.  It’s given me the best of both worlds; I get to go home to my house in the English countryside but don’t go stir crazy because the job still involves a good amount of travel.  I’ve got a really nice balance now.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve learnt working at SafeLane?

Hmm it’s too hard to pick one thing.

I’m really enjoying learning more about contract negotiations.  I’ve done this sort of thing before but for completely different topics.  Coming into the corporate world has been a big learning curve, I love that.

It’s like if you haven’t been exposed to it before there is a lot to learn.

Åsa Gilbert on a project visit to Kuwait

What is your biggest achievement at SafeLane?

Overcoming challenges with time constraints on projects in Kuwait.

I had a bit of a baptism of fire, due to my experience I was offered the chance to really hit the ground running.  I was involved in mobilising a project from my first day in the office.

I knew it was going to be a big challenge and there was a lot to do in a short time.  But I had the drive to get it done, industry experience in my arsenal, and a great team.  So, I didn’t want the opportunity to pass me by, I knew I’d learn so much.

The Kuwait project has been amazing.  I love knowing that the work everyone has been doing will support the redevelopment of this nation for its people.  I’ve travelled out there many times, so it’s been exciting to be a part of this.

I’ve learnt a lot about adaptability - and understanding how and when to amend the methodology.  This flexible approach means we’re always putting the client first.

It’s been particularly exciting to work with the manpower and logistics team.  They are so hard working and the processes are slick.  

When dealing with international operations sometimes things don’t go to plan.  Maybe someone is sick or needs to leave unexpectedly.  SafeLane has got people who are literally experts in overcoming the challenges of everyday life.  

I’ve loved learning from them all and I am so proud of what we have achieved through this project.

The Kuwait project is coming to a happy close now and we’re preparing to demobilise, it’s been a good first year!

How are you and the team maintaining operations in light of the Coronavirus outbreak?

We are maintaining close communications with clients to ensure we adapt and provide our services in the best possible way considering the rapidly changing situation.  It is essential we are aware of guidelines on an international scale. 

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