The Things I know - Rosemary Thomas, Head of planning, Welsh Assembly Government

- What skills did you have when you graduated?

I studied geography at Queen's University Belfast, followed by a postgraduate course in town and country planning. Queen's was one of the few planning courses that covered rural planning, a topic which has proved useful over the years.

- What attracted you to planning?

My school careers adviser mentioned town planning as a possibility. I haven't looked back since.

- What did you learn in your first job?

How to read the local environment. My first job was as a land-use surveyor, walking the streets with a clipboard, coloured pencils and maps.

- What skills have you had to learn over your career?

How to listen to other people's views. Once you understand that, you have a better chance of working with them to secure a positive outcome.

- What or who have been the biggest influences on your career?

I moved to Wales in 1979 and worked at South Glamorgan County Council, where Ewart Parkinson was director of environment. He was an inspirational leader, always looking for ways of improving places. He would invariably come back from his travels full of examples of different approaches.

- What is your career highlight?

My current job. I still recall the mixed emotions when I was offered the post - the awesome responsibility that I would be taking on combined with the honour and privilege of advising ministers and others about land-use planning in Wales.

- What have you learned outside work that has influenced you?

The importance of travel. Visiting other places provides a comparison and opportunity to see how others deal with similar problems.

- What further skills do you aim to obtain or develop?

How to speed read even faster and resume learning Welsh.

- How important is it to keep abreast of developments in allied professions?

It is important to be aware of what is going on.

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