The Things I Know: Trish Cookson - Networks and associations developer, RTPI

- What skills did you have when you graduated?

I have a geography degree from the London School of Economics (LSE) and postgraduate diplomas in town planning and environmental decision-making. University taught me to think critically and challenge the prevailing view.

- What attracted you to planning?

I was passionate about wanting to make the world a better place. I came across an RTPI careers guide and what I read seemed a good fit with my values and ambitions.

- What did you learn in your first job?

How to cope with stressful situations. On my first day there were 20 applications on my desk and I was often sent out with enforcement officer to help diffuse tension.

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

Consensus building, people management, marketing, public speaking, how to use a computer.

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

Professor Emrys Jones at the LSE for nurturing my desire for learning, Judith Eversley at the RTPI for her compassion and insightfulness and my daughters for their amazing people skills.

- What is your career highlight?

As a Local Agenda 21 co-ordinator in 1999, my initiatives ranged from setting up a sustainability partnership to organising a green carnival day for the town. It was an optimistic time and I felt that my work could really make a difference to people's lives.

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

That everyone has unique qualities. It is not always those who shout the loudest who have lasting influence.

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

I would love to study psychology.

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

The best planning outcomes come through effective partnerships. Our RTPI networks were set up to bring all built environment professionals together to share good practice.

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