bol 23 hero banner main image 4000x2400px2

Beacons of Light: Rebecca Hatch

Beacons of Light: Rebecca Hatch

August 2023

DW Windsor is powered by people with a shared passion for light, committed to delivering outstanding lighting solutions. To celebrate those who share our passion, we've collected more individuals who positively impact our community and shine a light on our industry. Through this series of interviews, we are highlighting a number of unique and inspiring people who are leading the way as Beacons of Light.

An Interview with Rebecca Hatch 

Rebecca is Head of Business - Lighting and Energy Solutions at WSP in the UK, President of The Institution of Lighting Professionals (ILP) and a proud member of Women in Lighting, advocating equality, diversity and inclusion across the industry.

With over 19 years’ of experience working in the lighting industry, Rebecca’s focus is now on leading her team, delivering business strategy and promoting excellence in lighting. She is passionate about net zero and the role lighting professionals play in helping to decarbonise the sector.

We met with Rebecca to discuss her passions and philosophy towards lighting, including her goals as President of the ILP and creating a healthier and more sustainable future for the lighting industry.


When did you first become interested in lighting?

I started working in lighting in 2004, but like most people, I didn’t choose it, and I didn’t really know what a job in the lighting team entailed when I accepted it. But I was lucky enough to be in a fantastic team, and as a Junior Technician, I was sent to every event and training course, experiencing something different each week. I actually fell in love with the industry before falling in love with lighting itself, as everyone in the industry is so friendly, and most people I meet have been in it for a very long time. But when I saw my first scheme being installed and witnessed the impact that lighting can have, I realised that what we are doing is a really worthwhile job.

rebecca hatch face dww website articles author round2

Rebecca Hatch

Rebecca is Head of Business - Lighting and Energy Solutions at WSP UK. She was appointed President of the Institution of Lighting Professionals in May 2023.


Have you always wanted to work in the industry, or did you have other careers in mind too? If you have worked in another career before, how have the skills you learnt during that role transferred to lighting?

I originally wanted to study law and went to a career’s day at my local Atkins office, which was advertising for roles in highway law, but whilst there, they said that I should talk to the lighting team. Subsequently, I was offered a job in the lighting team as a Junior Technician, and later, I found out that they had disbanded the law team, which gave me a sign that this was the right thing to do.

My first job was as a florist! The creative skills from this role have certainly transferred to lighting, but what prepared me the most for working in the lighting industry was the time management aspect. As a florist, you have to be organised for all the big occasions, which has prepared me for how agile we must be in the lighting sector, meeting clients’ demands which are changing all the time and juggling different projects. As everyone’s bouquet for their event is the most important thing to them, for each client, their project is the most important, so it is a juggling act to ensure we can meet everyone’s needs. No two weeks are the same for a florist or a lighting professional!


What has been your lightbulb moment during your career?

Setting up the Young Professionals Lighting Group within the ILP in 2009 is my proudest moment; seeing that they are flourishing, growing, delivering, and bringing young people into the industry and giving them that support is so fulfilling.

The turning point in my career was when I realised that what motivates me, and what my skillset is better suited to is the business and leadership side. I made a conscious decision to move to the commercial side of the industry rather than progressing further in the technical space, achieving an MBA so that I had the academic training and credibility for these roles. This was a somewhat controversial decision as the stages of engineering are very structured and linear, so when you deviate into a business role, people think you are giving up what you have worked so hard for. But I have kept my technical knowledge up and never stepped away from lighting or project roles. And although I am now in a Technical Director position, my role is still heavily focused on business delivery.



Gas lighting tour WCC November 22

Walking gas lighting tour with Westminster City Council's in November 2022 


What is one of your biggest achievements to date?

Becoming President of The Institution of Lighting Professionals (ILP) is a huge achievement. Getting amazing feedback from a client or end-user on a lighting scheme is one thing, but being recognised by my colleagues and peers is very humbling.

I’m also proud to have worked on the Westminster gas lighting project in 2011 – it was such an unusual project to be involved with – creating a strategy for gas lighting when we were just learning about LEDs and moving away from traditional light sources. It’s one of my favourite projects as I love heritage lighting; the history, cast iron columns, and ornate detailing are all so beautiful. The fact that we have been able to hold onto some of these assets for this long is wonderful too, and I’m sure if we hadn’t created that strategy, many would have disappeared by now.


What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced in your lighting career? How did you overcome this?

There have been lots of challenges, especially technical ones, but you always learn from any project mistakes and never make them twice.

My biggest challenge has been to remain confident enough to hold my own, especially when I first joined the industry at 17 as a young female engineer. For a good number of years, everyone assumed I was the PA there to take the minutes for that meeting and would never guess I was the engineer at that table. I have overcome this by pushing myself to prove people wrong and have never let people’s opinions stop me from doing what I want to do. I have achieved the qualifications to back up that I know what I’m talking about, and being professionally registered with the Engineering Council has given me the confidence to continue progressing.

"Lighting schemes are about bringing creative and functional lighting together; it’s one and the same rather than separate approaches for functional and architectural lighting."

What are you most passionate about when it comes to architectural lighting/lighting exterior spaces?

To remember that we are designing lighting and spaces for people. We often forget this, particularly when we get into the details of a project, worrying about standards or budgets. However, it’s important to take a step back and consider who we are doing it for. In the last 15 years, we have better understood the impact lighting has on human health, on all species and the environment, with the philosophy now being that if there’s no benefit to a person or society, don’t light a space at all.


How would you articulate your overall philosophy about light – particularly architectural lighting?

Challenging whether spaces should be lit, then determining which areas we should be lighting and what aspects should be dark, before using a multi-layered approach to the locations that we do light. That was not the case when I first joined the industry, we would light everything, but now it is the reverse. Lighting schemes are about bringing creative and functional lighting together; it’s one and the same rather than separate approaches for functional and architectural lighting.


What would be a dream project for you? If you could light any architectural or exterior space in the world, where would it be?

One of the best projects I worked on was in Covent Garden and the Royal Parks. I love spaces with heritage aspects and seeing how we can introduce new technology, energy efficiency and environmental factors into the location without losing that heritage feel.

I love a park, so if I could pick any space in the world to light, it would be Central Park in New York!


What do you think is the number 1 skill set required to be successful in the lighting industry? What advice would you give to those emerging into the lighting industry?

The number one skill set is being able to juggle many things. As lighting professionals, we offer a specialist service, so we often have two clients, if not more, such as the end user, architect or contractor. The ability to handle the constant changes is essential. Often, we’re waiting on things from other disciplines and then need to act quickly. It’s the best skill you can have to cope in the environment we work in. You don’t need to be a lighting engineer or to have studied art – you can learn the technical aspects and how to design as you go, and there is always something unique that you can bring to the role.


Deans Yard oldest lantern in London copy2

The oldest lantern in London located in Deans Yard, Westminster

We recognise you as a Beacon of Light in the industry, but who is your Beacon of Light?

I feel so lucky that the lighting industry is so open and friendly. Many people have helped me over the years, and it’s too hard to try and pick just one! However, there are a few people that have stood the test of time.

When I joined Atkins (my first lighting role), they took on Scott Pengelly at the same time, and we were sent to events together where we would often turn up to a room with 100 or more senior male engineers. I don’t know if I would have gone back to those events if he wasn’t there with me, encouraging each other. We don’t work directly together anymore, but he’s still there and supporting me.

Jess Gallacher was at the ILP for 20 years and has been a constant person that has always been there for me and at the end of the phone if I need something. To have someone there for those everyday problems, to give you motivation, or just chat with is more important to me than someone in a technical mentor capacity. Having a strong support network of friends encourages you to keep going and helps you through.


ILP President cropped

Rebecca was appointed President of the ILP in May 2023


Congratulations on your new appointment as President of the ILP! What are you hoping to achieve in this new role?

The thing I am most passionate about is trying to change the fact that there are few people in the industry who have chosen to do lighting. This makes us diverse and unique as an industry, but we have quite an ageing workforce and have more work than we have people for. A big focus for me is seeing people choose lighting as a career - not just the next generation but people in adjacent sectors. Those looking for a career change and those returning to work are all brilliant potential resources we can bring into the industry.

Lighting is not on anyone’s list when doing their GCSEs, but I aim to make lighting a profession that people can and want to choose. By promoting what it is to be a lighting professional, what our industry does, and the value we bring, I hope to make it an accessible and attractive career option.

My other focus is ensuring lighting professionals get the credit we deserve and a seat at the table. Our value is often downgraded as an afterthought, we come in at the last minute and are always quick to deliver, but there are huge benefits to including a lighting professional from day one. Giving lighting the value and recognition it deserves will make it more known and help bring new people into the industry. Our ILP Strategy sets our five key aims for the institution over the coming years, and the board and volunteer members are working on implementation projects to help us realise that strategy and deliver on our mission and vision.


How do you believe that we can work towards a healthier and more sustainable future for the lighting industry? At your role at WSP, what environmental considerations are made when lighting outdoor spaces?

The perfect storm of the energy crisis and focus on achieving net zero targets means that our roles are really important right now as we can have a direct impact. There’s no better time to be a lighting professional, and although it’s tragic that these targets are needed to reduce climate change, we can have a significant impact as part of the solution. If you don’t have a lighting professional around the table, clients will struggle to meet those net-zero targets effectively.

Lighting is such a visual component and is an instant energy saving; if you turn the lights off, you stop using the energy. Our roles as advisors and experts is to help people first establish if it is safe to switch lighting off when it’s not needed, or if it is required, by ensuring it is designed properly and optimised to the most energy-efficient solution through the use of controls, and other technology available to us to implement adaptive lighting strategies and drastically reduce our energy and carbon.

Only about 65% of streetlights are LED, and slightly less than that has a central management system, so there is still a huge amount of work we can do to lower energy usage. Our aim is to challenge everything we are doing to ensure sustainability is at the forefront, with a net zero mindset bringing in newer thinking, such as a circular economy approach. And remember – if it doesn’t need to be lit, don’t light it.


Thank you to Rebecca for taking the time to share these thoughts with us. Find out more about WSP in the UK and the ILP.


If you enjoyed this content, please consider joining our mailing list. Simply provide your email address to keep up to date on the latest news from DW Windsor.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Related articles