Memories of local 'supermum' who has raised 12 kids and enjoyed 47-year career at Severn Trent

By James Smith

10th Jul 2024 | Local News

Liv Garfield with Cathy Wood and Steve Witter (image by Severn Trent)
Liv Garfield with Cathy Wood and Steve Witter (image by Severn Trent)

She is the inspiring 'supermum' who juggled raising two daughters and ten foster kids during a record-breaking 47-year career at Severn Trent.

IT and software licensing expert Cathy Wood, 63, is the second longest serving female employee out of some 9,000 workers at the water company.

Her many roles over the years have included helping customers, introducing computer technology, and providing data to decide on potential hosepipe bans.

Away from work the loving mum has also enjoyed a life of giving and has been a back-up foster carer to ten kids with husband Paul, an AA inspector, since 2015.

The couple are also proud parents to grown up daughters, Leah and Reanne – who also worked at Severn Trent part-time during their university days.

Cathy, from Finham, said: "Some children in care have a tough start to life. We just thought, why can't these kids have as good a life as our daughters have had?

"The foster children were lovely and so grateful for everything. They all come back to attend birthdays and occasions as part of our extended family."

Cathy is based at Severn Trent's Coventry HQ and began her career at Finham Sewage Treatment Works in October 1978 in the Facilities Offices.

Part of her role was delivering post direct to desks, in the days before computers and emails. She recalled: "It was a great way to get to know people and we sometimes had a laugh by throwing the letters and making people catch them!

"Finham was a lovely place to work, very sociable, and we'd sometimes have picnics on the grass banks during lunchbreaks."

But there were some hair-raising moments for Cathy at the site. "We had a warehouse shed where we stored archives. It was full of the biggest spiders you've seen so I was always scared going in," she laughed.

Cathy's skills and work ethic saw her excel in a variety of jobs during her career, including customer services where she would answer phones. "I always put myself in their position and just wanted to help them sort their issues," she said.

She also worked in the water demand side of the business for eight years. She helped compile data on supply, demand and storage to help determine if a hosepipe ban was needed, something that has not happened at Severn Trent for almost 30 years.

"Back then hosepipe bans were more common, they were almost expected if there had been a long hot summer," said Cathy.

"But thankfully they have become far more rare and we've not seen one at Severn Trent for decades, which I'm very proud of.

"Today our experts work around the clock to keep the water moving around the network, plus we have better technology, devices and data which is great for customers."

Cathy has spent the longest part of her career working in licencing and IT. She has helped deliver, monitor and manage ground-breaking technology and software that transformed the former paper-led business to a 360 degree digital operation.

Today, her job involves keeping track of all technology inventory at sites and the licences and software needs. She also helps employees with licensing technology issues.

Cathy, whose official title is Configuration Software Licence Analyst, said: "I remember we only had one computer at some sites and people had to queue to use it - and the first mobile phones were the size of bricks!

"Technology changed the way we work. The emergence of software like Microsoft Teams means you can be anywhere and still connect directly with others in the business. That was vital in lockdown."

Cathy looked back on her own career as Severn Trent celebrates its 50th anniversary. A series of articles are planned, titled: "Our people, proudly serving our region for 50 years."

And of her many achievements, she is particularly proud of one – helping shape HR policy to ensure foster parents have the same benefits as those adopting children. "It means they can get time off for training or important meetings, at their manager's discretion," said Cathy.

Looking to the future, she has no plans to retire anytime soon and added: "This is my second home. I've been here for 47 years, longer than I've been married, had my own home, and longer than I've had children.

"I have a great job and work with wonderful people. Thank you for the memories!"

     

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