An Interview with WiseOceans… Lindsay Sullivan from WiseOceans
This week we continue chatting to the WiseOceans team. Lindsay, our Director of Resort Marine Education and Development discusses her path into marine conservation. Her advice for budding marine conservationists is to work hard, be friendly, be professional and to not give up!
Name: Lindsay Sullivan
Job Title: Director of Resort Marine Education and Development
What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
Although I’d always had a feeling of being drawn towards the ocean, I didn’t have much experience of the seas until I tried snorkelling and then diving on the Great Barrier Reef while doing the commonly-followed backpacker route in Australia. I’d just completed a BSc in Maths and Software Engineering, so not your obvious marine biologist at this point! Although it was 15 years ago, I can remember the first times I tried both snorkelling and diving so clearly. Seeing coral reef for real, up close… They were real game-changing experiences. Although I went into financial services for a while after my gap year, it was only ever going to be temporary!
What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
I first volunteered on two GVI marine conservation expeditions in Mexico, learning vital skills, gaining crucial experience and making great contacts. I worked hard and managed to get a place an as unpaid member of staff to stay even longer in Mexico. On returning to the UK I went back into financial services again to save up, before doing a MSc in Applied Marine Science at Plymouth. Handing my dissertation in a few weeks early I went off to Zanzibar as a voluntary snorkel guide on Chumbe Island for the duration of Ramadan when the island’s rangers are fasting. My GVI contacts came through and I went from Zanzibar to Seychelles to join the GVI marine conservation expedition as Science Officer – my first paid role in this sector. So it really can come down to who you know and who you have impressed with your hard work. If you’ve met me at any events that WiseOceans has been at and talked to me about gaining a career in this industry, I probably told you that it’s like any other – chat to people, work hard, impress people, be nice and you’ll make great contacts who can determine your future career path.
How did you land your current job/position?
So from a GVI Science Officer I moved to being a resident Marine Biologist at a resort in the Maldives, and then returned home to the UK to work for Cumbria Wildlife Trust running a sustainable seafood project. The Wildlife Trusts do a lot of engagement and outreach, and so the transferrable skills I’d gained educating and connecting with resort guests in the Maldives helped me to get my first UK-based marine conservation position. From there I moved up to become the Marine Conservation Officer for the North West Wildlife Trusts on their Living Seas programme, working towards greater awareness of and increased conservation of the incredible marine life found in the Irish Sea. This was just a maternity cover position however, and it was while looking for new opportunities to move on to when it ended that I first spoke to Abbie Hine, WiseOceans Founder and Managing Director, way back when, before WiseOceans was even a limited company. Abbie and I got talking, and nearly six years later we are running an awesome company together! Keep an open mind and an opportunistic eye, and you never know what will come your way.
Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
Oh my goodness, all of it. Literally. I love that we are making a difference. I love that everyone in the WiseOceans team loves what they do. Working with such a great group of people who all share the same passion for marine life (and appreciation of a good G&T), well it just means that work is not really work. I love the ideas that buzz around between us, there is so much that we want to do, so many exciting plans and lightbulb moments, and all geared towards creating connections between people and the oceans. It’s all really rewarding.
Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
All of it, without a doubt. As I said above, everything that WiseOceans does is geared towards connecting people with the sea, helping people to love the oceans and the life within in the same way that we do, building awareness of marine life and how to conserve it for the future, and why we should bother. We deliver education to achieve conservation and so everything we do is making a real difference
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
That it really is best to follow your heart. Now I try not to follow a path because I think I ‘should’, but to dare to follow my instinct and passion. It’s more likely to be where I’ll thrive. If I’d had this level of insight and confidence at 18 I might not have chosen maths for my degree! But then again, it hasn’t really done me any harm, unless you count the lifelong expectation from everyone around me that I’ll be able to do their mental arithmetic. “You did maths. What do the seven of us each owe on this £384.50 bill for dinner?” Erm…
Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
Just work hard, be friendly, be professional, and don’t give up! And pay attention to detail when submitting job applications – misspelling my name is a pet hate when receiving applications; I mean, it’s right there in the job description! Also probably avoid emojis in your cover letter – even in marine conservation professionalism is usually appreciated.
It’s really not about the perfect grade, it’s about being capable, having common sense and a good work ethic, and gaining lots of varied experiences!
What is your favourite marine creature and why?
Sixbar wrasse and green jobfish, tied for first place. Two fish commonly found in Seychelles who absolutely crack me up. Ok maybe sixbar wrasse takes it, just for greatest number of photobombs!
What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
My first snorkel experience. I mean, who knew….
Thanks Lindsay, we agree that you should follow your heart and your passions, let them lead you to new places and experiences and take every opportunity you can get, especially when starting out in the industry.
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