As part of our Social Media Takeover, Rebecca Shanks from Aquatera tells us about her job as an Environmental Consultant and the journey she took to get there.
Rebecca is originally from Sweden and decided that she wanted to study Biology. She went to Australia where she completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Marine Biology and Zoology. She then went onto work as a substitute teacher back in Sweden before moving to Orkney to start her Masters Degree in Marine Resource Management at Heriot-Watt’s Orkney Campus. Once she finished her Masters she worked for Xodus as a Graduate Environment Consultant before moving to Aquatera to take on her current role.
You can read more about Rebecca’s job role below.
Can you describe a typical day in your job?
I currently work from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, I expect more of us will be going back to the office at least part time in the coming months. I usually start my day by looking over my email inbox and making a rough plan of what I need to get done that day. This remains flexible but I like to have a bit of a plan each day. If possible, I try to work on a few different tasks and projects throughout the day, to keep things variable and so that I can keep my focus. This usually involves focussing on one task or project in the morning and another in the afternoon. I try to get a break from the screen at midday and go out for a walk with the dog and have some lunch before picking work back up again. I usually have a meeting or so a day as well, which also helps break up the day and is a nice way of connecting with colleagues when you are working from home.
How did you end up in this role?
I am from Sweden and currently live in Orkney. I’ve always had a very keen interest in animals, biology, science and the environment so I decided I wanted to study biology and/or science pretty early on. I got my Bachelor’s Degree in Marine Biology and Zoology at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia. It was a great experience and Australia is truly a fantastic place to study biology and similar fields. I knew I wanted to do a Masters and I realised that I didn’t necessarily want to specialise further in marine biology or zoology but rather widen the scope somewhat to allow me to work for the sustainable management of marine resources, to conserve and protect the animals and environment I love.
After finishing my Bachelor’s, I went back home to Sweden and worked as a substitute teacher for a year before moving to Orkney to start my Master’s in Marine Resource Management at Heriot-Watt’s Orkney campus, the International Centre for Island Technology (ICIT). This was a perfect fit for me, and I very much enjoyed the subjects I got to study. Once I finished my Masters, I got a job at Xodus as a Graduate Environmental Consultant and after about a year and a half I moved on to work as an Environmental Consultant at Aquatera.
What I’ve learnt during my Bachelors, my work as a substitute teacher, my Masters and as a Graduate Consultant have all been greatly beneficial to my current work.
What is the best thing about your job?
That I get to keep learning new things and that I get to be involved in a wide variety of projects, which keeps things interesting. Further to this, I feel my work is important and makes a real difference. The sustainable use of our natural resources and the increased use of renewable energy are vital in the fight against climate change, and I feel very lucky to work within those fields.
What is the worst thing about your job?
Sometimes, time can be tight to complete tasks and deliverables, and it can be challenging to learn new things within a very limited time frame. However, it also brings great satisfaction once you have mastered a new skill and submitted the work on time.
What skills do you need to undertake your role?
Being able to co-operate with others, both inside and outside of Aquatera, is vital.
Being able to communicate clearly, both verbally and in written text is important.
Coping with change that can sometimes happen rapidly, and thinking on your feet to find solutions to problems are very useful skills.
Having attention to detail is useful in almost all professions.
Having the courage to ask questions and telling the project manager when you think something isn’t as good as it could be are valuable skills, these ensure we have a better product for our clients in the end.
What qualifications do you have?
A Bachelor of Science (BSc), in Marine Biology and Zoology.
A Master’s of Science (MSc), in Marine Resource Management.
Would you recommend this job to young people, if so why?
I would recommend it very much. I love my work and I feel like my work matters and makes a difference, and that is very valuable.
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