1) Where and what did you study and when did you graduate?
For my BSc I studied Environmental Science: Ecology at Oxford Brookes University, graduating in 2013. For my MSc I studied Sustainable Aquaculture Development at University of Stirling, graduating in 2015.
2) Where do you live now?
Chikwawa, Southern Malawi
3) Tell us about your job...
I am an aquaculture development consultant, working as a farm manager at several project sites in southern Malawi. We are growing a species called Oreochromis shiranus from the tilapia family (a very common fish in aquaculture across Africa and Asia), because it is a familiar fish for the people in the surrounding districts. Up until recent years these and similar species were found in abundance in the rivers and lakes of Malawi, but as a result of over-exploitation, the fisheries are now in severe decline. The goal of the project is to provide local communities with a sustainable supply of protein and to share the exciting potential that aquaculture has within the region.
As well as the day to day management of farm activities and organising production cycles, I am also responsible for liaising with other small-scale farmers, providing technical support as they attempt to set up their own ponds and ensuring that they are linked with suitable suppliers and markets. It’s a great place to work because I get to see the development of a relatively new industry which is so crucial from a sustainability point of view. The workers on the farms are so keen to learn new skills and see their farms succeed, it is very inspiring.
4) What did you want to be when you were younger?
The next David Attenborough, I loved the idea of communicating the beautiful things in nature with other people. I always liked the idea of being a Movie star too...
5) What did you do immediately after leaving university?
I got a job working as a Sales Executive in a telecommunications company – it was a bit of a means to an ends really. I was saving to travel through Central and South America. The role was a great experience though, I gained valuable experience, met some great people and discovered that I couldn’t function properly in a typical office environment. I worked with the telecommunications company for approx. 8 months and then set off, travelling from southern Mexico, down through Central America to Panama, and then from Ecuador south to Argentina, over a period of 7 months (not nearly enough time). I had always been fascinated by South America, it’s history, different landscapes and many cultures so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to go and spend a good amount of time there. I visited a lot of the typical hotspots, but also tried hard to step off the well-trodden track; like renting a beach house in northern Nicaragua and learning to surf, to camping on an isolated beach and watching thunderstorms over the Pacific Ocean. It was also during this time that I was accepted onto the MSc course to study Aquaculture so I knew I needed to return back for this.
I was excited, I had a short-term plan but no fixed career aspirations. I knew that I wanted to continue learning and study an MSc if possible. I wasn’t in any rush to find the wrong job, I really wanted to explore my options and do some backpacking.
7) If you could go back, what would you say to yourself on graduation day?
Enjoy yourself and take the time to spend some more precious moments with your friends and lecturers. It’s amazing how hard it can be to keep in touch, let alone see people from University once you leave.
8) Would you have done anything different?
Nothing at all, I had a really good time that summer after my undergrad graduation. Starting work immediately allowed me to keep a good routine going, but in my opinion it was essential that I had the short-term plan of going away; this enabled me to stay motivated and focused. Furthermore it encouraged me to make the most of the opportunities I had over those 8 months in work pre-travelling, a mind-set that I have tried to carry with me since. After graduating from my MSc, I took my time looking for the right kind of jobs that fit my interests and aspirations. I gained great experience working as an intern at a Fisheries Consultancy and when the right job opportunity came up I was ready and available to grab it with both hands.
9) What inspires you?
Conserving natural beauty and seeing other people realise how precious our natural surroundings are. Not necessarily in traditional ways... For example, I think that we need to be more forward thinking in our environmental management techniques as a planet, but this often starts at the individual and community level. I really love communicating with people about sustainable fisheries management and the future prospects for all forms of aquaculture; from clams to tuna.
10) What would you like to say to our graduates looking for inspiration?
Take the time to stop and think about what you care about and what you enjoy. Find a job that allows you to work in an area that you are truly passionate about. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you need to be doing something that you don’t enjoy. Make mistakes while you are young as well!
11) Your three favourite words
Determination, Courage and Humility
Thank you Dave for being so enthusiastic about sharing your experiences and inspiring others. We wish you all the best for your fishery adventures in Malawi and whatever the future holds for you!
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