Just the job

Stir­ling alumni give tips on get­ting jobs in aqua­cul­ture

Fish Farmer - - Contents – Editor’s Welcome -

Stir­ling ca­reers day

THE buzz words at this year’s stu­dents’ ca­reers day at Stir­ling’s In­sti­tute of Aqua­cul­ture were ‘net­work’, ‘com­mu­ni­cate’ and ‘shine’, the first two per­haps be­ing eas­ier to ex­plain than the lat­ter.

Al­most all the speak­ers, alumni of the In­sti­tute of Aqua­cul­ture, high­lighted the im­por­tance of mak­ing con­tacts and hang­ing on to them for life.

The in­sti­tute’s direc­tor, Pro­fes­sor Selina Stead, was first to of­fer ad­vice to the young sci­en­tists ap­proach­ing the end of their masters de­grees or doc­tor­ates.

‘I can­not stress how im­por­tant it is to take that op­por­tu­nity to go and speak to peo­ple – in any minute you’ve got,’ she said. ‘To have so many ex­perts here in one place at one time is re­ally quite unique.’

As well as those giv­ing pre­sen­ta­tions, there were rep­re­sen­ta­tives from sev­eral com­pa­nies, both pro­duc­ers and from the sup­ply chain, who had set up stalls dur­ing the day-long event, which was or­gan­ised by the Aqua­cul­ture Stu­dents Asso

cia­tion. It was a chance to find out the va­ri­ety of jobs avail­able- the most ex­cit­ing re­search, the con­sul­tan­cies, the in­dus­try, and what’s hap­pen­ing in gov­ern­ment, said Stead.

Scot­tish Sea Farms vet Dario Mas­colo, who qual­i­fied in Italy be­fore com­plet­ing the masters in aquatic vet­eri­nary stud­ies at Stir­ling, de­scribed the in­ter­view process for his job.

He saw the head of fish health first, and in his sec­ond in­ter­view he was quizzed by the man­ag­ing direc­tor.

‘He was try­ing to suss out if I wanted to stay in Scot­land and if I wanted to take up the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the role.’

Mas­colo’s third and fi­nal in­ter­view was with the com­pany pro­duc­tion man­ager and in­volved a site visit – which was more in­tended to as­sess his ca­pa­bil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate with peo­ple.

‘You need to build rap­port with the peo­ple who are ac­tu­ally see­ing the fish ev­ery day…there are 40 sites and you can’t be on site ev­ery day,’ he said. His sugges­tions for stu­dents in­cluded: • Prac­tise your com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills – it’s not only about what you

know, it’s about how you de­liver it; • Be pre­pared – know what the com­pany ethos is; • Be hon­est – there is no point in boast­ing skills you don’t have. The

com­pany will in­vest in new grad­u­ates’ train­ing so show them how

will­ing you are to learn; • Don’t be afraid to take up a dif­fer­ent role – there are lots of roles in fish health that might not be what you’re look­ing for, but that doesn’t mean you won’t en­joy it; it’s a step into the in­dus­try and you can work your way up. Mas­colo said there were many op­por­tu­ni­ties in fish health; at Scot­tish Sea Farms, for ex­am­ple, more than 10 per cent of em­ploy­ees are in­volved di­rectly in fish health and wel­fare, from site level up to man­age­ment level. ‘If there’s no health, there’s no growth,’ he said. An­dre Paul Van, who is fish health man­ager for one of the old­est, fam­ily run fish farm­ing busi­nesses in Scot­land, Kames Fish Farm­ing, ap­plied for a dif­fer­ent role to the one he wanted.

He didn’t have much fish farm­ing ex­pe­ri­ence when he started, af­ter fo­cus­ing on re­search for his PhD (at Stir­ling), and started with a more hus­bandry fo­cused po­si­tion.

But Kames boss Stu­art Cannon, an­other Stir­ling alumni, asked him what he wanted to be and he said a fish health man­ager as it was a good bal­ance between re­search and in­dus­try.

As Van gained ex­pe­ri­ence he grad­u­ally took on more fish health re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, although his job now in­volves ev­ery­thing from hatch­ery du­ties, to hus­bandry, the transporta­tion of fish out to sea in heli­copters, grad­ing, har­vest­ing and some­times even build­ing cages.

‘Work­ing for a small com­pany you can get first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence of what fish farm­ing is re­ally all about,’ he said.

Kames, which fo­cuses mainly on rain­bow trout, is un­der­go­ing an ex­pan­sion process, aim­ing to dou­ble pro­duc­tion between 2019 and 2023, said Van.

Of­fer­ing ad­vice to stu­dents, he said any fish farm­ing ex­pe­ri­ence goes a long way. Also im­por­tant are ini­tia­tive and prob­lem solv­ing skills; and adapt­abil­ity, be­cause ‘noth­ing is pre­dictable in fish farm­ing!’

An­other Stir­ling alumni, Ni­cholas St­in­ton, pri­ori­tised farm ex­pe­ri­ence as the key to get­ting ahead in the in­dus­try.

As a fish health in­spec­tor for Ce­fas (Cen­tre for En­vi­ron­ment, Fish­eries and Aqua­cul­ture Sci­ence), he told the stu­dents that the Fish Health In­spec­torate was look­ing for peo­ple with ap­plied knowl­edge, and ex­pe­ri­ence is in­valu­able.

‘We wouldn’t even con­sider you with­out ex­pe­ri­ence. We work col­lab­o­ra­tively with the in­dus­try and the last thing they want is some­one who is straight out of univer­sity with no ex­pe­ri­ence telling them what to do. In­stantly you get a bit of ku­dos and they’ll lis­ten to you if you’ve spent some time in aqua­cul­ture.’

He also said stu­dents had to ‘shine’ and when asked, by Kathrin Stein­berg, cur­rent pres­i­dent of the EAS-SG (Euro­pean Aqua­cul­ture So­ci­ety Stu­dent Group), what this meant, he recommened­ed try­ing to stand out by do­ing re­search and ask­ing per­ti­nent ques­tions.

‘Be en­gag­ing – there is a fine line between be­ing en­gag­ing and be­ing over con­fi­dent.’

More in­valu­able job hunt­ing tips came from Julio Lopez Al­varado of Elanco, who ad­vised stu­dents to read between the lines in their job search, be­cause some­times com­pa­nies don’t men­tion fish health in the ad­ver­tise­ments – they ask for ‘key ac­count man­agers’ when they are look­ing for a vet or fish health bi­ol­o­gist!

He said net­work­ing was ‘cru­cial’. It was of­ten the route into a job, rather than an ad­ver­tise­ment or in­ter­view. And once con­tacts have been made, Al­varado said ‘keep in touch for life’.

Al­varado’s in­ter­view tips • Study the com­pany, learn about its prod­ucts,

its lo­ca­tion, its species, as much as you can; • Learn about your in­ter­viewer if pos­si­ble, they

will be im­pressed; • Study the sec­tor, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal, aqua­cul­ture

or what­ever; • Dress for the oc­ca­sion – not nec­es­sar­ily a suit but prop­erly. If you suc­ceed you will rep­re­sent the com­pany so you have to project the right im­age; • Try to be re­laxed – the com­pany doesn’t want to hire peo­ple who panic, so be your­self, these are your fu­ture friends, or maybe your fu­ture com­peti­tors. They are look­ing for your per­son­al­ity and your ca­pac­ity. Al­varado said he was asked to give a pre­sen­ta­tion at an in­ter­view on the fu­ture of salmon farm­ing in Europe and the health chal­lenges.

Daunt­ing though this was, it was a won­der­ful

“Turn­ing up on time or de­liv­er­ing to a dead­line can be more im­por­tant de­gree” than a first class

chance to come pre­pared and or­gan­ised, and to re­ally en­gage with the in­ter­view­ers.

‘Even if they don’t ask for a pre­sen­ta­tion, pre­pare one any­way and imag­ine you have to give one,’ he sug­gested.

The In­sti­tute of Aqua­cul­ture at­tracts stu­dents from all over the world and many of the speak­ers dur­ing the ca­reers day had come to Scot­land from the Mediter­ranean.

One of these was An­to­nios Chalaris, prod­uct man­ager for BioMar UK, who de­cided to leave Greece to do an in­tern­ship as part of his de­gree.

‘I asked my­self, which coun­try in Europe has the best aqua­cul­ture in terms of tech­nol­ogy, in­no­va­tion and re­sources and the an­swer was very straight­for­ward: Nor­way!’

But he ended up in ‘the sec­ond best coun­try in Europe, Scot­land’, and found him­self in the re­mote lo­ca­tion of Ard­toe, where he was in­tro­duced to cleaner fish by Ard­toe’s re­search direc­tor, Jim Trea­surer.

When Chalaris stud­ied for his masters at Stir­ling, the big­gest op­por­tu­nity was meet­ing peo­ple, from 24 dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties, the vast ma­jor­ity of whom are now work­ing in aqua­cul­ture and fish­eries.

But, as Chalaris told to­day’s stu­dents, the route ahead does not al­ways go as planned. De­ter­mined to do a PhD in cleaner fish, he turned down sev­eral job of­fers, but then missed out on the PhD.

In­stead, he went to work at Ot­ter Ferry, mainly farm­ing bal­lan wrasse, but also lump­fish and hal­ibut. He made it clear to the boss, Alastair Barge, that he wanted to do a PhD.

Barge was happy to help and Chalaris em­barked on an in­dus­try-led doc­tor­ate, with two aca­demic su­per­vi­sors from the IoA, Herve Mi­gaud and An­drew Davie, and a fo­cus on im­prov­ing the hatch­ery per­for­mance of bal­lan wrasse.

Some­times it was dif­fi­cult bal­anc­ing the demands of his job with those of his PhD.

‘I had aca­demic su­per­vi­sors ask­ing for more sam­ples, which the farm man­agers were not happy about, be­cause the pro­duc­tion of bal­lan wrasse then was 5,000 fish a year.

‘I couldn’t re­ally go and say I’d like a few thou­sand fish to play with for my PhD…I found my­self many times be­ing stretched between academia and the in­dus­try.’

Hav­ing suc­cess­fully com­pleted his PhD and af­ter six years at Ot­ter Ferry, Chalaris joined BioMar

“You are go­ing to be busi­ness part­ners to­mor­row, you’re go­ing to be col­leagues, or com­peti­tors or cus­tomers, so make sure that you other” speak to each

which, he said, is al­ways look­ing for new peo­ple. BioMar op­er­ates all over the world, in Cen­tral and South Amer­ica, in Europe and Asia, and the com­pany is build­ing its new­est feed plant in Tas­ma­nia.

Of­fice ready

Now he has made the tran­si­tion from the aca­demic world to the com­mer­cial en­vi­ron­ment, Chalaris was able to of­fer ad­vice on how to be ‘of­fice ready’.

This means know­ing how to write a proper busi­ness email; know­ing how to be­have in meet­ings (make sure you don’t use your phone, ‘one of the worst things you can do’); and know­ing how to present to an au­di­ence.

‘Turn­ing up on time or de­liv­er­ing to a dead­line can be more im­por­tant than a first class de­gree. You might have the best CV in the world but if you are two min­utes late to your in­ter­view you’ll never get the job.’

Once hired, he said: ‘Make sure you work hard and do noth­ing less than your best, ev­ery sin­gle time, in what­ever you do.’

Chalaris, a stu­dent leader at Stir­ling and for­mer pres­i­dent of the EAS Stu­dent Group, en­cour­aged stu­dents to join stu­dent groups – and to net­work.

‘All you guys here are go­ing to be busi­ness part­ners to­mor­row, you’re go­ing to be col­leagues, or com­peti­tors or cus­tomers, so make sure that you speak to each other.’

Echo­ing his com­ments was the cur­rent EAS-SG pres­i­dent, Kathrin Stein­berg, who also stud­ied at Stir­ling.

She tried to pro­vide in­sights into how to shine at the in­ter­view stage, say­ing that it was not enough to list your achieve­ments.

‘I’m not sure my CV re­ally shines,’ she said mod­estly. ‘One thing that might be good is to try to find some­thing you might have in com­mon with the em­ployer.’

She also sug­gested men­tion­ing other in­ter­ests in CVs as a pos­si­ble ice-breaker, and said that when­ever she in­cludes hers it al­ways comes up in the in­ter­view....but that may just be be­ca­sue her hobby is un­der­wa­ter hockey.

Stein­berg has moved around in her ca­reer to date and said she had found a ‘mid­dle area’ that com­bines sci­ence and in­dus­try, work­ing for the Aqua­cul­ture Stew­ard­ship Coun­cil (ASC) as a per­for­mance data co­or­di­na­tor.

‘My ad­vice is love your topic, what­ever you do, and be able to ex­plain why you do it and why you love it.’

What she looks for in stu­dents is some­one who is open, hon­est, cu­ri­ous, has the abil­ity to fail (‘if you fail at some­thing you do it again and you do it bet­ter’), and the abil­ity to work in­de­pen­dently.

Pick­ing up the re­frain of the day, Stein­berg fin­ished by say­ing ‘net­work, net­work, net­work, at­tend con­fer­ences and talk to peo­ple’.

The EAS is ‘ba­si­cally a big net­work­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion’, pro­mot­ing con­tacts within in­dus­try, within sci­ence, within re­search, to fa­cil­i­tate the cir­cu­la­tion of in­for­ma­tion.

‘Why is net­work­ing so im­por­tant in aqua­cul­ture? It’s a small in­dus­try, if you start now you will end up know­ing the whole in­dus­try,’ said Stein­berg.

‘Even if you want to work as a sci­en­tist it’s im­por­tant to do some in­tern­ships so you know what hap­pens on site.

‘At least talk to farm­ers and try to un­der­stand what the prob­lems are. Stay up to date by net­work­ing and read­ing a lot of mag­a­zines.’

*Stein­berg said the EAS is still look­ing for stu­dent helpers for the next EAS con­fer­ence, in Ber­lin in Oc­to­ber 2019. Stu­dents get free regis­tra­tion if they work more than 25 hours in the con­fer­ence and are paid 10 eu­ros per hour. Email eassg@aquaeas.eu for more in­for­ma­tion.

Left: Aqua­cul­ture Stu­dents As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Carolina Fer­nan­dez (front row cen­tre) and her team Op­po­site: IoA alumni Dario Mas­colo and An­to­nios Chalaris; stu­dents reg­is­ter­ing at the Ca­reers Day; Elanco’s Julio Lopez Al­varado.

Top left: In­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives dis­cuss job op­por­tu­ni­ties Above: Aqua­cul­ture con­sul­tant Mal­colm Beveridge dis­cussed his var­ied global ca­reer

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