In a new series of blogs entitled, ‘Placement Perspectives’, we take a look at how some of our Bioscience students who have elected to do a year of industrial/professional experience are getting on.
We got in touch with Lydia Grimshaw, who is now in the third year of her BSc in Zoology, to see how she’s been enjoying her chosen placement. Here’s a clue: it’s by the sea and there’s fish involved!…
My Placement Organisation:
My placement is with SEA LIFE working within the Conservation, Welfare and Engagement (CWE) team. Behind the scenes, their purpose is to ensure that their aquariums are champions of animal welfare and to drive programmes that build credibility.
The three divisions within our teams: Conservation, (ensuring that impactful and world-leading conservation is at the heart of the SEA LIFE projects); Welfare (delivering expert animal welfare through their animal care network); and Engagement (constantly looking at new display techniques and technologies to inspire and educate visitors). It’s these teams that I have the amazing opportunity to work with.
Perseverance pays off
Back in May 2018, after seven months of placement hunting and many ignored emails later, I received an email to arrange a phone interview – what a relief! By then, almost all my peers had secured their placements but the perseverance had been worth it when I was invited for an interview over the phone.
Two lovely ladies introduced themselves; after having researched and prepped as best I could, I answered their questions as best I could. I felt the call went well and that’s definitely thanks to those ladies: I was very nervous but they were very understanding.
A few weeks later, I was invited down to Weymouth for a face-to-face interview. Not only did I get to see the workplace but also the beach! The weather was incredible; Weymouth certainly looked its best and having never lived near the sea before, the idea of living by it for a 10-months was captivating. Soon after the interview, I was offered the placement – I was nervous but excited!
Having never been there before, there were certainly times before I started when I wasn’t sure what to expect – luckily, I had nothing to worry about: not only does Weymouth have absolutely lush beaches, I’ve learnt more over the last six months than I could ever have imagined.
Whether it’s gaining experience in an office environment, having to quickly meet ever-changing deadlines and objectives; working with a wide variety of people and understanding how a business works, or getting into the deeper specifics of animal husbandry, building upon the expertise I acquired in Manchester and getting a glimpse into the insights behind the world’s largest aquarium brand: the range of knowledge I have amassed can’t be emphasised enough.
There have definitely been struggles at times: I had moved to a place where I knew no-one and the closest person I knew was a three-hour train ride away. Fortunately, I had an amazing supervisor who kept in contact throughout the summer, checking that I’d got everything sorted, which made the transition from Manchester that little bit easier. The whole team at SEA LIFE are so supportive and helpful; it feels like a family and you’re encouraged to have fun – whether that’s with midday exercise or chilling on the sunny beach during your lunch break (which I intend to do as often as possible!)
What do I do?
I spent the first few months settling into the department and getting involved with the different projects, as well as being trained as an aquarist. This meant getting to grips with the day-to-day maintenance of tanks, the site and the animals themselves. I gradually came to discover that I really do love animal husbandry and want to pursue it after university.
In November, I had the chance to choose my placement project and settled on visitor engagement research at an immersive attraction. I was a little nervous as I had never conducted this kind of research, but I used my knowledge from university and my supervisor colleagues to formulate and adapt a project proposal before data collection started in January.
What skills have I gained so far?
As well as the project, I’ve had a great opportunity to see how the business operates and how the department supports over 50 different centres across the globe, plus the other tasks that come along with that.
I’ve also been able to network with all kinds of people, inside and outside of the organisation, who will be invaluable contacts in the future. I’m being pushed in my personal development: figuring out where my strengths and weaknesses lie and how I can either improve or overcome them.
Thinking back to that phone interview last year and the uncertainty I had experienced for those seven months of placement hunting, I genuinely couldn’t have asked to be in a more supportive, fun and educational work environment. I know that when I graduate, I’ll be confident about going back into the work environment and it’s safe to say “I’m o-fish-ally hooked” on working in the Aquarium industry!