An Interview with WiseOceans… Charlotte Orba from WiseOceans
This week we chat with Charlotte, WiseOceans’ Education and Communications Manager. She took the plunge and changed career mid-life and hasn’t looked back since. If you are looking to make the same change, her advice is to value the skills and experience you have – they might be just what someone is looking for.
Name: Charlotte Orba
Job Title: Education and Communications Manager
What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
For me, working in marine conservation came a bit later. I changed career mid-life. I’d always had an affinity with nature but not a specific interest in marine life. Following redundancy from my previous career (Head of Department at a music college) I chose to go on a marine conservation project in Seychelles with GVI. Once I started learning and surveying the corals of Seychelles I became obsessed (I quickly became a coral geek). The diversity and resilience of these beautiful creatures amazed me but I was also aware of their vulnerability. I wanted to do all I can to share my knowledge with others to they too could ‘get it’!
What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
Just learning something every day. My role involves a lot of research – whether that’s learning more about marine life or learning a new application in order to make resources for social media or lessons via Skype. I’m always reading articles, following up on things I see on social media, doing online courses etc… Everything moves so fast, if you stop for a while, you miss out!
How did you land your current job/position?
As often happens it was the right time/right place. I was an intern with GVI in Seychelles when someone mentioned a marine education job based on the island. They thought my education background (even if it was in music, not marine science) would make me a good candidate. Whilst I didn’t have the conventional qualifications for a job like marine educator I was able to bring (as let’s say….a more mature candidate) a whole host of other transferable skills, having held a management role beforehand. I think that this, combined with my natural enthusiasm and my new passion for marine life, got me the job with WiseOceans. My role has now changed and I’m based in the UK but it is still about sharing my knowledge and passion for marine life.
Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
Learning and sharing new things every day and working with a team of like-minded people.
Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
When you hang out with marine conservationists a lot it’s easy to think everyone knows about the issues but of course, that’s not really the case. Through social media, and through the lessons I give around the world, I feel like I’m able to connect with a wide audience. One person who decides to do their first beach clean, use a reusable bag, buy sustainable fish etc…makes a difference – especially if we can turn them into messengers too.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
How much I’d love my career change. Not that I was apprehensive at all but I don’t think I knew how much I’d enjoy myself. If you are thinking about it yourself – go for it!
Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
A lot of skills that I used running a department in a busy music college were surprisingly useful. In the end, jobs of any kind need good communication skills, the ability to get the job done – deadlines are deadlines, confidence to bring forward ideas, team building skills, anticipating problems and crucially, have good problem-solving skills. None of these is specific to marine conservation but will always make you a good employee.
I’ve ended up – through various marine education projects – being heavily involved in arts and crafts, be it making papier-maché turtles, sand sculptures, designing activity sheets and games etc… I wish I had learned to use design/photo/video software much earlier than I did and I wish I could draw!
I meet a lot of people at events who want to make a career change into marine conservation and I encourage them to value and use the skills they’ve acquired so far. Marine conservation is broad and not everyone in it is a scientist, you might just have the skills someone is looking for.
What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
Be curious, read, study, attend, find out and then be enthusiastic about what you know. Enthusiasm is difficult to ignore….
What is your favourite marine creature and why?
I regularly swing between the octopus and the mantis shrimp – both are awesome in so many ways. Today I’m going to pick the octopus. What’s not to love?
What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
The very first time I SCUBA dived in Seychelles. I knew then my life had changed!
Thank you, Charlotte. If you are looking to make a career change we hope that this inspires you to make that move. Don’t forget to sign up to our weekly job alert emails and keep an eye on our Wise Work pages so you don’t miss your dream opportunity in marine conservation.