Juliana began her career as a freelance Graphic Designer and has adapted and moulded her skills to incorporate them in her role as Project Coordinator (Design & Communications) for The Reef-World Foundation. She believes that getting your dream job in marine conservation is not all about how many degrees you have but more about being unique and bringing something different to the table – this is what makes you valuable. Read on to discover how she achieved this.
Name: Juliana Corrales
Job Title: Project Coordinator (Design and Communication)
- What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
In my home country, Costa Rica, nature forms a big part of our culture, thanks to my parents I grew up with the ocean and, as cliché as it may sound, my life has always been inspired and influenced by it. Living in such close contact, I witnessed the negative impacts affecting the marine environment. After working for five years in design and communications, I decided that it was time to shift my career in a way that it had a global and positive impact, and to gain skills that would help me develop in the conservation sector.
- What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
As a freelance Graphic Designer, I always made sure the product or service I was working for, aligned with my values. Most of them were either sustainable services, organic products, NGO’s, amongst others. However, in order to open my way into conservation and gain more knowledge, I enrolled in a Masters Program focused on Sustainable Natural Resource Management. It served as a platform that helped me combine my interests and aptitudes. Even though I was the subject of constant questioning on how my previous professional development could interact with the current program; I knew that design, communications and creative thinking were valuable assets in conservation.
- How did you land your current job/position?
As a requirement to finalise my Masters program I had to do an internship, I had very clear that I wanted to dive in to the marine conservation world. After long hours searching in the internet, I found The Reef-World Foundation a small NGO from the UK that focused most of their work on the reefs in South East Asia working as international coordinators of the UN Environment’s Green Fins initiative. Luckily I had the chance to join as an intern in 2015, and then after those months of personal and professional growth, I was hired as permanent staff. From the beginning I knew that they needed me as much as I needed them, and since then we have symbiotically grown together.
- Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
There is no one thing that I enjoy the most, but I can list some of my favourite. To be able to use my creativity to change behaviours, to improve people’s lives and interaction with the ocean, and to be able to meet people along the way whose passion inspire you to keep going. These are all very valuable assets of the work me and the rest of the Reef-World team appreciate. Of course, the fact that diving is part of the job is something I enjoy very much!
- Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
I was trained to be a Green Fins Assessor, and with that comes a lot of amazing interaction with different stakeholders from the diving industry. It is that interaction, their stories, and to be able to see live the impact of the work that we do that makes it so valuable. What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
- What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
I have learned that in order to make your way in the conservation industry you don’t always have to focus on how many degrees you have, on the other hand it’s more important to make yourself valuable and to bring something different to the table. I came from a very different background, with very different ways of communicating from traditional marine scientists, and I am pretty sure that is something that has worked on my side from the beginning.
- Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
Film director! Last year I was assigned with the task to develop a set of guidance videos to help dive centres easily implement sustainable diving practices. I ended up been a director, script writer, videographer, many things I’d never done before! Fortunately, with the help of many people everything developed very well and we are now releasing the Green Fins How-to-videos, one per month. This month’s video Guiding divers towards best environmental practice, has been very well received!
- What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
One of the main aspects that I’ve learnt is that if you are at a place where your job is not challenging you enough, or not as gratifying enough, then stop and make in happen. There is no better moment than now.
- What is your favourite marine creature and why?
I like big animals, that is probably influenced by the fact that I started diving in the North Pacific coast of Costa Rica and we are lucky to have many big creatures. The White Tip Shark was the first shark I saw in my first dive ever, so I hold them very close to my heart, also witnessing their presence and magnificence is a very humbling experience, they are very good at reminding us of how small we are.
- What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
For me the best moments underwater are those when a situation makes me want to stay there forever! I’ve been lucky to feel that several times, the first time was when the Oceanic Manta we were looking for about 45 minutes appeared behind my buddy at the precise moment we were signalling to abort the dive, watching the underwater forest of a healthy coral reef for the first time, or watching my first Thresher Shark appearing out of nowhere from the gloomy water.
It sounds like you have really found your calling Juliana, thanks for the great advice.
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