Interview with Tracy Bryant-Shaw

Tracy Bryant-Shaw and team with Diversity award[1].jpg

by Tracy Bryant-Shaw

Head of HR & Business Support, Scottish Sea Farms

Tracy Bryant-Shaw is Head of HR & Business Support at Scottish Sea Farms, joining the company six years ago from the banking sector, where she held roles as Head of Talent and Development and HR Business Partner to the Board. She is the HR lead on the Aquaculture Industry Leadership Group (AILG) and is actively involved in supporting DYW, Argyll College, NAFC and local support groups.

What inspired you to become involved in aquaculture?

I was working at RBS and my only connection to salmon was buying it, I didn’t know anything about the sector. But moving from a big corporate to a standalone HR role appealed to me, and as soon as I got in the door at Scottish Sea Farms, I was inspired by the people I met. They were so enthusiastic about their fish and where it went and that started to build my massive enthusiasm.

Briefly describe your aquaculture career

HR is what I trained in and my specialism but along the way other responsibilities have been added to my role, such as health and safety and business support. I like the variety that it brings with so much of what we do leading back to our people.

My job has changed because it’s a such young sector and even six years ago there wasn’t a lot of specific aquaculture training. Since then, I’ve tried to drive the debate around skills, not only at Scottish Sea Farms but also in the industry, in the AILG. Scottish salmon farming is very receptive and is willing to try anything new, so it has been relatively easy to suggest different ways of doing things.

Which individuals or organisations in aquaculture have you found particularly inspirational?

I’d have to say Jim Gallagher. There are not many leaders in any sector who stay in the top role for so long. After more than 20 years as managing director, he is still driving improvement, in the company and in the sector.

I’ve also found the SAIC [Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre] team to be inspirational. They are so quick to react to what the sector wants and to try to plug the gap. When I recommended the need, sector wide, to build mental resilience during Covid, within a couple of weeks they had designed a webinar that anyone working within Scottish aquaculture could join to help them through the crisis. They are continually evolving and asking us what we want to change and what they can do to help.

How important has networking been to your career?

You have to think about the sector as well as the company. The more we can go out and help people understand what we do and how we support communities and jobs, the better. The more people who know about us, the easier it will be for me to recruit and get the best people into the business. I have tried to be involved with so many groups to grow the knowledge about the sector, which means I have met some great people along the way making my job even more interesting.

During your career, have you noticed inequalities in the sector, be it in policies or culture? If yes, what actions do you think would best address those issues?

Because it’s a young industry we do have a lot to do, but I would say that about a lot of sectors.  There is a gender imbalance that is not going to be changed overnight, certainly in Scottish Sea Farms we have actively tried to change. That includes writing job adverts that are less gender specific and that speak to as many people as possible, changing our approach for a female audience, and showing off the success of the women we have. As a result, we have seen more and more women come through the door and two of our female employees were named Finfish Farm Manager of the Year and Rising Star in the Aquaculture UK Awards in 2018. I’m proud of the number of women who work in senior levels now, although we do need to focus more on diversity and inclusion and build policies that represent that and our changing workforce.

Tracey with Emma Leyden, HR Business Partner for the Northern Isles and Processing and Claire Scott, HR Business Partner for Mainland Marine and Freshwater at the Aquaculture UK awards 2019

What is your proudest aquaculture-related achievement to date?

One is when we became the first aquaculture company in Scotland to get Investors in People platinum, Investors in Young People gold and Investors in Health and Wellbeing. That really put aquaculture on the map as good employer. And I’m also proud of winning the diversity award at last year’s Aquaculture UK Awards; that shows how far our company and the sector have come.

What advice would you give to someone (man or woman) looking to start a career in the aquaculture sector, or progress their existing career?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and speak to people in the sector about their roles and what they enjoy.  There are so many career opportunities within the sector.  Look at aquaculture as a serious career that is fast paced and open for improvements and change which allows you to make a real difference.  You can’t get that in many jobs.

What do you think will be the key drivers/areas for innovation for Scottish aquaculture in the next decade?

I think there are so many from fish welfare to site developments to policy change and more focus on corporate responsibility.   With the growth of the sector a big focus will be on people and how we attract and develop our next generation of leaders at the same time working with local councils to ensure facilities are there to support with housing and childcare etc..  That’s the exciting part, there is still so much to do.

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