Interview with Virginia Iglesias

Virginia Iglesias is a veterinary consultant at the Fish Vet Group. She gained a veterinary degree at the University of Murcia then after a six-month role at Dawnfresh, she undertook an MSc in Aquatic Veterinary Studies at the Institute of Aquaculture in Stirling.

Briefly describe your career

To be honest, I never thought of aquaculture as an option during the vet degree, even though in Murcia (where I studied), seabass/bream and tuna aquaculture is a leading industry in Spain. When I was finishing my studies, I realised I wanted to work in the sea, and after doing some work experience in Spanish fish farms, I decided to further specialise in the aquaculture field. So, I set my goals in the MSc in Aquatic Veterinary Studies of Stirling Uni, which I started in 2017 after spending some very valuable months working with Dawnfresh Seafoods Ltd. And when I finished that cool year of masters, I was lucky enough to be offered a job opportunity with Fish Vet Group. That was about 3 years ago, and the rest is history!

You have had a very interesting journey before landing in the aquaculture world bringing a lot of experience and new ideas to it, how do you see aquaculture in Scotland compared to other producers’ countries?

I cannot compare much as I have mostly worked in the UK and for the salmonid industry. However, I think we are a good referral overall – the industrial and technological potential of the different aquaculture facilities around here is astonishing. It is also a sector that invests money in potential solutions that would make it raise their standards, and at the same time, it generates a considerable income and employment, especially in very remote areas, which socio-economically is essential. Of course, there are challenges we continuously face and lots of opportunities of improvement, but what I see here is an industry with focus on sustainability, and that is great.

Are there any individuals or organisations in aquaculture, research, etc. who you’ve found particularly inspirational?

I had a really good experience in the Institute of Aquaculture, with very good mentors that helped quite a lot of us to develop not only basic and more specialised aquaculture knowledge but also important team working and networking skills. Even now I could contact anyone in the Institute, and I know they will give me a hand if they can, and that is awesome. At the same time, I am proud of and pleased with SAIC, which not only supported my masters but also provided excellent advice during my training as an aquaculture professional. And finally, my bunch of colleagues at FVG and the health departments of this sector I closely work with are inspirational on their own, so I am very lucky to be part of it.   

How important has networking been to your career?

Essential; dynamic networking is something that the MSc and the companies I worked with promoted very well, and this puts a strong emphasis on the cooperation needed within the industry. Making strong connections helps everybody to make informed and best decisions to challenging situations we deal with daily.

For many women trying to move up the career ladder they can be met with inequality challenges. Can you give an example of a discriminatory situation and how you dealt with it or how to avoid it?

Not really (or at least I never noticed they even happened!). I honestly try to do my job as well as I can, and I expect to be treated according to my efforts and the outcomes from them. If I see disappointments from anyone, I only think it is because I did not perform optimally and that maybe I need to work harder on that matter. At the end of the day, we all want to help people and provide a good service.

You are having a successful career; what’s your proudest achievement to date?

Oh well, having survived the Scottish weather for much longer than I had anticipated is a personal record on its own! But joking aside, just after finishing my degree I had the opportunity to work in a veterinary field (not aquaculture, and not as motivating for me) that was going to provide me many opportunities of professional development and that was going to make it possible to have a stable job back home, in the beautiful Majorca. But instead of “enjoying” that comfort and security, I decided to leave it all behind and come to Scotland, to start from the very scratch in a field and a country that were totally new to me, just to gain any experience related to aquaculture. From there I became a fish farmer, I learned a lot from my wonderful mentors, I enrolled in a world-recognised MSc, I graduated with distinction, I gained a position with a leading fish health provider, I’ve made important contacts and life-long friends. Probably, I was in the right place at the right time, and with the right people, and perhaps someone else would not have been so lucky. But I am proud to have been brave enough to quit what was not so fulfilling and bet blindly on something that could make me happier.

What is the message you would send to the aquaculture industry?

I think a long-term perspective and adequate strategies are required to make this industry sustainable. Profitability is crucial, but fish health, welfare and environmental care are the best guarantees of long-term economic success. So, let’s always keep that in mind!

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