Jen’s Story

I was certain of what I wanted to do as a career from the time I was very young, up until college.  At least that is what I thought!  I have loved animals since childhood and had my sights set on becoming a veterinarian.  I chose a university that had an undergraduate Animal Science program, and I felt at home there.  I loved my university but was challenged by the program in ways I did not expect.  My advisor my first two years was not very invested in me so I requested a change to another professor that I began to trust.  I didn’t know it at the time, but that request changed my trajectory completely.  Midway through senior year, I realized I was deeply unhappy, but felt that I was trapped since I’d committed to the degree.  I didn’t want to continue on to another four years of vet school because I knew it wasn’t right for me.  I spoke to my advisor and explained the conundrum.  She was the first professional I had met who seemed to understand.  She said, “You do NOT have to go to vet school and you do NOT have to pursue this field.  You DO have to finish your degree because you’ve come this far, but once you have it, go do whatever you want to do!”  My parents had always been supportive of such an idea but it was immensely helpful to hear it from a professional I admired.  It gave me the freedom to try some things I had never considered. 

I followed a lead from my brother and moved to Alaska to work a seasonal job as a bus driver-tour guide “until I figured out what I wanted to do”.  I hadn’t considered tourism as a vocation, but I loved nature and history and working with people.  I worked there 3 summers and loved it.  This led me to a small-ship cruise company looking for people familiar with Alaska and good with logistics.  I thought it would be fun to try it for a year “until I figured out my REAL career”.  It was a good fit for me so I worked another year on ships, and then another.  I have now been working on small-ships and in the expedition cruise industry for over 20 years.  I have moved into management, overseeing the people that do what I did on ships (and still do occasionally) and developing and managing the logistics of over 40 cruise itineraries, worldwide.  I didn’t know that careers like mine existed!

What’s the best thing about your job? 

I love teaching about nature and making connections with people all over the world. 

What do you wish you had known when you were a high school senior?

When I was in high school, I wish I had TRULY understood that it was the experience of getting the degree that mattered….not the subject the degree was in.  Just getting the degree taught me skills that have helped in life and in work.   I am proud to have been involved in developing voyages in places where the relationships with the local community matter more than the plans we’ve put in place.  I have learned how to be a manager of people and projects—neither of which was something that I was formally taught to do.  It’s taken a great deal of trial and error and  I’ve learned much from the things that I didn’t do well.  Those mistakes have been invaluable.  I have traveled the world and I will never take it for granted.  I know that it has been a privilege and I am immensely grateful for having had the opportunity.  I don’t know if I’ll do this forever but it’s been an unexpected gift thus far.  Sometimes, you just have to be willing to dive into something totally different when an opportunity comes your way.  People believed in me and gave me a chance to prove myself.