On International Women’s Day we’ve teamed up with Seafish, the UK industry authority on seafood, to speak to Sally Skakle, Quality Adviser at Peterhead Port Authority.
Sally is a successful woman in the seafood industry and we’ve been finding out how she built her career, what challenges she’s faced and what advice she would give to others thinking about joining the sector.
Sally Skakle was just 17 when, after finding out she was too young to go into nursing, a friendly neighbour took her under their wing and helped her get her first job at British Fish Canners, as it was then.
“I had just left school and didn’t feel further education was for me. At my interview for nursing I was told that I was three weeks too young for that year’s intake, which was disappointing. However, because I had done chemistry and biology at school, I landed a job in the laboratory at British Fish Canners, now International Fish Canners, as a position was about to become vacant,” explains Sally.
From there Sally progressed through a number of seafood industry roles, spanning health and safety, running accredited laboratories and auditing international processors. Her work saw her travel frequently to countries including Norway and the Faroe Islands.
Having worked in the industry for more than four decades, Sally is now Quality Adviser at the Peterhead Port Authority – a senior position that speaks to her years of experience. But climbing the career ladder hasn’t been without its challenges. Sally said: “The seafood industry still has a gender imbalance but I want to help get that balance right.
Now in her 60s, Sally feels times have changed, the industry has evolved and more women than ever are playing a role. This International Women’s Day, she’s encouraging even more women to explore the opportunities that a career in seafood can offer.
“No two days are ever the same – it’s such a varied and interesting sector to be a part of. I love the work I do. I meet so many interesting people, from school children visiting the port to find out more about fish, and trade delegations from Indonesia, to TV personalities like Ben Fogle, Tom Heap from Countryfile and Dougie Vipond.
“I think it’s critical we encourage the next generation to look at the huge range of careers this industry has to offer. I feel I’m doing my bit and it’s important that others do too. I met a lady recently who had visited the Port Authority about three years ago when she worked for the RSPB. She now works at Seafish and said that I had inspired her to think about a career in the seafood industry because of my enthusiasm and passion for the sector. It was a great feeling to know I’d been such a positive influence.
“There’s lots of advice I would give to aspiring seafood executives. Firstly, I would say to always take advantage of training opportunities. There are lots of courses and you never know which piece of paper will open a door.
Coming from my particular background, I would also say there are great opportunities through a science route. This gives you a firm foundation of knowledge which can open up a vast array of careers options. Taking a role in auditing is also a great way to see every part and aspect of the supply chain and see what else out there. There are lots of opportunities for travel and experiencing different cultures too – the world really is your oyster in the seafood industry.
“There are still challenges to overcome but I definitely think more women should consider this industry as a career option – we need greater gender diversity. For those that have determination and tenacity backed by a strong foundation of knowledge and expertise will go far.”
“I’d encourage more businesses to consider the merits of what women can bring to their operations to ensure we are utilising the great talent pool that is out there.”
On International Women’s Day, Seafish is supporting the Be Bold for Change campaign and is looking to encourage more women to consider a career in the seafood industry by championing successful women who are leading the way and shaping the future of the sector.
To find out more search ‘Seafish Women in Seafood’ or click here to be inspired by more real women’s stories and find out more about careers across the supply chain.