I have been and done many things, but this year as a Knauss Fellow has not only given me experience but has given me a change in perspective—about my work and about myself.
My name is Amara Davis, and I’m currently a graduate student at Savannah State University, pursuing my master’s degree in marine sciences where my research focuses on the spiny lobster fisheries in Florida and The Bahamas. I’m also a doting mother and wife. This year, I had the honor to be selected to represent Georgia Sea Grant as a John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellow.
When we think of those qualifications we might bring to a position like this, we often fall back on our academic and professional skills and successes, but as this fellowship has progressed, I have learned that the skills that have served me most are those that I honed when I was off the clock.
So, I thought I would take a bit of a different approach for my blog and share with you how raising a little human prepared me to tackle my fellowship this year.
My official position title is communications specialist. On any given day, I may be briefing senior team members, preparing articles for publication, conducting interviews for my podcast, or writing copy for social media. I have to be prepared to “talk” about several different topics in myriad ways so that our messaging is accurate and effective.
For some, the idea may seem daunting, but between answering hundreds of first-grader questions every day, distilling the complex answers to those questions down (or up) to an understandable level, and making bedtime stories exciting—I have learned to be confident in my own voice.
Another of my big projects this year is coordinating a conference workshop. It requires me to communicate with lots of different people and find time on everyone’s busy schedule to discuss and prepare deliverables, troubleshoot issues, make sensible compromises and find creative solutions. It also really requires me to listen. It’s basically the quick and dirty version of that project management course I may take later this year.
I manage to keep it cool because I do this every day. From coordinating doctor’s appointments to school pickups; meal-planning to crisis management, I can plan and execute with the best of them. After all, the job doesn’t throw a tantrum if I cut a sandwich the wrong way.
Working in government is definitely rewarding, but the sometimes slow pace can frustrate people. Not only that, there is a lot of negotiation that happens before initiatives are signed off on. Even down to the smallest details, like which platforms we can use to host virtual events. It requires a certain level of patience and a willingness to compromise. In fact, during a recent budget workshop with my cohort, I found myself explaining my propensity to try and find something that worked for everyone by saying, “I’m a mom, all I do is compromise.”
And truer words have never been uttered.
Mostly, though, the things that are overarching and woven throughout everything I do are my resilience, adaptability, integrity and compassion. Not only do I have a responsibility to model good and healthy behaviors for my son, but I also have to weave those into my work so that I can create products and complete tasks in an ethical way—whether in leadership or service.
This fellowship isn’t just about how good your science is or how well you can articulate policy. It’s about how your unique experience brings skills and fresh perspectives. My experience this year has been thoroughly enriched because of the lessons that a six-year-old has taught me.