The Story (and Skills) So Far

With the easing of pandemic restrictions and the boost in vaccination appointments in Scotland, I was anticipating using my final summer as a student to ‘Carpe Diem’ and pack up to move further north than I had ever been. I would be beginning my role as a Sustainability Intern at Aquascot, a salmon processing company based in Alness, as part of Entrepreneurial Scotland’s 2021 Saltire Scholar programme. The next 10 weeks would involve me becoming acquainted with sustainability within the salmon industry, applying the transferrable skills my chemical engineering degree had allowed me to develop and exploring the Highlands (which many deem as a must-see for anyone who visits Scotland).

At the time of writing, I have completed four weeks of my 10-week internship at Aquascot Ltd. This year, due to the circumstances that we all know too well, I was in the minority of Saltire Scholars who would be able to carry out part of their internship in-person (while abiding by social distancing measures). It was great to spend my first few days visiting the factory floor at the company, allowing me to learn more about their salmon processing line, visit the test kitchen to discover how the delicious Waitrose smoked salmon recipes are developed and be welcomed by the friendly Aquascot partners, who were more than happy to explain how their roles contribute to the success of the employee-owned business.

I spent the next couple of weeks working remotely, however, my induction had provided me with the confidence to reach out to partners at Aquascot to obtain the necessary data on the company’s material consumption, which helped me as I began my research for the sustainability project. Furthermore, I had a solid understanding of the relationship between the company, its suppliers, and Waitrose through the meetings I would attend with my line manager.

I was informed that my key objectives were to:

  1. Identify unnecessary material usage through data analysis
  2. Present the findings to the Aquascot partners in the form of a heat map.
  3. Explore alternative material options with a lower environmental impact

This made analysing the vast amount of data to produce my heat maps a little less daunting. The heat map was one of the primary focuses of my project as it would be used to display material usage across the company over the past couple of years. A heat map is a map used to identify the density of a certain variable, where darker shades of colour represent higher values, and lighter shades represent lower values. Although I had seen multiple iterations of heat maps as a representation of pandemic cases in the UK, I was completely clueless when it came to knowing how to produce one. However, after watching a few tutorials, collating multiple spreadsheets and a little (a LOT) of trial and error, I felt proud when I was able to produce the first iterations of my material usage and financial heat maps.

I chose to study chemical engineering because of the variety of skills (including problem-solving, research and teamwork skills) I would be able to develop that applied to a range of industries. Although I have completed a sustainability module as part of my degree, my internship role may not necessarily be considered a ‘traditional chemical engineering role’ (which tend to be in the oil and gas, energy, or the chemicals industry). However, so far, I have found that the transferrable skills mentioned have proved useful during my internship as I have been collaborating with different departments within the company and analysing the material usage data to conclude the financial impact on the company.

Entrepreneurial Scotland’s mission is to build the most entrepreneurial society in the world. To be a successful entrepreneur I believe it is important to know the desirable skills you possess and how they can be channelled into producing creative projects, however, having an awareness of the skills that require further development is also imperative if your venture is to be successful. Less than halfway into my internship I can already sense a shift in my approach to decision making. Working towards a common goal with the Environmental and Sustainability Group at Aquascot to increase sustainability within the company, has re-emphasised to me the important role research and data play in propelling change. The enthusiasm I have felt over the past month is indicative of the community culture at Aquascot where all partners are invested in seeing the company go from strength to strength.

Before I sign off on this blog post, I would like to thank the Saltire Scholar team at Entrepreneurial Scotland for the incredible opportunity, as well as Heriot-Watt University, Keith at the Careers Service in particular, who supported me when I brought in a not-so-neat, tailored CV in early 2020. Lastly, I would also like to thank Aquascot for what has been an insightful and exciting four weeks on the job! To any prospective Saltire Scholars: make sure you utilise all the great resources your university provides to maximise your chances of securing an internship!

Written by: Oluwaseun Olukoko, Heriot-Watt University Sustainability Intern, Aquascot Ltd, Inverness (in person)
Oluwaseun Olukoko Pic1