Cardinal Points

By Kacey Hirshfeld

Aug 13, 2021

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When I came across the job posting for my role at COMPASS I completed my application in one sitting, submitting my materials just a couple hours after I found the opening. I felt like I’d finally found the niche I was looking for, a space squarely in between science and solutions. 

Starting at COMPASS just over two years ago, I entered the broad and wonderful field of science communication, a whole sector of knowledge and expertise previously unknown to me as a STEM major in undergrad. In addition, I finally got to learn the inner workings of the science-policy realm, a space I’d been interested in for so long.  

Now, as I look to my next step as an MA student at William and Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), I can’t help but reflect on and appreciate the growth I’ve had at COMPASS. While I can’t sum up every piece of knowledge I’ve gained, because that would be a much longer post, I want to share a few of the lessons I’m taking forward with me.

Compassion, generosity, and kindness matters. 

These intangibles get the top spot on this list. How you show up, how you interact with others, and how you lead your career matters. I have seen the magic that happens when these three things are given priority and it is so special, yet so frequently overlooked. 

People are at their best when they get to be their complete selves.

Whether that means giving people the space to talk about their favorite foods in all staff meetings (the COMPASS team does a lot of this) or giving people the opportunity to share their challenges professionally or personally, the best work is done when people get to be human. This carries into our external events too, and makes for better collaborations, deeper connections, and stronger results.

The experiences of the voices at the table matters.

The conservation field is not a monolith. Just like we need biodiversity to ensure healthy ecosystems, we need diversity in our conversations to ensure a healthy future. When you have a chance to set the table, fill it with voices who have different experiences than you and have walked different paths. 

“What unites us is far greater”

This Katherine Hayhoe quote from our trainings feels imprinted on my brain. When you search for similarities instead of differences, you can always find a place to connect. At our core, we all care about similar things. When you seek to connect with someone first, your chances of meaningful communication are much higher. 

I feel like a completely different person now than when I started. I look at the world differently, finding opportunities where I used to see roadblocks. While I may be headed somewhere new, I know these COMPASS lessons will stay with me, making me a better communicator, collaborator, teammate and, hopefully, human.

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