Turning passion into purpose

My Journey in Working to Protect Our Shared Blue Planet

The pandemic has put things in perspective for hundreds of people who have swapped the nine to five (often much later!) for a job where the beach and ocean are their office, their commute is by boat and they meet interesting people from all round the world every day.

Emma Daffurn, CSR Specialist for PADI Worldwide, the world’s largest diving organisation, tells us how she turned her passion for diving and the Blue Planet into a fulfilling career.

As a child, I had a serious fear of the deep sea. You know, when you can’t see what’s beneath your legs when swimming in open water? My dad was a scuba diver already and suggested I try it, as a way to overcome my fear. My parents arranged for me to get involved with PADI Seal Team sessions at my local pool. These are pool-only sessions designed for kids aged 8 – 10, where you learn how to dive in a confined water environment and practice skills like buoyancy through underwater games. I became hooked almost immediately and as soon as I could dive in the ocean I jumped at it. I remember being really nervous. I was in Tenerife and sitting on the boat with all my gear on and looking at the water I was about to roll backwards into and thinking, ‘oh my!’ It was so amazing when I actually submerged though, it inspired me at a young age to try to face my fears and trust that magic would follow.

A short time later, I was lucky enough to dive in the Red Sea in Egypt. I was about 13 at the time exploring the reef and this tiny little fish turned and looked me dead in the eyes. We shared this special moment together, as two living creatures on this planet, and it was an incredibly humbling experience. I realised in that moment that I was part of nature just like this little fish, that knew nothing of the hustle and bustle of human life above the surface. I believe that moment was the beginning of the path that led me to the career I have today, when diving first sparked a dedication to do what I could to protect the life in our oceans.

But then a lot of time passed and life became complicated. Diving was sidelined for a while and it wasn’t until I finished school that it came back into my life in a big way. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my career, so I decided to take some time out and become a PADI Divemaster at 18 years old. I moved to Utila, an island in Honduras’ Bay Islands of the Caribbean Sea, living in a wooden shack above a swamp with a Dutch girl–and had the time of my life.

I then moved to Thailand and worked as a Dive Instructor but eventually did end up returning to the UK to study. I only wanted to study one thing; Environmental Sustainability.

With the ocean in mind, I went on to get my BA in Environmental Sustainability at the University of Leeds, and an MSc in Environmental Planning at Groningen University in the Netherlands. The ocean had cast its spell on me and I knew I wanted to work to protect it for the rest of my life.

I am now PADI’s Corporate Social Responsibility Specialist (CSR). What that means is I work with PADI’s Director of CSR on advancing PADI’s Pillars of Change – Ocean Conservation (together with PADI AWARE Foundation tackling challenges including climate change, marine debris, marine protected areas, shark & ray conservation and coral restoration), Industry Sustainability (ensuring environmental best practice becomes the social norm across our global community) and People & Humanity (working to increase access to diving for all, and supporting local communities where diving provides a livelihood).

What I love about my job is how varied it is and how much freedom I have to design my role, choose my focus and collaborate on new ways to support people and the planet through scuba diving. I also absolutely love that I get to connect with divers all over the planet who are working on amazing conservation and community initiatives. It’s a real inspiration! I am grateful that I am able to get paid to tackle issues that are so close to my heart.

Sometimes I pinch myself when I reflect on it. How lucky have I been to have this opportunity and responsibility to harness a global community for change? In no way was any of this “planned”. One thing simply came after the other in the most wonderful way. My life experience has taught me to be open-minded, do my best and not worry too much about the outcome. What is meant for you will come at the right time, and it will probably be better than what you would have asked for in the first place anyway!

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What advice would you give to someone else looking to go into this industry?

First things first I would say that if you are interested in marine conservation you should get your PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water Certifications. Being a diver opens up a lot of opportunities, like becoming a citizen scientist. Network with other divers and share your ideas for a better future.

Secondly, for getting into CSR more generally, I’d say not to be confined by what jobs you believe are available. CSR is a growing priority, and if you have an idea, run with it! Find a company that you would like to work for, think as though you already work for them and come up with a new initiative that would support their CSR objectives. Spend some time to write out a business case or put together a clean, high-quality presentation of your proposal and get it to the right person at that organisation. By ringing up, and being friendly, confident and direct about what you would like to discuss, you are more than likely to be listened to. That’s how you get your foot in the door.

About PADI

PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) is the largest diving organisation with a global network of 6,600 dive centres and resorts, over 128,000 professional members and more than 29 million certified divers www.padi.com

PADI operate in 186 countries and territories, with a global network of more than 6,600 dive centres and resorts and over 128,000 professional members worldwide.

PADI embodies a global commitment to ocean health and enables people around the world to seek adventure and save the ocean through underwater education, life-changing experiences and travel.

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