As she considered career options after graduating from Memorial University, Heather Holwell was focused on finding a career path that would allow her to continue to live in Newfoundland and Labrador. She set her sights on working for a NL-owned company and was ideally looking for a family-owned company. Fast-forward to today and she’s been working 18 years in the fishery, most of those years with local, family-owned company, Ocean Choice.
Heather jokes that growing up in St. John’s, she didn’t know a lot about the fishery when she first joined the industry in 2002. “I didn’t grow up in the fishery like many of my colleagues, but I always say I learned from an exceptional group of individuals,” Heather explains. “If I had a question, people didn’t just give me the answer, they took the time to help me really understand. There is a culture of knowledge-sharing in the industry. Those who have been around the fishery for many years feel it’s important to pass their experiences down, something that is extremely helpful as new people join the industry.”
Heather was a quick study, building tremendous knowledge of the industry, and with it, critical relationships with customers around the world.
As one of four Product Managers at Ocean Choice, Heather works closely with the sales and marketing team to sell groundfish from the company’s offshore vessels and land-based groundfish production plant in Fortune, NL. Selling groundfish products isn’t just selling fillets. It is about selling in the many formats that customers from around the globe desire, while also finding markets to fully utilize the fish. So Heather has to find and secure customers for all parts of the fish, from the fillets, heads and tails, to skins and fish frames.
She says Ocean Choice’s global presence, with offices in 7 countries and customers in more than 30 countries, is important.
“Groundfish stocks are rebounding so that’s good news. But we’re competing with other countries that have consistently supplied groundfish to global markets for many, many years. So we rely on Ocean Choice’s global presence, and on maintaining solid relationships with past, current and potential customers, to be successful,” she explains.
Heather says that if she can maintain those relationships and provide customers a consistent supply of a high-quality product year-round, it helps maintain markets and market prices.
When asked why she’s stayed in the same industry for so long, Heather smiles genuinely, “I love it. I’m never bored. I love that you can live at home yet become colleagues with people all around the world. You can work for a local, family-owned company yet build relationships with people in countries on the other side of the globe.”
“Selling fish from NL becomes part of your identity. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing; a successful fishery for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.”