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25 February 2021

Benchmark women making a difference in aquaculture: Zane Minzare

Since starting at Salmobreed Salten in 2018 Zane has worked her way up to Incubation Manager, taking on responsibility for the whole egg incubation centre. Zane tells us about how the aquaculture industry is very different to what she expected, and how her current role is pretty close to her dream job.

How did you come to work in the aquaculture industry?

I’m originally from Latvia and moved to Norway in 2011 where I worked as a waitress and receptionist until 2018. I really liked my job but deep down I knew it was not for me. I wanted something new and different. When Salmobreed opened it was just 3km from my house. Everyone in the area was really excited, as it was something new, so I started to look into it. At first, I thought I would never work with fish, as I imagined the work would require you to be physically strong and I didn’t like the idea of working in the cold, but I was really curious because it was a little bit different. I did an internet search to find what they were actually doing and I found everything so interesting and amazing, so I phoned the manager at the time and I was really lucky as they were looking for a new worker. I didn’t have any education or experience in aquaculture so I was really, really happy that he gave me a chance. My first job was fertilizing the eggs on stripping day. I was learning really fast and everyone was so helpful in showing me what to do with the eggs. In 2019 I was promoted and I’m now responsible for salmon eggs in the incubation hut. I never expected to be promoted so soon, as everything was so new to me and Norwegian is not my first language. I also don’t really eat fish, just a little bit of sushi, so I was originally not really into fish, but I’ve found the whole process amazing. I didn’t think it would be like that when I lived in Latvia as there was a lot of information about why fish farms are bad, for example, poor water quality and not enough feed or medicine, so I thought maybe it was true, but when I started at Salmobreed I realised it was totally different because they really take care of the fish.

Zane visiting Benchmark Genetics Iceland

What would a typical day be like for you?

I’m now responsible for eggs so it’s more of an office job for me. I coordinate every operation from incubation, to packing, fertilisation shocking, sorting, specifications and packing lists. I work in close contact with the sales team to provide the best quality of eggs. If something goes wrong, for example someone is sick, I help out with the stripping and packing. Every day there is something new. I also need to report on how many eggs are in incubation. I really like to work with computers and systems and enjoy the planning process, so for me it is an amazing job.

What excites you the most about your role?

I’m really excited to be part of such a challenging and interesting process. The most exciting thing is the positive feedback from customers. It’s great when everything goes perfectly and the customers get everything they ordered on the right date. I love getting feedback about how it’s going with the fish and if we get more sales than planned, then that is the best. It’s also a really good team. Everyone does their job really well and it’s really easy to work with them all. They all know what they are doing and understand the importance of biosecurity.

Zane with her two children

What recommendation would you give aquaculture companies to increase the number of women in the industry?

I think never judge a book by its cover. I thought you’d need to be really physically strong to work in the operations side of aquaculture, but that’s actually not the case. We just need people who are responsible and supportive. A good team helps each other out and new technology also makes things much easier. I think providing information is the most important thing, communicating to women what the job actually entails.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given in your career?

Anything is possible and don’t give up on your dreams. Sometimes we can think we’ll just do the same job for the rest of our life and will never reach our dreams. When I didn’t have any education or experience I was thinking I would never get a job like the one I have now, but if you work hard, it is possible. You need to work hard to get what you want and continue to learn. Ask for what you want and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes and we learn a lot from them. You also need to be patient and not give up. I’m 29 now and want to study aquaculture part-time so that maybe I can eventually progress in my career. It’s not so easy to study with a job and young children, but if you really want something and work hard, you can succeed. If you give up you will be in the same position all of your life.

Who is a female leader in the industry / or broader you consider inspiring?

For several years I have been working with really hard working and really smart women. Yvonne is our Finance and Admin manager. She’s really smart and has helped me a lot. I’m really interested in accounting, computers and maths so I found it really interesting finding out about what great work she does. There is also Siri Elise who is responsible for genetics and she has supported me from the beginning and taught me everything I know about salmon eggs. She is also really smart and nice. They are very respectful and always happy to help me. It’s really inspiring to look at them and realise if you work hard you will get there one day.

What did you think when joining versus what you think now?

As I mentioned I’d heard a lot of negative things about fish farms. When I joined I looked at everything they were doing at Salmobreed, how many samples they would take, how everything was regulated and all of the systems in place. The rules and regulations are really strict in Norway. It made me realise the fish are doing really well, they have the right amount of water, oxygen and food (which is not so tasty to me, but okay 😉). They are also all properly vaccinated. I also thought before I started at Salmobreed that the fish would grow really fast and would only live for one year, but it’s actually a long process that takes three and a half years. It takes a really long time to get fish that big. Everyone takes really good care of them, they have a good life.

Zane with her partner

Which hashtag would you give yourself?

#themusicgirl. I can’t imagine my life without music. When I check the eggs in the evening I listen to music and the fish really like to hear my singing. I’ve always had music first in my life and after that, everything else really. It makes me a more patient person.

What are your core values at work and why?

Honesty, loyalty, respect and diligence. Without honesty and loyalty we cannot trust each other and there are really bad consequences to this, you can’t be a team without honesty. Without respect we would all argue and nobody would want to work there, it would be like a war every day. Diligence is the most important thing because if people are not doing a good job good you start to lose respect. Everyone needs to work as well as they can so that their co-workers can rely on them. If you can do a job fast, effectively and with quality, you will have the perfect team.

As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was little I always wanted to be a manager at a company where everyone would come to me for help. I would always try hard to be the best manager I could be, and it would be like a family where everyone supports each other. I would work in an office, but also travel and spend time helping others. That was my dream growing up and my job is not so far away from that. I always strive to be a good, supportive manager, helping others in an environment that is more like family than work.

If a movie was made of your life, what would the genre be and who would play you?

Melodrama with a comedy element. Katherine Heigl would be a pretty good fit for this role, we have much in common.

What is your favourite aquatic animal?

Dolphins – they are smart, beautiful and strong. It’s amazing how they communicate. They look really cute, but can be dangerous. I think they are the most beautiful aquatic animals.