Setting her sails: How Emma Heslop’s love for the sea shaped her career

Setting her sails: How Emma Heslop’s love for the sea shaped her career
They say that the key to great work is being passionate about what you do. In Emma Heslop’s case, her inherent love for nature has served as a guiding force for her career and helped her to excel throughout.

Emma grew up in England, spending much of her time going on adventures with her family and hiking in the nearby mountains. However, as she grew older, so did her sense of adventure and connection to nature.

She earned her undergraduate degree from The University of Bristol, studying geology and earth science. Her career began in the IT industry, where she worked in sales and marketing for high-tech companies involved in image compression—long before the internet was what it is today.

Emma was later inspired by a friend to continue her studies, and so she enrolled in IE Business School in order to experience studying in a foreign country and learn Spanish. She graduated from the International MBA program in 2000. These early steps in her career helped her master the fundamentals of marketing and business development, including factors like the customer journey, and how markets grow and change over time.

Further down the road, Emma decided to step back and take a break from her thriving career. Together with her partner, she brainstormed a plan to sail across the Atlantic Ocean, heading all the way down to the Caribbean and then back through the Mediterranean. Throughout this expedition, Emma became fascinated with the ocean, and what initially started as a career break wound up being the turning point for a whole new trajectory.

“When I sailed across the ocean, I realized just how vast they are, and how there’s a whole system of currents and waves and wind working together, changing with the seasons. I was looking at it and thinking, ‘Wow, there's a whole system here that I don't quite understand,’ and, in the end, I urgently wanted to understand it better and see what was happening. It also had to do with the climate. I had a sense that there was something that needed to be done, and that possibly I might go off and investigate to see what I could do.”

This revelation inspired her to head back to school again, this time earning her master’s degree—and a PhD—in Oceanography from The University of Southampton.

Today Emma works as Program Specialist for Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), part of the Ocean Observations and Services Section of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO. At GOOS, she enjoys a very multifaceted role, spearheading the global ocean observing program design, resources and progress. She also works to increase the organization’s visibility, grow resources and generate partnerships—skills she’s carried over from the earlier phase of her career. What’s more, she leads research projects, international collaborations and supports the observation’s Coordination Group, which is all about various global and sustained observing networks.

The impact GOOS has had on the world cannot be understated. Knowledge that comes from these research projects and international collaborations has been fundamental in understanding our changing climate, in addition to bringing attention to problems like coral bleaching, plastic pollution and other issues which threaten our oceans and ecosystems. What’s more, GOOS’ efforts in measuring ocean heat content and ocean carbon—and providing information about weather forecasts—are critical. Additionally, these observations and research efforts played a fundamental role in ensuring that the Paris Climate Agreement was reached.

One project Emma is particularly proud of is helping GOOS produce their Global Ocean Observing System 2030 strategy, which “identifies a vision for a truly integrated global ocean observing system that delivers the essential information needed for our sustainable development, safety, well-being and prosperity,” according to GOOSOcean.

Emma’s career has been very adventurous and rewarding, but like most, it hasn’t been without her moments of doubt. However, something Emma came to realize, and would advise her younger self is: “Ten confianza” (have confidence in yourself). After all, says Emma, “You’ve got to believe in the work you’re doing, and you’ve got to believe in yourself.”

Looking back on her time at IE Business School, Emma’s favorite memories center around the camaraderie and warmth of her peers, in addition to the inspirational classes and professors she learned from.

“When I look back at my time studying at IE Business School, I think of the fun and laughter, which was mixed in with the hard work, the many assignments, and the late nights. I remember the team work, the camaraderie, and the people that became friends for life. I also recall the inspirational classes, the times that made me laugh and the real lightbulb moments I experienced.”

To celebrate the 50th intake of the International MBA at IE Business School, we’re sharing stories from our impressive alumni. This impactful leader is just one of the stand-out International MBA alumni who have passed through the doors of IE Business School. To read even more inspiring stories from graduates of the International MBA, and to learn more about the program, click here.