What it’s like working at an aquarium

Tamsin Mutton-Mcknight is general manager at SEA LIFE Weymouth.

Tamsin Mutton-Mcknight works at aquarium Sea Life
Tamsin Mutton-Mcknight is general manager at  SEA LIFE Weymouth

I have worked for SEA LIFE for more than 20 years now, having started my career at 16 as an entertainment host in Great Yarmouth.

My role back then was to talk to guests about the creatures we had living at the aquarium and to host parties for young visitors, making sure to encourage excitement and that they learnt something along the way. This also involved me dressing up as a seven-ft seal named Sammy, which was an experience in itself!

Throughout my career with SEA LIFE, I have had the opportunity to travel and live in fantastic locations such as Scarborough, Brighton, Hamburg, Munich and most recently Weymouth, where I currently work.

Caring for creatures

SEA LIFE Weymouth cares for over 2,000 creatures around the clock, ensuring 24/7 care for every single inhabitant of the aquarium.

We have a team of up to 75 people and we welcome hundreds of thousands of guests each year. It’s really sad to see the aquarium closed during the Covid-19 pandemic, however, the care and attention that the animals receive is still incredible, whether guests are here or not.

We were super excited to welcome visitors back to the site so that the creatures can have some more company and we can get things slowly but surely back to normal.

My role

As a general manager, being flexible, creative and resilient is key. You have to be solutions-focused and inspire your team to deliver the most magical experiences to guests every day. We make sure our guests have a memorable visit that makes them want to come back, time and time again.

Read more: What it’s like working as a zookeeper

It takes a lot of specialist skills to operate a visitor attraction, particularly one on such a large scale. We have curatorial, marketing, commercial, operational and technical teams, all with their own priorities and focus areas.

As general manager, I support all of these areas and bring them together to achieve the overall business objectives. It’s important to understand what your teams need and to give them the tools and space to get on with what they do best as they’re the experts in what they do!

What I love about my job

I can honestly say there is no such thing as an average day in this job! You could be presenting plans for potential new investments into a new aquarium experience, or you could be relocating penguins from their home Australia to the UK, for all kinds of reasons. You could be reuniting a lost child with their parent, lobbying local government about the importance of tourism to the economy, clearing restaurant tables – it’s a job with real range and it challenges you to think and act strategically whilst also staying close to the experience that the guests are having.

The best thing about my job is that I get to go to work every day in a place which other people go to have fun. This is a huge privilege and something I don’t take for granted.

It’s an amazing feeling when you get to see someone discover a creature they never knew existed or a personal favourite of mine is watching the Weedy Sea Dragons feed – that’s always amazing to see.

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