Wednesday, July 09, 2008
The first time I saw the Aquarium was during a hard hat tour organized by the Downtown Long Beach Lions Club in the fall of 1997 –- before the Aquarium opened in June of 1998. Our tour was conducted by Warren Iliff, founding CEO of the Aquarium of the Pacific. The tour had to be completed during the construction crew’s lunch time so we wouldn’t interrupt their schedules. Consequently, we crawled over rebar, circled piles of construction materials, dodged stacks of scenery waiting to go into exhibits, and smiled and nodded to the workers eating lunch. My previous Aquarium experience was as a child on field trips to the venerable Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. I was hooked!
As soon as I could, I signed up as a volunteer for the new Aquarium of the Pacific. My oldest daughter signed up as well. We are the only mother-daughter Charter Volunteers. My volunteer class started in April and continued almost up until opening on June 20. Our “textbook” was the entire Aquarium; our final exam had over 100 questions on it. We watched the blue whale and her calf get hung in the Great Hall. The secret? It’s in sections that were assembled in the air!
Within four months I applied for a position in the education department at the Aquarium taking reservations for schools to visit, which complimented my ongoing volunteer experience in education. From there, I moved into a full-time position in education as one of the people who helped develop the presentation department. We’re the people you see with microphones on the “dry” side. The ones who talk with our volunteer divers who are inside the exhibits or work with the mammalogists during seal and sea lion or otter presentations. We are in Shark Lagoon and Lorikeet Forest any time the Aquarium is open to the public. You’ll also see us as tour guides. We get the best part of the Aquarium experience –- both out with guests as well as behind the scenes.
One of the things I am most proud of during my 10 years at the Aquarium is being part of the team that developed our service excellence program. Hopefully you experience this program every time you visit the Aquarium. It’s part of our culture; it’s the enjoyment we get just from being your hosts. You may have even been the recipient of its most outstanding component-– “Fix Immediately, Send Home Happy” –- or FISSH –- our commitment to you, our guests, that we are willing to do what it takes to make your visit extraordinary.
I love meeting new people, whether it’s by phone as I did when I first started working at the Aquarium, or in person as I now do everyday. It was fun to interact with guests on the phone, particularly when guests had never visited an aquarium before and didn’t quite know what to expect. One lady who called was very concerned because it was raining. She asked, “Do you bring the animals in when it rains?” I carefully explained that since they were fish and marine mammals they were already wet. I loved her response, “Oh, yeah, duh!”
Believe me, there’s never a dull moment here…whether you’re a guest or an employee or volunteer! Come visit us soon!
Claudia Harden Education, Presentations
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