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Pleasant Surprises! One Woman’s Story about a Career in NOAA Fisheries

We celebrate Women’s History Month sharing this story about one of the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office (GARFO) woman leaders. If you are not sure what to major in, or what you want to do when you grow up, or are worried because your career is not going as you planned, you’ll appreciate Hannah Goodale’s advice and remain open to unexpected opportunities. Like her, you may be pleasantly surprised!

Hannah, just retired after 34 years with NOAA Fisheries, would be the first to admit that her career was not the one she planned. In 1978, Hannah got her Master’s degree from Harvard’s Design School/Kennedy School in public administration. She had worked for a non-profit before graduate school, and hoped to continue working with non-profit housing programs. Hannah found several short-term jobs, but funding for non-profits was sharply cut with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Hannah was unemployed and living on Cape Cod when a friend told her about an entry-level typist job at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole. In that long-ago time, there were no laptops, or even desktop PCs. Even senior scientists had their manuscripts and memos prepared by typists. It turned out to be a great way to learn about the Center’s programs and policies, and about general fisheries issues. There were opportunities to go to sea on the research vessels and help sort the catch and see the fishing gear operate.

In time, Hannah’s Master’s degree enabled her to qualify for an administrative job, where she learned about federal budgeting and program planning. After four years, several co-workers suggested her background and abilities would be better suited to jobs in the Regional Office. Hannah followed their advice, and moved to Gloucester to become a policy analyst in the GARFO’s Sustainable Fisheries Division.

All of those varied experiences led to a satisfying, and completely unforeseen professional career with NOAA Fisheries, an agency she had never heard of until that friend called her. Hannah spent the last 25 years of her career here in GARFO. For 15 years she led a team that worked with the fishery management councils to develop management programs. For the past 5 years, Hannah was the chief of the Analysis and Program Support Division’s 50-person staff as they carried out the day-to-day implementation of the region’s fishery management programs (permits, catch monitoring, data management and analyses).

Hannah credits her career in large part to advice she got along the way. Many of the people who advised her were women who had adapted their careers because of job market changes or life events. Her advice? Tackle every job seriously, whether or not you think it is your dream career. Seek counsel from more experienced staff when you have the chance. Talk to them about your education, training, and interests and take their suggestions seriously. Remain prepared and open to any possibilities they identify, because it may result in a satisfying career you never expected!