Pearl Smith Pearl Smith

Pearl: Finding my dream job

I was born in Hawaii and raised in India, but my family's heritage led me to the canals of Britain. My Chicago-born Dad is a doctor and was working at a free medical clinic in India when my mum, originally from Stourbridge, went there for a gap year after uni. They met, fell in love, and she never came back!

Because I wasn't born in India, I couldn't work there. Although I had a wonderful life, by the time I turned 19 I was ready to make a change and spread my wings. So, with my best friend, I moved to England.

I didn't know what to expect, but with my mother being from the Black Country, I wanted to retrace my family's history and the canals are an important part of that.

By being outside and living the culture everyday, I realised that the Canal & River Trust was a company I wanted a career with.

My first job

My mom told me stories about my grandfather, who had worked in a glass-blowing factory along the water. He had also been very fond of narrow boats. My grandmother still has a lot of the glass he made, and also told me stories about the factory and their use of narrowboats and the canals. So, when I got my job at the Canal & River Trust it seemed like a perfect fit. It meant a lot to me.

I had seen an advert for towpath fundraisers at the Canal & River Trust and applied. I loved it. At the time, the Trust was a new charity and it was exciting to have the opportunity to explain this to visitors.

It was a rollercoaster ride. I visited many great places across the West Midlands and learnt lots of new skills. It was definitely a positive, formative experience.

Meeting a variety of people on the towpath got me hooked on ‘canal life’. I realised that I was very similar to those who have a passion for the waterways. I liked the pace, the lifestyle and the heritage. By being outside and living the culture everyday, I realised that the Canal & River Trust was a company I wanted a career with. 

Sadly, the seasonal nature of the role meant that I had to find alternative employment. I never stopped wanting to work again for the Trust and I was thrilled when I interviewed successfully for the role of fundraising and project assistant.

The best part of my role is that I can see how I am helping make a real difference.

Settling in remotely

I’ve always been comfortable using technology and working from home in my new role is something that is second nature to me. This has made it very easy for me collaborate with team members remotely. In fact, I see it as a benefit as many people are much more accessible now and it is much easier to work together.

Having the basic communication skills has allowed me to concentrate on gaining the knowledge and expertise to do my job to the best of my abilities. Fortunately, the Trust has given me all the support I need. 

Despite not working with people face to face, all my colleagues have made a point of reaching out and asking if I need anything, which is really appreciated.

Making a real difference

The best part of my role is that I can see how I am helping make a real difference. The Canal & River Trust plays a vital role in protecting local heritage, wildlife and the environment, and providing a space for people to enjoy. Knowing that I am playing a small role in something important gives me a great deal of satisfaction.

I didn’t go to university, but I now feel that I have caught up with those that did. For that I am really grateful and excited for the future.

Coming full circle

Moving to a city was a huge leap from being constantly surrounded by nature and the canals have offered me an escape. It’s not just the canals themselves, but the entirety of the environment the heritage and the places they create for both humans and wildlife.

I’m happy every day coming to work here. Making such a big move was scary at times but being close to my own heritage through the canals has helped. Not only are they a place for me to enjoy but the canal network has always acted as a connector across the country. Now they’re helping me connect to my past and I feel like I’ve come full circle.