We don't know about you, but we're in love with Deborah's breezy look in her purple Inattendue <3
Belle Ombre in Antarctica
There are chance encounters in life that create a lasting imprint; coming across Deborah Pardo was one of those encounters. It all started when we received a mail from her explaining that she needed a receipt for the dress she had bought on our crowdfunding campaign, as she was going to be wearing it during her upcoming trip to Antarctica. Wait, what? A Belle Ombre dress in Antarctica? Turns out Deborah is a freelance scientist and guide on a luxury cruise expedition in Antarctica. And she needed a nice dress for dinner on the ship.
The great adventure which is Belle Ombre was just starting, and we were already meeting fascinating people. We just had to find out more. So we did, called up Deborah and had one of the most fun conversations we'd had in a while.
Following the breadcrumbs of passion
Deborah's passion is wildlife conservation. Her fascination for animals started really young, she recalls studiously observing bugs in her grandparents' backyard when she was still a kid. Everybody wanted her to become a vet, but an internship in a vet’s office made her realise that that wasn’t her calling. She went on to study biology in her native city of Marseille with 150 other students, half of which had no idea what they are doing there. She wasn't convinced either, and packed herself off to Sweden on an Erasmus program. That was a moment of revelation to her : all of a sudden, she was exposed to an incredibly diverse and international crowd. A three week trip to Costa Rica studying statistics applied to animal populations cemented her passion for studying animals in their natural habitat.
Back from her summer program, she started building her incredible credentials: studying ecology in Montpellier then French albatrosses in the French Southern and Antarctic lands as part of her doctorate degree. We were blown away as we listened to her describe her time spent on the ground observing these amazing birds with only a handful of other researchers, cut off from the rest of the world, with only a satellite phone at their disposal in case of an emergency.
On leading an authentic life
She didn’t stop there. She went on to Cambridge to do a post-doctoral degree, on English albatrosses this time. Soon however, something was not sitting quite right. She was growing tired of academia: the constant pressure to publish, the countless hours spent in front of her computer analysing data.
'I just went through this big phase of questioning, of trying to understand what I wanted to do that was more in line with my values. Becoming a mother just accentuated my desire to do something more authentic to who I am. As a researcher, I was in a constant state of guilt - guilt for not spending time with my son when I was working, and for not working when I was spending time with my son'.
That's when she came across Homeward Bound, a leadership program aimed at women in science, giving them tools to discover their uniqueness and strengths and boost their careers. She applied, got in, and subsequently crowdfunded the EUR20,000 needed to pay for the programme.
'Being on that programme with 78 other extraordinary women from all over the world was an incredible, mind opening experience for me'. At the end of the programme, she bid her post-doc at Cambridge goodbye and returned home to Marseille with her family to become a freelance scientist. Since then, she's worked on a series of diverse projects ranging from accompanying kids on a trip to Spitsbergen in the arctic ocean to teach them about environmental sustainability, to launching a women's environmental leadership program and consulting for initiatives like Pure Ocean.
'I am living a creative life in ways I never imagined before. It's not as predictable as being a researcher, but I am so much more fulfilled today'. Her secret to getting so much done while still leading a balanced life? She's quick to answer : 'A supportive partner is crucial. My partner and I complement each other really well and that just makes everything possible. Oh, and I go to bed early. I start to fall asleep at 21:30 as I am tucking my kids in. Sometimes I fall asleep before them!' she adds with a chuckle.
An open, honest, fresh conversation with an incredibly inspiring person who is pushing limits and inventing her own career, on her own terms. We look forward to covering more of her adventures here, so stay tuned 🙂