Currently as a port engineer I am responsible for managing the maintenance and repair needs of 2 vessels, the largest container ships built in the US. What I enjoy the most about my career is the sense of accomplishment when you finally fix a pesky or longstanding problem, the uninterrupted views of the ocean, sunsets and night skies and a good crew that is hardworking and social off the clock is tough to beat.
Some of the challenges I face in my day to day is that major equipment or piping failures are always very scary and require quick thinking and knowledge to act in time for the least amount of damage. People management of many backgrounds onboard a vessel is extremely tricky and I learn everyday how to be better. Constantly proving that I can do my job just as well as everyone else onboard even though I may not be as tall or strong. There’s always a bigger hammer, a double wrench or a ladder when in need.
A lot of people think that I am younger than I am and that because I am a woman, I have no experience or backbone. I was often compared to people’s daughters and treated as such, which is not always a positive or helpful role for your career. I had to put on my big boss pants, use my authoritative voice, and sometimes gently push people out of the way to remind them of my position and power.
A change I am hoping to see in this industry is women to be hired in management level positions ashore in shipping companies and at sea on the vessels. I almost said more but the current amount is so ridiculously low, it is hard to tell we exist! If it weren’t for these female led online resources, I would not know about the few women captains and chief engineers that I have had the pleasure to meet, and female executives ship-involved companies are very few and far between.
To the female seafarers coming after me, read the manual, speak up for yourself, show pride in your work ethic, and make time for self care off the clock.