What is your career highlight?
I have two career highlights. Firstly, in 2010 I qualified as a Master Mariner, meaning I could officially sail as a Captain of a ship after ten years of training and working. Without achieving this, I would not have been able to become a pilot.
Secondly and most importantly, my career highlight is qualifying to become a Pilot on the River Medway in September 2020. The training to become a pilot is second to none - it is challenging and intense. It requires huge personal sacrifice and dedication beyond any job I know. It involved months of studying, exams, practical training and assessments, with very little personal life. My final exam was an oral exam with an Examining Pilot, my Marine Manager and a Manager from the Port of London. It was an exam that could last up to six hours. It consisted of me describing the whole 27 Nautical Miles covered by our district from the Thames Estuary at the Sunk near Harwich, down to the NE Spit at Ramsgate and into the Swale up to Rochester bridge on the River Medway. When I was told my exam had been very successful and I was a qualified pilot on the River Medway, I felt one of the happiest moments of my life. All the hard work and sacrifice was worth it! The next day I piloted my first ship into the River Medway as a qualified pilot, and it filled me with pride and joy. It is interesting and challenging. I feel like that every time I pilot a ship. I am so lucky to have a job that I enjoy doing so much.
What would you say to other females thinking about starting a career in the maritime industry?
I am the first and only female pilot to work for Peel Ports. There are only a handful of British female pilots working throughout the world. In 2000, when I started my training to become a Deck Officer, I was also the first female to work for a large ferry company. At first, as a Deck Officer, I faced many hurdles because I am not a man. But despite some people’s attitudes and prejudice, I never gave up and continued to do my best.
When I started as a Pilot, again, I was not the “norm”. I am often still one of the first female pilots some Captains have ever seen, and some have negative attitudes and prejudices, sometimes subconscious. But I ensure I am professional, polite and I show them I can do my job to a high standard. By the end of my time on their ship, I often notice the change in their attitude.
Changing people’s mentality towards women in the Maritime industry is a slow process. It takes time, dedication and hard work to prove that as females, we are just as capable as men of doing these jobs. But don’t let this deter you; it is improving all the time. The more females work in the industry, the more normal it becomes. Working in this industry is rewarding beyond any job I know.
Some women may be concerned about having a family whilst doing a job in this industry. I was a mother to three young boys when I started my training to be a pilot. They understood as best they could for their ages (4, 5 and 6 years old) that although it was hard for them during my training, it would be worth it for the rest of my life and their lives if their Mummy has a good career. They are so proud of me!
I honestly say to people with a huge smile- “I LOVE MY JOB!”
If you are thinking about starting a career in the maritime and ports industry, I would say:
Take the opportunity, do your best, fulfil your potential and do not let anything nor anybody stop you. Believe in yourself. I hope you find a job you enjoy.