Want to be a mechanical engineer?

Published on August 25th, 2011
Want to be a mechanical engineer?

Does working on a vessel at sea sound interesting to you? We speak to someone who does…

What exactly do you do?
I am a mechanical engineering graduate at Blue Continent Products, a subsidiary of the Oceana Group Limited, which is the largest and only JSE-listed fishing company in South Africa. I work on the fishing vessels. At this stage, I’m still on a learning curve, as the field that I am in is quite broad. Essentially, I need to understand the ‘heart of the vessel’, namely, the engine, which involves all the engine’s components – understanding how the components work together, so that if there is any technical problem, I am able to identify the cause of the problem and how it can be resolved. I need to be able to advise the chief engineer on the vessel on what has to be done in cases where the crew cannot solve a particular problem. I also need to understand everything about the production processes that take place on our vessels, including the processing and refrigeration systems. In simple terms, I need to keep the vessel at sea, operational as intended.

How did you get there?
Well, getting here has been a long road and there are still miles to go. I went to school like any other child out there and completed my Matric, thinking that I’m very close in achieving my dream, only to realise that I was just laying a foundation. I then pursued my education at university and completed my Bachelor of Technology degree. I applied for this position, went through interviews and wrote some interesting psychometric tests before being appointed.

What subjects did you need to pursue this field?
At school I needed to have maths and science and all the required subjects they offer at university to complete the degree.

What inspired you to become an engineer?
I guess it was more a curiosity about how things work than anything else. I was always inspired by things like airplanes, which can fly a number of people but I can’t even fly a simple object that I throw up without seeing it fall to the ground, or a ship that carries tons of weight without sinking. I’m the kind of person who is driven by a challenge and this is one of the most challenging fields, especially for a woman, and that inspires me.

Is there anything that still baffles your mind?
At the moment I have a clear idea of where I’m heading, taking into consideration the obstacles I will have to overcome along the way. Other than that, I make an effort to get answers to things that are baffling my mind.

Tell us about a challenge you faced and how you applied your knowledge to overcome it?
Having to tell men (who are much older than I am with many years of experience in the field) what to do is one of the biggest challenges that I have faced. I’ve applied the knowledge I have acquired through my project management course to overcome this.

What do you love most about your job?
Each and every day is different and there’s always a problem to solve and a lesson to be learnt.

Did you enjoy maths and science at school?
Yes, I loved maths and I taught myself to have the same feeling about science as these subjects were to open doors for me to study engineering.

Your top three gadgets of all time?
I was never too much into gadgets, only my phone I couldn’t leave home without.

Any words of wisdom for aspiring engineers?
Grab whatever opportunity comes your way. Your attitude determines your altitude and smooth seas don’t make skillful sailors.

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