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.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-ShareAlike 2.5 South Africa License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/za/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California 94105, USA.