Woman engineer at the offshore: "Why not me?"
Samantha Vickers decided at the age of 30 to pursue a new direction in her professional life. In a few weeks, she will be embarking for the first time with BOURBON as 3rd engineer, on board an MPSV, the Bourbon Evolution 805. A look back at an inspiring career.
Part 1: Going back to school at the age of 30 in order to embark on a new career
Let's get right to the heart of the matter: why exactly did you decide to become a seafarer?
Samantha Vickers: That's THE big question (laughs)! For four years I was working on the Brittany Ferries as a stewardess. Eventually, I felt I needed to change jobs, although I still wanted to stay in this environment. I then thought of becoming a seafarer, to me this was a more technical and interesting profession. I was eager to learn, to discover what was going on below the vessel's bridge and in the engine room.
How did you manage the transition?
S.V: When I turned 30, I decided to leave my job as a stewardess to complete a year of preparation for the entrance exam to the National Maritime Schools (ENSM). And I was successful! One year later, I enrolled at the ENSM for three years, with a degree to show for it. During my training, I sailed on three different vessels, for a total duration of six months. I was on board the PSV Bourbon Rainbow, in Abidjan, then on the Bourbon Evolution 802, still in Abidjan but this time with the vessel in dry dock, and finally, on board the MPSV Bourbon Evolution 805.
Returning to school later in life must require a great deal of mental fortitude...
S.V: I set a goal for myself that I absolutely wanted to achieve above all else. However, it meant a lot of hard work. I took night classes to brush up on certain subjects. I also found myself in classes with students who were mostly only 17 or 18 years old! It was a new experience, yet in the end, it worked out well. In addition, I had very good teachers who provided me with encouragement and support. I would like to thank them... Their support was invaluable. Today, I am so happy to have made this choice and taken up this challenge!
How did those around you feel about your experience? Do you come from a seafaring background?
S.V: Absolutely not. There is not a single seafarer in my family, although I did grow up in a male environment. This may have played a role. At the beginning, my entourage was surprised, for sure. I studied literature and foreign languages. Nothing predestined me for a career at sea. Therefore, they had no way of imagining me in such an environment! Today, they are very pleased with what I have accomplished.
Did anyone ever try to talk you out of it?
S.V: Of course, I am particularly thinking of the seafarers with whom I worked when I was a stewardess. They told me that it is a sometimes difficult and very physical job. This is indeed a reality, however many women are seafarers, so why not me?
Samantha and three fellow seafarers aboard the PSV Bourbon Rainbow, on the way to Luanda.
Photo taken before the christening of the crossing of the equator - an important moment in the life of a seafarer.
The interview continues in part 2: the daily life on board as a engineer.