Sailing the high seas among men…

Meet 27 year old Lim Pio Teo, otherwise known to her friends as PT.

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Her occupation is definitely not something your typical girl would do.

PT is a marine engineer. And this means she works in an industry that is typically dominated by males.

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“Sometimes I am the only girl on board the vessel out at sea…” said PT who has been working with her shipping company since 2008.

As a marine engineer, she helps to check and maintain machines and equipment on board the vessels and ensure that they are in proper working condition. This involves some heat and heavy equipment.

We did a short interview with her and learnt some interesting stuff about her career.

How did you land yourself this job?

PT: I studied marine engineering when I was doing my Diploma in Singapore Polytechnic. After I completed my ‘O’ levels, I was looking for a course to do my Diploma. And I came across this course (Marine Engineering) which allows students to go out to sea. Interestingly, I am not a ‘sea’ person and I do get seasick but I find the sea very peaceful and calming. So I got into this job right after I graduated.

How long do you have to be at sea each time?

PT: It really varies, it can be as short as 49 days or even up to 3 months.

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Were your parents supportive of your decision?

PT: They were supportive of my decision to pursue the Diploma in Marine Engineering. But when I was going to take on a job as a marine engineer, my mum was a little hesitant and for some reason urged be to join the Navy instead, since my brother was in the Navy. Perhaps it was because she felt it was safer in the Navy.

Are you attached? Does your boyfriend mind about your job?

PT:Yes I am attached. And my boyfriend doesn’t mind at all, because he is in the same industry but in a different company. We both started in the same company initially, but he moved on to a different company after a few years of working. We are apart from each other on most occasions. And it is not so easy to plan it in such a way that we have our days back in Singapore together. But we are ok with being away from each other for a short period of time.

Do you feel intimidated working a male-dominated industry?

PT: Not at all. When I first joined the course in Poly, I did not know what I was in for. But after working for a few years, I’ve grown use to the environment.

Do you see more females joining this industry as compared to when you first joined?

PT: There is…Compared to seven years ago when I first joined, there has been a slight increase. And there should be more in the future. Similarly for the sailing industry, also a slight increase.

How easy is it for someone without experience to enter the shipping industry?

PT: It is not too difficult actually, because there is a 6-month course that is conducted at Wavelink Maritime Institute. This makes it easier for people with no experience to enter the industry.

However, they currently only have a course for deck officers. Soon, they will be offering courses for marine engineering as well.

Are there opportunities for learning and training in the company?

PT: There are lots of training and courses provided the company when we are not on board ships. They call us in regularly for such training when we are not on board.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

PT: I would still want to be in the marine industry but not sailing on board ships. I don’t think sailing will be a long-term career for me. There are also opportunities back on shore. One important factor I consider is my family. Since I joined this industry, my parents ask me when I would stop sailing.

I don’t have a fixed decision yet. Just keeping my options open. But I’m hoping to undergo an in-house training to become a surveyor for ships where we certify that the ships are operationally ready to sail so that I can stay on shore.

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Arthur Lee

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