A graduate in mechanical engineering, Marie Vanessa Victoire, of Mauritian origin, is today an engine cadet on supply vessels. For OFFshore, she talks about the many challenges she faces on a daily basis including operating in a male-dominated Oil&Gas world. Interview.
OFFshore: How did you become the first Mauritian woman engineer in offshore vessels?
Marie Vanessa Victoire: During my studies in mechanical engineering, I had the chance to do my industrial internship in a shipyard and put into practice what I learned in class. By visiting the different ships, I was able to realize how a seafarer's job combines engineering, maintenance and management. Being a seafarer also requires discipline, a sense of responsibility and duty, especially during rounds, confidence in oneself and in one's colleagues... I have been fortunate to be surrounded by people who have inspired me: my family and my partner, whose support is my strength; at BOURBON, Ann Till, who was my model of courage and, finally, my heroine Victoria Drummond, the first female chief engineer in England, whose determination to succeed is inspirational.
In Mauritius, there aren't many internship opportunities for engineering or bridge students. I started my apprenticeship at Sapmer, where I learned a lot. I also spent three months following the work on an oil tanker before getting an internship at BOURBON. For someone who comes from a small island like Mauritius, experiencing a platform up close is extraordinary. My first contract as an engineering student on the Bourbon Liberty 320 introduced me to the activities of the AHTS and therefore to get a closer look at these incredible oil tanker structures!
OFFshore: What does it mean for you to work offshore, in a largely male environment?
M.V.V.: For as long as I can remember, I've always worked in environments where the majority of people were men! At the shipyard, I was the first woman to join the technical department, and the only female marine engineer in Mauritius. Even though I am used to working with men, there is always some apprehension before joining a vessel. But once you're on board, it goes pretty well. The most important thing is to establish a good relationship with the other seafarers and to be respected. There are laws that protect every seafarer against any kind of inequality on board. It also helps to know that there's someone to turn to if there's a problem.
As a seafaring engineer, I am responsible for the smooth running of the vessel's propulsion system and auxiliaries and for the operations and services provided to customers (bunkering and water delivery for example). The proper functioning of the systems also involves ensuring that maritime laws are respected. I therefore feel that I am useful to others and the environment.
OFFshore: How do you reconcile work and family life?
M.V.V.: It's all about balance, organization, and support from the people around you. I also think that this applies to my male colleagues as well. I know what I want, I feel confident in myself, I make sure that I can balance my family life with my professional life. I often miss out on family events because I am so far away, but it's the price I have to pay to be able to contribute to a better life for myself and my family. When I'm with my family, I try to spend as much time as possible with them./p>
OFFshore: What advice would you give to a woman who wish to become a seafarer?
M.V.V.: It's a fulfilling job that allows you to test your limits. As I mentioned earlier, the most important thing is to know what you want and to feel good about yourself. It will be hard at times, but you can't give up. Women have their place in the maritime world.