Women's insight into life at sea: Sarena Joyce D. Gadot
We would like to give some insight into what it is like to work at sea – from the perspective of women working as part of Lauritzen Kosan’s crew. Four women have kindly agreed to share their own experiences of life at sea.
Our final interview is with Sarena Joyce D.Gadot, who is Third Engineer onboard Alexandra Kosan.
Please tell us your name, age, where you come from and any other hobbies/interests
My name is Sarena Joyce D. Gadot, but my colleagues just call me Joyce. I’m 27 years old and I’m from Quezon City, Philippines.
I started working with Lauritzen Kosan as an engine cadet and I’ve been sailing with them as Junior Engineer since 2014. I love to travel with my friends and visit good beaches in my country. I also love sports activities such as swimming and badminton.
What attracted you to a job at sea in the first instance?
Honestly, when I was a teenager, I had no idea that seafaring was considered a profession until I got accepted into a maritime academy.
During my freshmen year, the seniors started talking about their experience onboard: they talked about their life at sea, the beautiful places they travelled to and they showed me some photos from their trips.
Their tales of their adventures as seafarers amazed me, and so I fell in love and started pursuing a career at sea.
Before you began your job, what was your impression of what life would be like onboard? Is it different to the reality?
Getting accepted into and studying at the maritime academy was tough. The institution served as our training ground where our skills and strategies were sharpened in order to be well-educated and well-trained individuals, in preparation for life at sea. So, I already expected from the very beginning that life at sea would be much more challenging and difficult.
About your job
Can you describe a typical day in your job?
My job is unique because every day is different and full of learning.
From the machineries’ planned maintenance to unexpected sets of eventualities, I always discover new ideas that can broaden my horizon.
And at the end of the day, it’s all fulfilling and rewarding; not only because of my accomplished tasks and rectified faults but also because I’m learning from the experiences and from the people I have worked with during the day.
What are your biggest challenges?
When a series of technical breakdowns and events occur unexpectedly and simultaneously. Adapting to these physically, mentally and emotionally stressful scenarios, while at the same time having to maintain a positive mindset despite what is happening, is the most challenging part as an engineer.
Bouncing back after these situations, quickly thinking of solutions, staying focused and maintaining stable under pressure: these are abilities and traits that are most needed in these moments. My training and experiences throughout my sailing career have prepared me well, and I’m still learning from these eventualities.
Discrimination and being underestimated is also a big challenge. Being the only woman onboard most of my vessels, particularly belonging to the engine crew, could not be avoided, and I prepared myself for it. At first, when I encountered this type of hardship as a young newly promoted officer, I started to doubt and question my capabilities and knowledge. But then I reflected on the experiences I have undergone, and my colleagues, who believe in my capabilities, helped me regain my self-confidence, and that made me stronger and more determined to move on and pursue my goals.
Moreover, proving my abilities is also a challenge. I have to go out of my comfort zone and work hard to prove that I can do it, which is actually something I challenge myself in. Having an ambitious goal to be a chief engineer requires that I push myself to excel by continuously enhancing my knowledge, skills and competences as a marine engineer.
However, despite these challenges, I’ve realized that they are not setbacks or discouragements; they’re rather sources for continuous self-improvement and professional growth that will make me an effective and efficient officer. Because without these obstacles, I wouldn’t be able to learn, grow and mature, both as an individual and as a professional marine engineer.
What motivates you the most?
Learning motivates me a lot. Learning is a continuous process and that’s what I love the most about my job.
Broadening my knowledge, sharpening my technical skills and abilities are the reasons why I am motivated. It is really motivating to learn something new by yourself. Also, supervisors and subordinates who are excited to share their knowledge and teach us their techniques and strategies also motivates me and keeps my job more interesting, because it also helps me enhance my skills and capabilities as an engine officer.
Having influence also motivates me. To me, influence is the ability to change behaviour in order to achieve the desired result. This is best demonstrated when making people work in a concerted effort, especially when problems have occurred. I am motivated by the spirit of teamwork and cooperation, which encourages interaction, brainstorming and collaboration during crucial moments.
What furthermore motivates me is the influence of my colleagues, whether they are supervisors or subordinates, because it influences the decision of my career path.
The income is also a great motivation. The financial reward of being a seafarer is worth gratifying. Rapid economic progress among seafarers is highly noticeable in our country, I have witnessed many seafarers attain financial and economic freedom, which has made them able to provide for a better life, both for themselves and their families.
What do you do to relax onboard when you’re off-duty?
Watching movies and preparing our midnight snacks is how the crew bonds, socialize and relieve the stress from work. I also listen to music and read books in my cabin.
About working at sea
Some people will see you as a role model for other women considering a job at sea, what impact do you think your role might have for others?
As belonging to the very small percentage of women joining this male-dominated profession, we play an essential role that will promote seafaring as a potential career for women.
It has an influential impact that encourages, motivates and inspires women to join this industry, especially when seeing other women prevail and excel in a male-dominated profession.
What plans and ambitions do you have for your future career?
My initial plan was to take a master’s degree in a maritime university abroad. However, my priorities are constantly changing!
Now, my current plan is to take seminars and training courses that will foster my professional growth and advancement, as well as widen and enhance my technical performance, working attitude and leadership skills, enabling for me to become an efficient and effective engine officer. I ambitiously see myself manage, share ideas with and learn from my colleagues and subordinates, and finally become a chief engineer someday.
Who do you usually talk to about your career development?
There are only 2 people I openly talk about my career development with.
One of them is Dyesebel Diaz. Dyesi, which is what I usually call her, is a classmate of mine. We both started at the same time in J. Lauritzen as engine cadets, and we go way back!
One specific memory I have of us from our college days is when Dyesi and I would hang out by our lockers, which were adjacent to each other, in the middle of the night while everyone else was asleep, preparing our uniforms for the next day and talking about everything, from our lives and academics to our dreams and goals in life.
Right now we are miles apart and have different priorities in life, but we still keep in touch and give each other updates, as well as discuss plans and goals for our career development. We also still have the same goal: to be chief engineers someday and to take a master’s degree in another country, particularly in World Maritime University (WMU). To me, Dyesi is not just a classmate, she’s also a sister. She is a good influence and gives advice for the betterment of my career plans.
The second person I talk to about my career development is my father. My father is my role model and mentor when it comes to work ethics and development. Though we are in different lines of profession, because he works in the military, he still has a lot of knowledge about seafaring because he often reads about it, because my brother and I are both marine engineers. I comfortably discuss my career plans with him, and he often suggests that I take courses that will lead to professional growth.
What do you think about the gender balance in seafaring – do you think more women will work at sea in the future?
In my opinion, gender balance in the maritime industry is the key to gradually normalizing and strengthening the social and working environment at sea. It will remove the idea of seafaring as a gender-stereotyped career, and more opportunities will be open to women. In that way, more women will consider this line of profession, and therefore be motivated to work at sea in the future.
If you ever changed to working ashore, what would you miss most about working at sea?
The unforgettable work challenges and learning experiences that this career has given me!
It has shaped me and helped me become the marine engineer I am today. As I have previously stated, it is learning that I love about my job, and it would definitely be the thing I’d miss the most.
Do you have any good pieces of advice to anyone considering a career at sea?
Seafaring career is for the chosen few, because life at sea is not as easy as people might think. You must easily adapt to the mental, emotional, and physical challenges and hardships that you will be facing onboard. You should have a strong heart to bear the most trying times and passion to learn grow and progress in this profession. Flexibility, initiative, resiliency and effectivity are the key elements that will make your professional journey more meaningful and fulfilling.