I started my Cadetship in September 1989 when I was 18, one of the first intake of cadets to the Trinity House scheme. I had always wanted to go to sea when I was younger but had no real plan of how or where I was going to do it. I almost fell into the Trinity House scheme as I happened to be working round the corner from Trinity Square at the time. I had been tipped off by the Institute of Marine Engineers, who I had called into one lunchtime to figure out how I could go to sea. As it happened, at that time, there were a small handful of Cadetships that offered the best salary and the added bonus for Trinity House was the ability to go on a range of vessels.
I progressed through my Class 4,2 & 1 quickly. I had my Chief’s ticket at 25 and my first Chief’s job deep-sea on a refrigerated cargo ship when I was 26 in Jan 98. I sailed in that role for about 9 months and I realised during that time that my career had stalled at sea after less than ten years. There was nowhere else to go I terms of progression.
I did a two year HND and then my sea time in the third year of my cadetship. The system was slightly flawed back then in that nobody really appreciated the value of a degree if you wanted to progress onshore. That has now been rectified and the opportunities to transition straight from sea to shore based employment are much wider. I realised I needed additional qualifications and embarked on the final two years of a mechanical engineering degree at Strathclyde University. When I left I was looking for opportunities in marine consulting. A friend asked me to be Chief on a drilling rig for 10 days. I reluctantly said yes and finally left that company six years later. That was my introduction to the oil industry and in that time I went on to be a subsea engineer responsible the equipment that controls the flow from an oil well. I progressed from there into commercial roles. I also did an MBA at Strathclyde University by distance learning and graduated in 2010.
I set up my own business in 2012 with Prof Colin MacFarlane who was my lecturer at University. Colin started his career as a shipwright in a shipyard on the Clyde. We realised that we could set ourselves apart from other companies because we had the mix of theoretical and practical. That was undoubtedly the greatest benefit of a career at sea. No other industry will give you that grounding in hands on practical skills and management. In anyone day you could be stripping down equipment and the next minute you are dealing with a multimillion pound budget and figuring out how best to spend it. All of this while hundreds of miles from land and nobody to help except the team on board. These type of skills are not that common, are in demand and something that is readily transferable to other industries. Look on being at sea as part of your development. Some will be at sea for their entire life, some for only short periods. All however, have a set of valuable skills that can’t be gained elsewhere. We have a team of 11 naval architects, engineers and mariners in Tymor Marine and when we hire, we look for practical experience. Having an engineer who is top of their class and knows all the theory is nowhere near as valuable as a person who has a good grasp of both.