A Career That I Really Like

Conversation with Serena Fleming - recently qualified Deck Officer

Serena had been unsure as to what career path she wanted to follow whilst studying at Canterbury College and thinking of studying for a degree - until she attended a talk at her college about the Merchant Navy.

“I was at Canterbury College studying on a public services course when someone from SSTG came to give a talk about careers in the Merchant Navy. It was something very different and I was drawn to it - and it was also nothing like what my peers were intending to do at the time.”

“So I went on to study as a cadet at Warsash Maritime Academy which was like being at university but it also provided a mixture of study at college and having practical experience at sea. A bit like an apprenticeship and I really enjoyed it.”

“I’m on a cable ship which is installing and repairing submarine cables.”

“I’m now with a company called Global Marine who offered me a job when I qualified as third officer. As we speak, I’m actually on my first trip after qualifying a month ago and have been onboard for two weeks. I’m thoroughly enjoying it! I’m on a cable ship which is installing and repairing submarine cables.”

Serena was awarded the distinction of Deck Cadet of the Year by SSTG. She explained that academic study didn’t come naturally to her so she focused extremely hard on putting the work in to succeed in her cadetship. And her mindset in effect was in her words: ‘If you put your mind to something you can really do it.’
“As cadets we also had to work our way around the impact that Covid was having and which was adding on additional pressures. But I succeeded.”

“I think it’s when I tell them I get to travel, it is paid for, and I get to work away from home.”

Serena has also been motivated to undertake a number of talks at her original college Canterbury. “I hold my old college in very good stead as without them and SSTG coming in I wouldn’t have thought of working at sea. Like quite a few of my fellow students I was really not sure what I wanted to do – and I have now found something I do like. So I do like to go back and speak to other young people. And I think it’s when I tell them I get to travel, it is paid for, and I get to work away from home. Of course some people don’t like the idea of spending months away but others are quite engaged with the idea and interested.”

“I think what you learn in college is good and where you really learn about the skills you need is training on a ship. So at the starting phase you are new to everything and keeping yourself safe at sea is the big thing. Then as you go back again everything gets a bit more technical and you get much more of an understanding of it. And it’s like a two-way system really. What you’ve learned at college you can apply at sea. And vice versa. What you learn at sea you can apply to the college phases too.”

Serena is currently working onboard her cable ship in Curacao in the Caribbean. She has had the benefit of being allowed shore leave as and when local Covid restrictions allow. “Cases have been very low on the island. When we are allowed to go ashore it’s really nice to explore different places – and get to enjoy the beaches too. It’s been a great experience.”

“It is a very interesting and unique career. I don’t think that the maritime industry is misunderstood but it is quite hidden from most people’s minds.”

And having the opportunity to work with and meet people from very varied backgrounds has also been very stimulating. “Our crew is currently a mix of British, Filipino and Ukrainian. It is interesting to learn about different parts of the world. Different cultures and different languages too.”

As a recently qualified Deck Officer, Serena’s studying and training is still very fresh in her mind, and so too is deciding on her choice of career.

“It is a very interesting and unique career. I don’t think that the maritime industry is misunderstood but it is quite hidden from most people’s minds. Many people don’t know about it and also what an important industry it is too. It’s hard work but very rewarding and good fun as well. If anybody is unsure of what they want to do I’d say that they should definitely look into it because I’ve managed to find myself a career that I really like.”