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Francisca Wiggins – Lloyd’s Register, training to be a ship surveyor

Case study, Diversity, General Engineering & Technology, Mechanical Engineering November 3, 2008

Francisca Wiggins - Lloyd's Register, training to be a ship surveyor

Name: Francisca Wiggins

Age: 24

Degree and university: Edinburgh University with a Masters in Mechanical Engineering with Renewable Energy.

Job Title: Francisca is part of a two year graduate scheme with Lloyd’s Register, training to be a ship surveyor.

What do you actually do? The Lloyd’s Register Group is an independent risk management organisation that works to help to improve its clients’ quality, safety, environmental and business performance throughout the world with expertise and activities covering railways, shipping, oil and gas, and other asset-based industries. Lloyd’s Register is a classification society established to protect the marine environment and ensure the safety of those at sea by checking that ships comply with all our rules and regulations, and any relevant statutory legislation.  I spend a lot of time out in shipyards and ports, and on the ships themselves doing surveys.

Were you always interested in this sector as a career? It wasn’t until my final year of university that I started to think about what I wanted to do after graduation.  Many of those who studied with me at Edinburgh went on to work in the oil and gas sector, but having already spent some time working for Shell I knew I wanted to try something different.  I was also sure that it wouldn’t suit me to sit at a desk all day, so I was looking for something that would allow me to get my hands dirty and do some practical engineering.  Finally, I wanted to work in an industry that interested me, and to do something that would make a positive difference to people and the environment.

Have you ever experienced any gender prejudice in this sector? Female surveyors are still few and far between, so many of the people I work with are a bit surprised when they first meet me.  Having studied engineering at university, I am used to being in the minority and I don’t think that it has yet been a disadvantage to me.  I probably do get treated slightly differently from my male colleagues, but these differences are nearly always improvements so I can’t complain about that.  Very occasionally I will come across someone who seems to think that girls should stay out of the shipyard, but I can usually win them over by being friendly, and showing my competence.

Would you undertake further study in order to gain promotion? The graduate scheme at Lloyd’s Register is designed to give me all the training I need to become a fully qualified surveyor.  I do lots of courses to improve my technical and soft skills, and my next goal is to achieve chartered status with the Institute of Mechanical Engineers.

What do you most like about your job and are there any downsides? My favourite aspect of my work is the practical side of it – I love going on the ships and learning what everyone and everything does.  My degree was very biased towards theory, so it makes a welcome change to be able to see some engineering in action, even if I do frequently end the day covered in oil from the engine room, and mud from the ballast tanks.  I also really enjoy the variety of my job – I hardly ever know what I’m going to be doing the next day.

There is some office-based work to do, and the paperwork can be a bit tedious if you find yourself with a lot to do at once.

What skills do you think you need to succeed? I think the most important thing is that I’m really interested in what I do, and look forward to going to work so that I can learn more about it.  If you have that enthusiasm then motivation comes naturally, and you’ll probably be more successful as a result.  It’s also important to be accurate, thorough, and confident, and to be able to cope with the unexpected.  A reasonable level of physical fitness is helpful because it is quite an active job – you don’t realise quite how many ladders ships have until you become a surveyor.

What piece of advice would you give other graduates coming into this sector? If you can find a job doing something that really interests you then you’ll find that you look forward to going into work each day.  It’s also important that you take every opportunity to show that you’re interested – be enthusiastic and ask as many questions as you can because the experienced surveyors will go out of their way to help a willing student and teach you all they can.

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