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18 Jun 2021
2 mins
Women in Maritime: Second Engineer Officer Cheryl Lee

Second Engineer Officer Cheryl Lee took the plunge and transited from sea to a shore job on 1 June 2019.

“Till today, I still miss sailing” she said. After 10 years of being out at sea, her sentiment is understandable.

Upon completing her O levels, a career guide book featuring a job on board ships instantly caught Cheryl’s attention. “I have always like marine animals and the sea. Embarking on a diploma that prepared me for an engineer job at sea was a natural progression.”

While many women may shy away from pursuing a profession in a male-dominated industry, Cheryl did not bat an eyelid. “Maybe because I grew up with brothers,” she remarked.

While at sea, she enjoyed the thrill of putting her technical knowhow into good use and being totally hands-on working in the engine room. Working with an international crew also added colours to her everyday life at sea.

So why the switch to a shore based job?

Cheryl was not far off from attaining her chief engineer rank when two major interventions disrupted her path to continue sailing.

The ship that she was supposed to join got delayed indefinitely, and an opportunity to work on shore presented itself. “My friends egged me on. I went for two interviews and got the job.”

“When I was on shore leave, I could completely switch off from work and spend uninterrupted time with my mother. But now, I think of work even after office hours,” she said. “Facing the computer on a daily basis also takes some getting used to.”

“The transition is challenging. My boss, who is based in Europe, is an ex-seafarer himself. So he knows the adjustment is tough.”

“But I tell myself to give the shore job a chance. After all, I am still in the maritime industry.”

When asked if she had anything to share with women who aspire to have a career in maritime, Cheryl encouraged them to “be courageous to join and expose yourselves to the wonderful opportunities in the maritime industry. Do keep up the passion and pull through the tough challenges you may face along the way. I assure that it will be worthwhile!” Today, Cheryl enjoys motivating women to join the seafaring career and sharing about how there are many opportunities ashore through gatherings and dialogues organised by SMOU.