Aitxiber Ramón talks to us about her life as an Engineer and her role at Aage Hempel
1. How long have you been working as an engineer? What are your primary responsibilities?
Well, it’s certainly been a long run! I have been in this business for 16 years now. My role entails the service, installation and inspection of all types of navigation and communication equipment on board vessels.
2. What motivated you to pursue a job in engineering?
Actually, I intended to become a pilot! But then my parents sent me to an international summer camp in Germany just before I had to take the exam for the Air Force Academy. While there, I had the chance to visit various concentration camps and stay in an antiwar environment. The experience changed my mind completely, and when I returned, decided I did not want to carry on with that path.
I had also applied to study a telecommunications degree in the case I did not pass my Air Force Academy exam. I finished my telecommunications degree at Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. During my studies, I got to meet some people in the engineering field, and somehow here I am!
3. Could you describe your average day at Aage Hempel?
Fortunately, Aage Hempel gives us the opportunity to work from home, and attend vessels whenever requested. I prepare services, gather information, go to the office to pick up/drop off material. If there is a service, we make sure all permits are processed for the terminal where the vessel is, get the spares, attend to the vessel, customs, etc.
4. What challenges have you faced in your career?
At this stage of my career I have faced many challenges, both personally and on board. First perhaps was to fight against the actual system, in order to improve it. It took time, but eventually things did change. At the beginning, it was complicated for certain captains to accept a woman servicing delicate navigation equipment, but with a professional attitude and the acquisition of a variety of skills, I am now able to gain their respect very quickly. I believe experience is a degree in that sense! Professionally, I have been given the opportunity to meet very interesting people within the maritime industry and travel to many places. Being in places where they are not used to seeing a woman performing a job normally done by a man has also been a challenge!
5. What are your most favourite parts of what you do in your job?
I would say that the actual challenge of the repair is very exciting sometimes. There are also the stories people share with you on board, having meals together, the satisfaction of a job well done, and when you feel respect from the clients regarding the service you’ve provided. Particularly when they’ve initially underestimated your skills, and how their attitude changes completely as the service is being conducted. This last point is perhaps one of the best parts of this job, being a woman.
6. Why is it important to encourage more women to get into engineering?
Women are as capable as any man to perform the tasks that I perform in Aage Hempel. Perhaps a special character is required to understand and work with some men who still find it difficult to respect that this type of job can be performed well by a woman. However, fortunately, you experience this less and less. This job requests strong will, problem solving attitude (i.e. engineer’s mind), social skills and good manners. A woman, or man, with those characteristics can perform this engineering work perfectly.
7. How would you encourage girls in school to pursue an engineering career?
I would tell those girls to chase their dreams. I have had the chance to visit many parts of the world, meet people from many different places and nationalities. I have lived many challenging jobs that permitted vessels to sail safely. I have experienced many things thanks to this job. This is the reason why I still here on the field for more than 16 years! I am physically average; retain my femininity and I am still respected on board. There is no need to be like a man to succeed in this business as a woman.
8. What advice do you have for graduates entering the field?
For graduates entering the field, I would suggest that they learn as much as they can, and to respect the senior engineers, as they have many experiences to share. To keep fighting until they feel confident enough to pursue a career for themselves. And, most of all, to never give up, despite the bad experiences. They are actually the best way to learn and improve yourself as a professional in this business.