23 June 2021
Meet one of James Fisher’s engineering heroes
This International Women in Engineering Day (23 June), Tankships’ managing director, Krystyna Tsochlas, shares her experiences and challenges of working in a typically male-dominated environment, and offers advice for all aspiring female engineers.
During the start of your engineering career, what challenges did you face?
At university, although there were very few other female students, we were all on an equal footing, so it came as a surprise to me when I discovered that I wasn’t on equal footing in the workplace. There was a clear perception that, as a girl, I shouldn’t want to be sailing on tanker vessels, however I needed the practical hands-on experience. It took a huge amount of perseverance and tenacity to not give up and prove that I could do the job onboard the same as everyone else. I was also very lucky to have the support of my first manager who believed in me and encouraged me all the way.
How did you best convey yourself among your fellow colleagues?
I realised early on that whenever I was making a proposal, I had to make sure that I had considered every perspective thoroughly and kept the evidence to hand in order to justify my thoughts and be heard among my team members.
How has the engineering environment at James Fisher differed from ones experienced in your previous roles?
The engineering environment within Tankships is very typical of ship management companies that manage tankers, so it felt very familiar when I joined. However, within the Group we have a wide range of diverse fields that are both very specialised and innovative. I find it very exciting to work for a company with so many different areas of activity.
What is the most memorable and large-scale engineering project you have worked on during your career?
The most memorable was the large-scale new building project I worked on for a Greek ship owner between 2006-2008. I worked for the in-house team supporting the construction of 12 bulk carriers and tankers. It was a great learning experience due to the large scale of the project which involved many moving parts. I learned how to manage a project effectively and I really enjoyed being part of the plan approval team as I was able to put my technical training from university into practise with a tangible outcome, something that I played a significant role in building.
This year’s INWED theme is engineering heroes. What engineering heroes – if any – have you taken inspiration from over the years?
I greatly admire Pam McGinnis, Vice President of global marketing at a multinational energy company - she is a truly inspiring woman. Having grown up in a rural, blue-collar environment in the U.S, Pam’s generation of parents hadn’t yet seen women in the workforce. A school counsellor suggested that she might enjoy studying engineering because she was good at maths and science, so she gave it a try and is now leading a global business of a Fortune 50 company. Her personal story is a reminder to me to keep taking on new challenges and how important it is to bring one’s whole self to work.
What piece of advice would you share to aspiring female engineers?
Do it your way! Many women try to emulate male attributes to become successful engineers and aren’t aware of the value their own personal attributes can bring to the table. Businesses are now becoming more and more aware of how important having different perspectives is to promoting innovation, and innovation is key to overcoming all the challenges we are facing in the world. Being able to bring your whole self to the table makes the journey so much more enjoyable!