Overcoming All Odds: A Maritime Blessing in Disguise
Ever took notice of the word 'rough' in through? There is truth to that – though the path may be rough, we are still able to get through the bitter trials. We’ve all faced our fair share of challenges in life, but we spoke with two individuals who have had to go through more hurdles in order to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
27-year-old Kalaivanan Eswara Raj remembers his initial disappointment with his GCE ‘N’ Level results. While it was a tough pill to swallow, he decided to enrol into the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) to pursue a Nitec qualification in Mechatronics. Despite the change in the learning environment and subjects, Raj still struggled with finding interest for his studies.
It wasn’t until much later when he came to know about the maritime industry from his uncle and brother. Inspired by their stories, Raj landed himself a job with Keppel Corporation, working on board a Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) unit, a vessel used by the oil and gas industry.
As it turned out, this experience was exactly what he needed. Having found his calling, Raj’s new goal was to join the maritime industry, where he then furthered his education by studying part-time at Singapore Polytechnic (SP) for a Diploma in Maritime and Offshore Management.
Determined to ease the financial burdens of his family, Raj sought to fund his own education. But finding a job hadn’t been easy. Most employers were hesitant to work with him because of his tattoos. What he thought of as art was frowned upon by many, putting him in the stereotypical box of being a ‘bad influence’.
“It was hard for me to find work because I was constantly judged for my tattoos. I never understood this stereotype and felt that one’s actions should speak louder than words. That’s why when I got a job with a logistics company, I was really grateful that they saw past my appearance and gave me a chance to work with them.”
After graduating from SP, Raj continued pursuing his passion in maritime, and signed up for the Tripartite Nautical Training Award (TNTA) programme conducted by Wavelink Maritime Institute where he started out as a Deck Cadet.
At first, Raj’s parents were apprehensive about his sudden career switch to go out to sea but later became his biggest supporters after seeing how much he enjoyed it. His experience as a Deck Cadet has been a humbling one, giving him a newfound appreciation for his parents.
“I’ve definitely become more independent as I’ve had to live on my own and do my own laundry!” he says jokingly. “Being on board has taught me discipline and responsibility. Now more than ever, I appreciate all the things that my parents have done for me.”
Today, Raj is a Third Officer with PACC Offshore Services Holdings Ltd (POSH) and has sailed on board four different offshore vessels spanning over a period of 18 months. He has recently applied for the Tripartite Maritime Scholarship to further his studies to attain his Certificate of Competency Class 2 qualification, bringing him one step closer to fulfilling his dream of becoming a Ship Captain.
His advice for those who are keen to join the maritime industry?
“I would say that the most important traits are to be hardworking, determined and to always stay humble.”
Like my dad says, “Nothing worth having ever comes easy; we should always persevere to fulfil our dreams.”
Like Raj, Ainul Fasha Amran understands what it’s like to face setbacks in life. While she took the road less travelled, today, 27-year-old Fasha is the proud recipient of the Sembcorp Marine – MaritimeONE Scholarship, currently pursuing her Degree in Engineering with Honours in Naval Architecture at the Singapore Institute of Technology.
Fasha first joined the workforce as an Administrative Assistant at a naval architecture firm, to broaden her horizons after her GCE ‘A’ Levels examinations.
Thanks to her supervisor, her interest in the industry was piqued almost immediately. What was initially supposed to be a five-day job assignment extended to two weeks, then three months and before she knew it, she found herself working full-time.
“My Managing Director ensured that all staff, including those in the Admin and Projects department, sat in for meetings so that they could keep abreast of the developments of current and upcoming projects. This allowed me to learn more in-depth about engineering and naval architecture. I also got to see many women making their mark in this field and I was inspired to follow in their footsteps,” says Fasha.
While working, Fasha also took her interest in maritime to the next level, enrolling in a part-time Higher Nitec course in Offshore & Marine Engineering Design. Her decision to study at the ITE did not come easy. Many of her friends and family were not supportive, citing how she was overqualified as an ‘A’ Levels qualification holder.
“Some of them even made me feel like I would be a disappointment if I did so. However, I thought that if I never enrolled, I would always be asking myself ‘what if’. I told myself even if I enrolled and changed my mind, at least I gave this a shot and could live without regrets,” she says.
Regret, as it turned out, was nowhere to be found. Fasha shares that the course showed her that a maritime career was exactly what she was looking for. She later took up another part-time course – a Diploma in Engineering (Marine) at Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP).
What happened next changed her life.
Driven by her thirst for knowledge and passion for maritime, Fasha graduated with an astounding GPA of 4.0, and was awarded with a Diploma with Merit. “I didn’t expect to get this result but I’m really glad that all the hard work paid off”, says Fasha.
In 2019, Fasha decided to take a break from work to care for her new-born child while pursuing her degree. Although she was now relieved of her work commitments, she faced a new set of challenges – finding a balance between being a student and a mother.
With so much on her to-do list every day, Fasha shares that she tries to maximise her time by revising or completing her assignments on her way to school. Having a supportive husband has also helped tremendously.
Upon graduation next year, Fasha is hoping to secure a job as a Naval Architect or Project Manager. However, this is not the end to her quest for knowledge – she plans to pursue a Masters’ within the next five years.
“One of the best advices I received was from one of my colleagues. He told me that I shouldn’t be afraid to take a leap of faith. If I want to do something, I should just do it, and work things out along the way. There is no fixed formula to leading a rewarding life.”
If there’s anything that we can learn from Raj and Fasha, it’s that tough times don’t last, tough people do. Never give up and don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone – you never know, it could very well be a blessing in disguise!