A Q&A with Project Engineer Laura Osmond

Ever imagine what life would be like if you had the opportunity to pursue your true passions every day?

Laura Osmond — a talented 29-year-old Project Engineer who works for Heddle Shipyards in Port Weller, Ontario, recently gave us the wonderful opportunity to speak with her. You may already be familiar with her because she recently appeared in our #LiveYourBestCareer video series, where she discusses her experience working on a project management team at Heddle Shipyards that is led by a woman and has seven out of ten female team members.

We were so inspired by her passion for her career that we had to know more!
Q: What has your career path been?
When I started my programme – Naval Architecture Technology at the Marine Institute - Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) – I did a few work terms in numerous areas of the marine industry. I did a work term with a company that focused on production design, so basically, the "IKEA" instructions to put a boat together. After that, I graduated and moved to BC, and I worked on the Victoria In-Service Support Contract through Babcock Canada – they support the re-fit and maintenance of Canadian military submarines. I was there for four years and decided it was time for a change into something a bit more managerial instead of fully technical, and that's how I ended up at Heddle Shipyards.
Q: Why the Marine Industry?
Well, Newfoundland obviously is a huge hub for any type of maritime activity, so it's pretty natural being from there to enter into the marine industry. Marine is something that was always in-your-face — fishing, the harbours, shipping companies, off-shore oil and gas — it's all tied into marine simply based on geography. Also, marine is forever. We are not suddenly going to be able to only ship things via air freight. It's an industry that is constantly growing and changing because it is a total necessity for the global economy. You know you'll always have job security, and there's going to be a variety of roles for you to explore.

“Also, marine is forever.”

Q: What is your current role like? What about it makes you want to get up in the morning?
My current role is really interesting because we have such a variety of different projects going on at any time. Right now, I am finishing up a 9-month vessel life extension of the CCGS Amundsen, one of the Canadian Coast Guard’s icebreakers. On that vessel, I've overseen mechanical scopes, such as installing new retractable thrusters, as well as structural steel scopes. I've worked a little bit on electrical modifications as well. It's a huge learning opportunity every day, and that is really what makes you get up in the morning to go to work. You know it's not going to be the same as the day before, and you'll always have something new to learn and overcome.

  • Mechanical scope”: jobs within the project of a mechanical nature -- moving parts, engines, propellers, etc.
  • “Structural Steel scope”: jobs relating to the ship's steel structure like the hull or the steel divisions within the boat like tanks.
Q: What does an average week look like for you?

Monday usually starts off with a weekend debrief. We have a crew working seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, so if something they're working on presents an issue or a challenge, it’s relayed to the engineering team first thing Monday morning. It can be pretty jam-packed. We get lots of challenges, and then the week is working through those problems, as well as progressing your contractual schedule and troubleshooting anything else that the customer brings up.
Q: What are your career aspirations?

Well, I took this job thinking, you know, I would get more into the project management side of things. Given that the Amundsen has been such a long and complex project, I've taken a mostly technical role on this one, but I'm looking forward to getting my PMP (Project Management Professional) designation to be a certified project manager here at Heddle Shipyards and growing within that type of role.

Q: Do you feel that you are making a difference in your job?
I do, yeah. I think that the guys here are really willing to help in your development, and knowing that I am a younger female member of the team that does not have a lot of hands-on experience with tools and things like that presents them an opportunity to teach and mentor. And at the same time, I feel that I'm able to give them a little bit more technical justification on things and help them understand the administrative side as well as the engineering side of what we're asking them to do. So, I just feel it makes an overall difference on the project because we are working so well as a team and making sure that everybody is supported and is, in turn, supporting their team members.
Q: Are there any expectations you had about this career path that you have found differed from reality?
As I was the only girl in my graduating class, I had some expectations about what my career would be like as a young female. However, I'll be honest; I have had a very good experience overall being a young woman in the industry. I've worked with some great mentors, all of whom, for me, have been men. I think a big difference I found is that the pace is very different from what I anticipated. These projects can go on for a while, and you've got a slower pace sometimes, but once a project gets moving or is close to its scheduled end date, it can be quite manic. That's been a big adjustment, especially when you're used to a regimented school schedule. Right now, some days are just completely steady, you get your "x" number of tasks done, and then other days, you are purely drinking from the firehose. The variation of pace was not something I anticipated, but I do enjoy it.

“I'll be honest, I have had a very good experience overall being a young woman in the industry.”

Q: What skills are the most important to succeed in this career? What type of person do you need to be?

Number one is always going to be time management. If you can't manage your time, you are not going to be a very effective or appreciated team member. But I think that a bigger part of it is being a people person, especially in a client-interfacing role. You don't want to be somebody who always has to have the last word. You need to be able to know when to kind of let things go and step back so that other people can shine a little better while also ensuring you assert yourself when needed. Customers are trusting you to give them a sound and safe solution while also respecting a schedule and budget, so being able to work with different personalities is essential.

“If you can't manage your time, you are not going to be a very effective or appreciated team member.”

Q: What is the best advice you have for someone looking to choose Marine?
Be prepared to not always have the answer. There's just so much changing all the time in the marine industry that there's no way that any one person can know everything. You need to be able to ask the right questions and ask for help when you need it.
Speaking with Laura about her decision to pursue a career in marine was such a delight. Her story really speaks as to why you should “Imagine Marine” too!

Interested in how to become a Project Engineer in the marine industry? Find out more here.

Would you like to learn more about Laura’s work in marine? Then, make sure to check out Laura’s #LiveYourBestCareer video down below.

Author: Brian Affouan, Communications Specialist at CMCF
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