Coming Ashore Podcast - Sinead Hailes

Posted on 17 March 2022 by Tom Saunders


On the next episode of the Coming Ashore podcast, Karen Waltham is joined by Coming Ashore mentor Sinead Hailes.

Would you rather listen? Listen on Spotify and ITunes. Or watch on Youtube.

Click here to find out more about the Coming Ashore programme. Where you'll find professional guidance, mentorship and work experience opportunities for transitioning to a career on land.

Karen Waltham:

Hi, Claire. Good morning. And my name's Karen Waltham. I've been working with the Marine Society now for a couple of years on the Coming Ashore Program. And I'm delighted to welcome Sinead Hales to join me today. Have just a chat about the mentoring scheme. Sinead recently joined as one of our mentors and it's great. I'd just like to have a chat through really a casual chat. Sinead, just talking about some questions about your background and things like that. So are you well this morning?

Sinead Hales:

I'm well, thank you. Yeah, it's lovely to see you again.

Karen Waltham:

And yourself. And yourself. And the sun shining, which is always good. So, first of all, I'd like to say thank you for signing up as a mentor, because it means an awful lot to those of who are looking for some mentoring support. And I know we talked about it, your own story. So just let's start by asking, just give us a back background to your career. Just a brief background to your career so far.

Sinead Hales:

So I've been in the Marine industry now for about 15 years. I started out as a deck officer cadet with a general cargo company and worked my way up to officer of the watch with them. Before I made that decision in my first contract at sea, it's not what I wanted to do.

Karen Waltham:

Right.

Sinead Hales:

So I took my first transition to shore. So it was very early on in my career when I came ashore and I worked with the general cargo company as a technical assistant for three years before I moved back to sea which not many people tend to do.

Karen Waltham:

So this is why I think your story is quite fascinating because people go, "Oh, I'm going from sea to shore." But when we spoke before, the fact that you do move from shore to sea and sea to shore back again. Sorry. So you went back to sea.

Sinead Hales:

I went back to sea to get my sea time to do my Chief Mates and then moved from general cargo to passenger ferries just for a bit of change of scenery. I thought it would be nice to do something else. And after three years, I came back from passenger ferries and now working in my current position for the last two to three years. So I've done multiple transitions from sea to shore.

Karen Waltham:

And what's your current position? Tell us a little bit more about your current position.

Sinead Hales:

So currently at the moment I am a QHSE manager and I'm the designated person ashore for a offshore energy support vessel company. We have a fleet of 15 crew transfer vessels, which include work boats and high speed craft. They tend to work on wind farms just off the east coast of the UK, but we do tend to work Irish sea up near Mersey. We can be in Germany, Holland. So wherever the work is, we go. So yes.

Karen Waltham:

Which is good. It's really interesting the fact that you have made these multiple decisions to move around during your career. And interesting, you made the point that it wasn't necessarily what you wanted to do when you made your first transition, because you'd didn't want to move into that particular role. You wanted to transit. Would it be fair to say that you were making your own decisions at each point? Or did you have a sort of a long term goal that you aimed for? Was it almost like as your career evolved?

Sinead Hales:

So I'd say it's evolved really. So when I first came ashore, I was 21. I moved from one country to go work on the Isle of Wight, knew no one. And it wasn't my attention to continue with being a seafarer. I didn't want go any higher than the officer of the watch tickets. But in my time ashore the first time, you had that, wasn't a pressure, you didn't have the knowledge and everyone is telling you that, "Oh, you need your next ticket in order to kind of go up the ranks." So I was being told that I couldn't go any higher than an assistant unless I got my Chief Mates and my master's ticket, which I know 10 years later, that's not the case. There are plenty of other options out there. You don't need that higher ticket to kind of work your way up in the Marine industry. As example, I don't hold a master's ticket. I no longer hold a valid CoC, but I am in the position that I am now because I've branched off in a different direction. I've gone [inaudible 00:04:49] safety route. Yeah.

Karen Waltham:

Yeah. Sorry. I interrupted there. Sorry. I think that's so true. And I think that's one of the things we've been talking about for many years. And I understand that some people have worked that route. So they've actually got their tickets in various ways. And then they've had very successful, shore-based jobs, and that's what they've used. But equally, it's really good to hear examples where people have now understood they don't necessarily need those. Did you enjoy the fact that you went back and you got the second ticket level? Was it something you really wanted? I mean, you had got some enjoyment out of it. Did you feel you learned despite your perhaps understanding you didn't need to do it and in retrospect you didn't need to do it? Did you still enjoy that time or was it sort of a...

Sinead Hales:

I enjoyed it. It was very stressful. Very different to going for your office of the watch, which of course you're doing over a period of three to four years where for me, my Chief Mates was condensed into four months. You're studying for exams, studying for orals, so it can be quite intense and stressful. But I also find that, that transition early on in my career to come ashore, it gave me that understanding and background as well of how the office management side is with the vessels. Where up until that point, you're only seeing one side. So you're seeing both sides. And when I went back to see the second time, I understood how the management system worked on board because I knew what they did behind the scenes at the office. And it kind of gave me that understanding for the management system as well.

Karen Waltham:

And that probably helped people and your other crew members on board in terms of being able to help and advise and having a different viewpoint in fact of somebody who had worked ashore to actually go back to sea with a different set of eyes as well. So again, beneficial for both sides actually.

Sinead Hales:

Yes, it is because I was able to give them advice and instruct them on how to do it, rather than just reading it from a manual. I was actually able to physically give them that background of, "Well, this is the process from A through to B and through to C." So it gave them a better understanding as well.

Karen Waltham:

Yeah. In terms of the help that you had when you moved ashore or on the different section or different times that you moved ashore, how much help do you feel you had or was it down to you? It's kind of a loaded a question there, but in terms of what did you feel it was your own, you were driven yourself or did you find you had others who were around who could support you and did help you?

Sinead Hales:

No, it was just myself. I didn't have anyone that I could go to for advice. I didn't have anyone that I could say, well, what other routes could I go down if I didn't want to go back to sea? Or what was available to me, especially funding or what I've noticed now, as well as a lot of colleges and academies, they're introducing the distance learning courses, which wasn't available when I was at sea. So of course, if you were to come ashore, it felt like you had to start from scratch again to branch off elsewhere.

Karen Waltham:

The other thing we hear a lot is that people don't necessarily understand the different roles that are around. And you've kind of alluded to that at the beginning. So in terms of the breadth of opportunities, do you feel that you suddenly realized there was more opportunities once you are ashore what you can't see?

Sinead Hales:

Yes. There is. When you're at sea, all you would see is maybe what you could do in the force or being a ship agent or a ship charter, a ship broker, insurance, but you don't actually see everything that goes on in the background. You could go off and if you wanted to teach, you could teach STCW courses. You could lecture at the maritime academies.you could present courses. I've been very lucky that in my current role, my employers, they're very heavy on CPD, on the continual professional development. And with their support, I've been able to go on and get my NEBOSH. And they're currently supporting me through my diploma now as well in occupational health and safety. So although I'm still in the maritime industry, I've taken a completely different route with it and my company is supporting me. And I think that's what people don't understand as well. Is that a good employer, if you're transitioning, they should be supporting you in that transition and helping you and giving you the tools that you need to develop yourself.

Karen Waltham:

Yes, exactly. And I think many more people are irrespective of whether people are planning to do it ahead, or whether they're just making that knee jerk reaction. So enough is enough and make that transition. And also really refreshing to know, as you say, you don't have to get your master's tickets to actually go ashore. There are so many opportunities whenever the time's right. And I think in this day and age, more people are looking to transit when they're ready, when it suits them and not when it suits potentially the business or potentially the certification levels.

Sinead Hales:

Yeah. Like in my current role as DPA, I don't hold a master's ticket, but I have a lot of responsibility.

Karen Waltham:

Yeah. Yeah.

Sinead Hales:

For our company and the safety of our vessels and the safety of our crew, that does fall down to me. I have the authority and so on through the ISM code. So I have quite a high level position without a master's ticket. So it is doable and people shouldn't be afraid to think, "Oh, I need my master's ticket in order to be able to do that," because maybe that employer would like you to have a master's ticket where you don't have to have it.

Karen Waltham:

And I totally agree. And it's so refreshing. So thank you very much, indeed. So just in terms of being a mentor, we've delighted to have you to sign up, we're looking for mentors all the time. But to have people with your experiences is refreshing especially in supporting others that are coming through. So in terms of what you can offer as a mentor, what do you think is it that other than as you've explained your background, well, how do you feel you want to support others coming through?

Sinead Hales:

I'd like to provide them with the guidance that I didn't get early on in my career. And also to tell them my experiences and my stories and what I've learned and possibly how I would've done things differently, but also to give them a different perspective on things. Because there is that set route, isn't there? You do your office of the watch, your chief mates, your masters, and that's it. Now, if you can't afford to go and do your chief mates, there are other options out there for you. You could maybe go for a lower master's ticket. And those things, not many people are aware of because you're set on that one route and one route only, and that's how you can get to it. So I do want to get across my experiences. I also have a wealth of knowledge from the different roles that I've done over the years as well.

Karen Waltham:

Yeah.

Sinead Hales:

Yeah. And the lessons that I've learned from it.

Karen Waltham:

Perfect. Perfect. Any golden nuggets or advice for anyone that's listening to this? Any little golden nuggets that you can offer?

Sinead Hales:

Oh, I would just say, don't be afraid to put yourself out there because if people want one thing, you might absolutely amaze them by your experiences. Just because you don't have a particular diploma or a particular degree or ticket, don't be afraid to take risk and put yourself out there if you believe that that's the right job for you.

Karen Waltham:

Perfect. That's very good advice. And thank you very much. Well, Sinead, thank you so much for speaking to me today. I've really enjoyed the conversation and I really hope that you'll be inspiring and encouraging others. And what I would say to others who are watching this podcast, is that they might become mentors themselves once they've perhaps transitioned ashore. So we look forward to others coming on board. So this is Karen Waltham and Sinead Hales. It was a great conversation. Thanks very much, indeed. Thanks. Thanks, Sinead. Thanks very much.

Sinead Hales:

Thank you very much, Karen.