After getting married, a Merchant Marine transitioned to a shore job, designing ship interiors and systems.
What do you do? I’m a marine engineer [at Elliott Bay Design Group in Seattle]. I design the piping, HVAC and heavy-equipment systems that are installed on ships and barges.
What made you choose this career? I originally attended the California Maritime Academy so that I could simultaneously earn a mechanical engineering degree and a Merchant Marine engineering officer’s license. I knew that after I graduated, I wanted to sail the oceans and have grand adventures. And so I did, for several years.
But I eventually got married, and then it was time to transition to a new career ashore. Designing the interiors and systems for new ships was a natural progression from my former experience and education.
What’s a typical day like? Most days I’m at my computer working on the nitty-gritty technical details that go into engineering design work. However, several times a month, I head out to the local shipyards to check on the construction of new vessels. I might also be called out to visit a ship that has pulled into port and needs troubleshooting on a system failure or some other engineering support.
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What’s the best part of the job? Seeing the great progress in green technologies that are available to the marine industry. I get to design systems, like ballast-water treatment, that didn’t exist on the ships I sailed on less than 10 years ago.
What surprises people about your job? That despite the extensive capabilities of some of our software programs, just how much of the engineering work still starts with some scribbled algebra and a messy pencil sketch on graph paper.