Gemma Waterfield

Year of graduation: 2013

Current Employer: Carnival UK

Current Job Title: Fleet HR Business Partner

Current Location: Southampton

“I completed a placement year with P&O Cruises as a Hotel Officer Cadet… This benefited me so much as it gave me a thorough understanding of the whole cruise operation and also helped me to secure my role before I graduated.”
Tell us about your career path since graduation.

I had a guaranteed a job with my placement year employer, P&O Cruises, and went back to work on board for just under two years, working in various Hotel Officer roles. I then took the plunge to leave my career at sea and was successful in a shore side role with Carnival UK as an Assistant Hotel Services Manager. After being in this role for a year I was approached for a role in HR and I am now the Fleet HR Business Partner supporting the HR function on board our ships.

How has your degree helped/influenced your career path?

My degree has helped to influence my career path as it is very relevant to the industry in which I work. Although I have moved over to HR, my on board experience has helped me to understand the whole operation and this has definitely helped me in my current role and my ability to understand other departmental needs. The modules I studied during my time at Plymouth have also helped me to understand the theory behind the business.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

I would say the most challenging thing I have faced was when I had been in my current role for just a few months and I went on board to cover the HR Manager role as part of the Senior Management Team for three and a half weeks. I dealt with disciplinary sessions, chaired the Seafarers Welfare Committee meeting, delivered training to officers and SMT, and dealt with crew queries which were usually emotional issues which arise from working and living in such a unique environment. The experience was very beneficial and has helped me a lot within my current role.

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

The best and most exciting thing I have done in my career was when I was able to see our newest ship, Britannia, into the fleet in March, 2015. The whole lead up to the launch was both exciting and made me feel proud to work for Carnival UK. The inaugural week gave us the opportunity to go on board for the evening to be wined, dined, and entertained. Watching Her Majesty the Queen name the ship was a very patriotic moment and it was amazing to see the results of the hard work the entire company had put in over the years to achieve Britannia’s success.  

Imagine you were about to start university again - with the benefit of hindsight - what would you now tell yourself to have done differently?

If I am honest, I am not sure I would have done anything differently. I took every opportunity that came my way and ensured that I used my summers to gain valuable work experience that helped me to gain my placement year. For example, during the first year of university, I worked for TUI UK (Thomson & Firstchoice) as a holiday advisor in Cyprus where I gained some invaluable experiences.

If you were just about to graduate again, what would you do differently?

When I was about to graduate I was lucky enough to have a job with P&O Cruises and therefore I didn’t look at any other opportunities. I now love working for Carnival UK but, with hindsight, I would probably have looked at what other options were available as I see graduate programmes all the time and they sound so exciting and interesting.  

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

My advice would be to get as much work experience as possible in order to make your application stand out over other students; for example, getting summer jobs in hotels or even working a few hours whilst studying in the relevant field. I think it’s also very important to build good relationships with both your lecturers and peers whilst at university in order to give you the best possible experience. Take every opportunity that comes your way and never say never!

What lessons/skills did you gain from your course?

I gained lots of skills including, team work, essay writing, why research is important, and presentation skills to name but a few.

Did you undertake a placement during your degree and if so, how did this benefit you?

Yes, I completed a placement year with P&O Cruises as a Hotel Officer Cadet. This involved two rotations – four months for each working across all hotel departments on board, including housekeeping, reception, and F&B. I spent around two to three weeks in each job role, starting with the entry level jobs. I even spent three weeks as a chef in the galley! This benefited me so much as it gave me a thorough understanding of the whole cruise operation and also helped me to secure my role before I graduated.

What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?

My favourite memory of studying at Plymouth would have to be my graduation day. Having worked extremely hard during my time at Plymouth it was a fantastic day of celebrating my success and that of my fellow peers.

Do you stay in touch with other University of Plymouth alumni or lecturers?

Yes, I regularly see friends who I met during my time at the University of Plymouth. I also keep in touch with my lecturers and have even been back to be a guest lecturer for final and second-year students.

Would you recommend undertaking a course with the University of Plymouth, and why?

I would highly recommend undertaking a course with the University of Plymouth. I don’t think that I would be in the position I am today if I hadn’t studied at Plymouth.

Cruise Ship photo c/o istock