Haley Shepherd – BSc (Hons) Navigation and Maritime Science graduate

Current employer: Sailing Yacht

Current job title: Navigation Officer

Current location: Lau Group, Fiji

“I am continually meeting students from my course and other marine courses in ports all over the world. Even here in Fiji! Plymouth University is creating a fantastic group of professional alumni working within various maritime sectors.”
Tell us about your career path since graduation.

Since graduation I have worked on several sailing boats including a Dutch tall ship, a J-Class, and a classic schooner. After completing the required time at sea, lots of coursework, and studying really hard, I was able to undertake the Officer of the Watch oral exam. This enabled me to progress from working as a deckhand to my first job as an Officer on board a classic schooner sailing around the world. I’m currently in Fiji, but my next stop is New Zealand.

How has your degree helped/influenced your career path?

Studying navigation and maritime science prepared me really well for my current career path, not only for undertaking professional qualifications but also by preparing me for the practical side of working within the industry. Working as an Officer entails a great deal of responsibility and the lectures really helped me to recognise the need for a proactive and professional approach to this role.  

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

Working as a Navigation Officer and operating in the outlaying Fijian Islands with extremely unreliable chart data has been challenging. Even with a crew member at the top of the mast it can be very difficult to spot coral heads.

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

The most exciting thing that I have done is sailing in Bermuda on board a J-Class to promote the 2018 Americas Cup Regatta, alongside Team USA in today’s Americas cup foiling catamaran. Well, it’s either that or ripping the main sail during the St Barts Regatta on board a Classic Schooner. I reckon that the best thing that I have done is to deliver aid to a group of islands in Fiji called the Lou Group after Cyclone Winston hit the Islands earlier this year.  

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

The time I spent at university seemed to fly by and looking back I wish I had really utilised the fantastic resources available at university from the books in the library, ECDIS lab, access to online journals, and the lectures themselves. I wish I had asked more questions.

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

The superyacht sector is developing quickly with a high volume of people looking for work. My only advice is to have a professional attitude and work hard.  

What lessons/skills did you gain from your course?

The course really helped to build my confidence, improve my public speaking, and develop my time-management and group work skills.

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

Yes, I spent 12 months working on board a 52m Sailing Yacht, sailing in the Mediterranean and Caribbean. This allowed me to put into practice what I had learnt during the first year and second year of university. Working within the industry also highlighted the importance of what was being taught at university and I returned to Plymouth determined and ready to learn.

What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?

The best part of studying at Plymouth was meeting so many like-minded people and being a part of the University Yacht Club and Sailing Club (with great socials and some top sailing).

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

Yes. I am continually meeting students from my course and other marine courses in ports all over the world. Even here in Fiji! Plymouth University is creating a fantastic group of professional alumni working within various maritime sectors: it is a great network to be a part of and I hope it continues to flourish.

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

Yes, it’s a great place to study, particularly for marine courses. Plymouth has so much maritime history: it has a fantastic environment in which to live, continuing to uphold its reputation as a seafaring town with a great vibe. I found the lecturers’ enthusiasm for seafaring inspiring, which has helped me to develop a professional career within the maritime sector.