Officer class? Launch your career here

Engineering: engages hands and brain, creative, technical, tick tick tick. But exciting? Narcotics hunting, ship deconstructing, world travel exciting? Probably not.Unless you thought about joining the Royal Navy.

Lieutenant Fiona Haynes did.

“I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do but I wanted to do something engineering-based," she told Student & Young Professional. "I spent a week of work experience in London and after that I definitely knew I didn’t want to work in an office. When I got [a] leaflet from the Royal Navy I enquired further and it seemed to me that a career in the Service fitted the bill.”

As a Marine Engineer Officer onboard ship, Fiona, 28 (pictured above), has been able to travel all over the world. She has been to the Caribbean twice on counter-narcotics and humanitarian operations and she took part in an amphibious exercise in Sierra Leone. She says: “I was bitten by the travel bug at a young age and the Royal Navy has given me the opportunity to travel to many different places, which is great.”

She joined the Royal Navy in 1999 as an Officer Cadet and following a year of basic Officer training went to Cambridge University to study engineering for four years. In 2004 she started her professional engineering training with the Royal Navy and has been working as a Marine Engineer Officer ever since. She has learned French and Spanish with the Service, and joined the female bobsleigh team., travelling to Canada, Austria and Italy to take part in competitions against the Army and RAF.

Adrenaline rush

She says: “The Royal Navy really encourages people to take part in sport. I wanted to do bobsleighing because it’s the ultimate adrenaline rush. It’s great fun taking part in Inter-Service competitions because you get to mix with the different services and learn each others' similarities and differences.”  

Not all roles are onboard: at present she is head of the Eastern England Royal Navy Presentation Scheme and the role requires her to visit colleges and schools to tell students about life as an engineer in the Royal Navy. She sets them leadership tasks and engineering challenges to see if they have the potential to work as an engineer in the Service.

Ship (re)building

Previously, she has spent a year taking a ship through a refit period in Plymouth. This involved taking the ship apart while in dock and fixing any engineering problems so it can get back out to sea.

Although the good times far outweigh the bad, Fiona acknowledges that a career in the Royal Navy isn’t all plain sailing. After university she had to complete her Assistant Marine Engineer Officer training on HMS Somerset and she found balancing revising for her exams and fulfilling her day-to-day work onboard ship extremely tough.

After successfully completing her training she progressed to being Ships Services Engineer Officer onboard HMS Ocean, where she was responsible for a range of ships services, including water production, sewage, hull structure, refrigeration and fire fighting systems.  

Fiona believes the main attributes of a successful Marine Engineer Officer are being a team worker, having excellent communication skills and a good technical aptitude.

Be yourself

She was also given a piece of valuable advice by a Royal Navy friend before she joined. She says: “My friend said that I should ‘be myself’. I think that’s especially important for women in the Royal Navy – you don’t have to act like someone else or be like a man, as you can bring different skills and experiences to the role which are extremely useful.”

Fiona feels that the best part of her job is the variety it offers: she can change roles every two years, and due to start a new job in September - although she’s not sure what she’ll be doing.

This suits her, though, as it adds to the excitement of her job. She says: “I could be Head of Department on a small ship like a patrol vessel or I could be Second Head of Department on a big ship like a frigate or destroyer. Or I could even have a shore-based role where I’d act as a point of contact for ships out at sea. I’m really excited about starting something new as I love change. I have a really low boredom threshold and the fact my role is always changing is one of the reasons I joined the Royal Navy in the first place.

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