Published: 31st October 2017
Love at first sea, south India's first female marine engineer discusses her voyage into unchartered waters
Nila John speaks about her journey and her belief that women can change the world, one career move at a time
Becoming a Marine Engineer was never in her itinerary, but Nila John fell in love with the sea on her first visit to the Cochin University of Science and Technology. “When I saw the ship in our university, I knew that it was for me. I spoke to professors and they gave me an idea of what to expect from the course and the risks that come with it. After gathering all the facts, I still wanted to do it,” recollects Nila.
In her first year, Nila had a hard time fitting in with her 69 male batchmates. Having to live separately and adjust to resources that were previously used only by male students, it took her some time to catch up, she admits. The course primarily dealt with basic subjects like sea survival and Nila’s interest grew as the days went by.
My family wasn’t very sure of it in the beginning. We visited several education consultants and they all advised me against it. My teachers in college made it clear that there were no women and that I would have to figure out a lot of things on my own.By the second year, people got to know me and they knew that I was just as determined as they were and that I wasn’t any different from them
Nila John, Marine Engineer
Having learnt the tricks of the trade, Nila believes that being a woman may have actually been a crucial reason for her success. “Most of what we do in the course takes place in the engine room. I think that women have an alertness and a systematic approach that will benefit everyone,” she opines. And she is confident that the world of Marine Engineering will change for the better with more female cadets like herself.
And where does she see herself in the future? “Out at sea, hopefully!” she says, without batting an eyelid, “I’m hoping to be part of a team sailing out in a passenger vessel to Lakshadweep for two months. But if that doesn’t work out, I will begin training for the navy, although that would mean that I cannot go out to the sea. The navy though is another area that needs to accommodate more women as soon as possible.”