The business of Naval Architecture & Marine Engineering has for the most part always been a man’s domain. Although staff at design firms has always included women for their renowned creativity, the technical aspects were strictly “man’s stuff”. Only in the last 10 years or so we’ve seen this start to change and markedly for the better.
Rather suddenly we experienced a significant female presence also in the marine technical areas of both commercial & pleasure vessels. Today, an increasing number of technical staff are women, bringing a diverse set of talents and experience to the marine industry.
Also Palumbo SY Refit Ancona, always on the cutting edge, moved with the times and in 2018 hired their first technical female employee. Let’s get to know Project Manager Elena Savino through the following interview.
Q. Nowadays an increasing number of women get jobs in Marine Engineering – what made you do so?
A. It all started from the small outboard on which my family used to spend summer along the Cilento coast, hence my love for mooring operations and maintenance works. Then, from the age of about 6, in the winter my father began to take me to boat storage facilities rather than to the parks. Finally, in 1999 I visited my first boat show: in Genoa, during the peak of Italian boating, and it was then that I decided what I would do and where I would be once grown up.
Q. What specific aspect of your job do you like most?
A. The constant interaction with technicians, engineers, crews and all sorts of other professionals: it is a never-ending personal growth both on a technical and human level.
Q. What do you think you can bring to Palumbo SY Refit Ancona?
A. The enthusiasm and desire to leave an imprint each under-30 graduate has, especially in a shipyard structured like Palumbo SY Refit Ancona.
Q. What challenges are you looking for in your naval architect position?
A. Developing commercial awareness. I have an essentially technical training, which in my current customer-facing role is not enough as I appreciate that close customer relations represent a high-bandwidth mode of communication that, in turn, facilitates the successful execution of any job. So gaining commercial skills is definitely my next big challenge.
Q. Describe a typical work week for you at Palumbo SY Refit Ancona (Tell me how you organize, plan, and prioritize your work).
A. Each Friday, I schedule all the activities for the following week. Despite this, unpredictable requests/ problems arise virtually every day, often to be resolved within 24 hours. Therefore, I constantly divide myself between: scheduled tasks, supervision of work on board, project analysis, technical requests/consultations with suppliers, interacting with customers, budgeting and final balancing. Even if the required technical work is often the same, each order requires a different approach and a new executive diagram.
Q. What is your biggest weakness /strength? (energy, passion, charisma …)
A. The degree of humility of who constantly wishes to learn and improve.
Q. Tell me a time you worked in a team and had to persuade someone?
A. It is common for clients to have different opinions on the solutions proposed by the shipyard. However, in a particular instance, I had to stand my ground before an entire crew plus their management, requiring the application of a rather expensive procedure for analysis and testing of a problem encountered, contravening our primary rule of optimizing times and costs, especially when success isn’t guaranteed.
What saved me was the analytical method, the application of ‘reverse engineering’, that is: reconstructing the problem starting from the projects and working my way back to the cause. It was a long ‘arm wrestling’, but in the end the analysis won, confirmed by the good results in terms of considerable savings in costs and resources.
Key skills for naval architects
- effective technical skills
- IT skills
- problem-solving skills
- commercial awareness
- spatial awareness
- a meticulous attention to detail.