When you’re new to a city, the way you get to know other people within your industry is networking. No-one knows this better than Fiona Rush, who is launching a Glasgow chapter of the women-in-shipping network, WISTA.
When speaking to Fiona (pictured right), who works in operations for V Ships, she talks about how people in the South forget just how many companies there are within the shipping industry in Scotland. She is keen to raise Scotland’s profile as a true maritime hub, and give women who work in the industry a chance to connect with each other just like WISTA UK’s other members can in London and Southampton.
Fiona is the first woman to work in her current position as Commercial Ship Operator at V Ships, and she’s hopeful that things will change, with more women coming into the industry. “I feel a responsibility for other women in shipping,” she says, “to prove that we can work well in these positions, that we’re more than capable!”
WISTA is the perfect way to catch up with what other women are achieving within shipping. “It’s not a touchy subject anymore,” Fiona says. “It’s starting to evolve. And WISTA is a real collective – you wouldn’t believe how much it’s grown over the past few years.”
Fiona is a great success story, and wants to be seen as a campaigner for women in the industry. In fact she credits networking and “getting myself out there, not falling at the first hurdle” as how she made her way into shipping. Growing up in Northern Ireland post peace-process, career options were limited, but Fiona wanted to get out into the world. Despite no family ties to the sea, the Titanic was built in Fiona’s hometown and she felt a connection with shipbuilding. Fiona soon made her way into hospitality management. “The cruise industry seemed like a great way to have a job, travel, and meet people all in one,” Fiona remembers. “I got a scholarship after getting an interview with Maritime London. I just did not give up – I was certainly determined!” She then went on to sail on 9 different ships.
But once Fiona had qualified, she struggled to get her first contract as a 3rd Officer. She was working for Shell, at sea, sailing the largest gas tankers in the world. She spoke at a conference about her struggle to gain a shore-based position without a Master Mariner's ticket: “It was a frustrating situation for me. I had this qualification that I’d broken my back to get, and it cost a lot of money, and still I couldn’t get hired. I again channelled into social media, approaching people for advice and after explaining what I wanted from a career within the shipping industry” Fiona was looking for a role which would benefit from her experience and satisfy her needs for a varied job. “Many people told me that an operational role would suit me best,” she says, “but told me I would struggle without the Master's ticket. It was Spinnaker that introduced me to V.Ships, who gave me this fantastic opportunity.”
Now, Fiona mentors cadets, helping them, giving introductions, not in an official capacity but through word of mouth and through social media. “I wanted there to be a better avenue for them to be able to find me.” WISTA Glasgow will be a great platform for Fiona to meet other women in shipping, and encourage them to help the next generation of female cadets.
If you’d like to know more about WISTA Glasgow, or would like join, you can contact Fiona direct at [email protected].