Meet Melissa Harris from Charleston, South Carolina. Melissa is a graduate of Trident Technical College with an A.A. in Public Service, and is also a graduate of Limestone College with a B.A. in Criminal Justice. Melissa has experience working as a 911 Operator, Administrative Specialist for County Council, and an Administrative & Field Specialist for a State Probation/Parole Department. She currently works as a Rig Administrator (rig admin) on a drillship in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) with around 5 years of offshore work experience.

As a rig admin, Melissa’s duties include tracking over 180 employee’s work schedules. She organizes transportation for crew members to and from the rig, as well as coordinates with third party companies to ensure their technicians have all the necessary certifications to board the vessel. It is also her responsibility to make sure that everyone who is scheduled to embark and disembark the rig is on the helicopter manifest for the correct date. Melissa quips, “Who wants their name missed on that list, at the end of a 21-day hitch, huh?”

We wanted to learn even more about Melissa’s offshore career, here are her answers, in her own words:

Melissa, besides managing your crew’s transportation to and from your rig, what else does your job entail?

“I manage on board accommodations for up to 200 people. The primary function of my job is to maintain an accurate persons on board (POB) list. I am also involved with radio communications during weekly safety drills, to ensure accurate head counts, in the event of an emergency.”

What inspired you to work on the water?

“I really did not know what I was getting myself into! I was recruited by a friend of a friend. Before I knew it, I was on a ship, submerged in this wonderful experience of a lifetime!

Please tell us about your most memorable experience.

“My most memorable experience would have to be the transit we took from Korea to the GOM over the course of several months on a new ship. I was fortunate enough to travel overseas to see the ship being constructed, then travel for several hitches, with the crew from port to port. I’ll never forget the blue waters of the Indian Ocean or participating in the Shellback Ceremony, commemorating my first crossing of the Equator.”

What motivates you to continue working on the water if it’s a long-term career for you?

“What motivates me is when someone simply asks me about my job and they seem so interested in my offshore life. The story I begin to tell makes it hard for me to believe it myself. I fly to work in a helicopter, live on a ship for a three week hitch, my work is challenging yet engaging, the money is good, and the TIME OFF is even better!”

What challenges have you faced in your career?

“For me it would have to be the delicate balance of my work life and my personal life. I’ve been married to my supportive husband for 17 years. I am also a mother of two daughters, ages 15 & 21. My husband works hard and is wonderful at maintaining the household. He takes the youngest to her school concerts and practices. He tries to make birthdays and holidays special, even when I am offshore. The girls really help out when I am not home too. They cook, clean, and care for our pets. In fact, when I do go home every three weeks, I often have to remind them that, “I am mom and I can handle it!” While on the rig, I am often seen as the rig mom. Here too, when challenges arise or stereotypes prevail, I have to remind myself that I have a job to do and I can handle it. I want both of my daughters to realize that they can do anything they want to do. They need to see that the balance between work and family can be accomplished with dedication.”

What do you think can be done in your industry to encourage more women to pursue similar careers?

“Women Offshore is a good supportive resource for those of us out here now. We need to continue to encourage others to take the initiative for advancement opportunities, become goal-oriented and be a pillar of support for other women in the industry.”

Thank you, Melissa, for answering our questions! We appreciate you and wish you the best of luck in your career!