Meet Jessica Aberle from Warner Robins, Georgia. Jessica graduated from the US Merchant Marine Academy and currently holds a US Coast Guard Second Mate License for working on unlimited tonnage vessels. Jessica is on our team at WomenOffshore and we sat down with her to find out more about her life working offshore over the past 4 years:
Jessica, what inspired your career on the water?
“I was raised in a household with parents and three brothers who taught me that I was capable of pursuing a career in any industry. As I got older, I discovered USMMA (US Merchant Marine Academy) and the idea of the adventure of sailing port to port, seeing the world, was too much for me to resist. Kings Point was the only school I applied to, and was ecstatic when I received my acceptance letter. I majored in Maritime Transportation & Logistics and was lucky enough to travel around Asia and South America as a cadet. When it came time to apply for jobs, I decided on the offshore oil and gas industry. At that time there was a lot of opportunity for career progression. I fell in love with the schedule, the working environment and have worked offshore on semi-subs & drillships since graduation.”
What has been your most memorable experience?
“The most memorable experience in my career so far was picking up a newly built drillship in Singapore to be delivered to the Gulf of Mexico. I was onboard for the transit from Singapore to Cape Town and the working relationships that were formed during that time are some of the best I have ever experienced. There’s something to be said about the unity and comradery that comes from a group of people being thrown into a brand new project together, and successfully coming out the other side. Truly an incredible experience.”
If working on the water is a long-term career for you, what motivates you to continue on this career path?
“The thing that motivates me most in this career path is the idea that by working hard and performing to the best of my ability, it helps pave the way for other women starting out their offshore careers and be accepted and respected by the men who dominate our industry. For every incredible woman that dedicates her career to working offshore, it slowly helps turn the tide towards making the industry a more female-friendly working environment. That is a really motivating concept to me.”
What challenges have you faced in your career?
“I feel as though most women in the industry will have the same answer to this question: Sexism. From day one of working in the industry, I felt as though I had to work twice as hard to be taken half as seriously.”
What do you think can be done by your industry to encourage more women to pursue similar careers?
“Additionally, I feel as though there is a certain amount of sexual harassment that we women are expected to just let roll off our backs. Whether it’s a male coworker casually commenting on your body or something more serious.
I was removed from my first rig to be protected from sexual harassment. Another crew member got a hold of my personal email from an email that was sent to the entire crew. That person began to send explicit content and overt sexual comments/threats to my personal email. On top of being a traumatic experience, it was also the closest I have ever come to quitting my job.
For the record, I’m so glad I didn’t. I will say that my Captain and Chief Mate took care of the situation professionally and swiftly – I was on a boat home that night and relocated to another rig within a few weeks. That being said, I do know of other women in the industry who have experienced much worse, and it is something that really isn’t discussed in a serious or constructive way.”
What words of advice would you give someone starting out in your industry?
“I think that the first step for companies to take is amp up diversity through recruitment. It is necessary to recognize the importance of intersectionality here, and companies need to diversify with minorities of all walks of life. While the focus of WomenOffshore is obviously women, it is important to diversify the working environment in every way. Every person has a different perspective and different experiences, which is especially true of groups of minority. This diversity, both in perspective and experience, increases understanding and acceptance. In a diverse working environment, everyone learns from one another. This type of environment encourages collaboration and cooperation.”
I heard this quote once:
‘You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.’
I think this quote is appropriate to the perspective to need to have as a woman working offshore, but also in any industry you may work in: You can be great at your job; you can be an excellent communicator; you can be a great manager or team member; but there will always be someone to whom that will still not be good enough. Not everyone will like you, but there is no reason to let that affect your mindset or your work ethic. Work hard and contribute to the best of your ability, and block out those that want to see you fail.”
Is there anything else you would like to share with Women Offshore?
“I’m extremely excited to see where WomenOffshore will go. I think it is an incredible and necessary resource and I am excited to contribute in whatever way I can.”
Thank you, Jessica, for answering our questions! We greatly appreciate your perspective and wish you the best in your career!