Mentoring Stories - Captain Alexandra Hagerty
In the next in our series of Mentoring Stories, member of The Nautical Institute Younger Member Council, Captain Alexandra Hagerty shares her experiences with mentoring throughout her career...
Working at sea can be challenging, and much depends upon on the crew’s morale and their day-to-day interactions. I have worked on various vessels operated under contract with the American Maritime Officers (AMO) union, including crane ships, oceanographic survey vessels, government roll-on/roll-off vessels, government steamships and now a surge sealift large medium-speed ro-ro (LMSR), which is 908 feet (277m) long.
Over the years I have had some excellent mentors. I have, in turn, learned to be a leader at work and to be a mentor on my own ship with cadets on board for training cruises.
While I was sailing on USNS Bowditch, the Captain, Alexander Kepchar, brought his calming personality to the job, as well as an open attitude and a constant willingness to teach, answer questions and be involved. Even when we were moving cargo or dealing with the challenging COVID-era situation in Japan, he was able to demonstrate true leadership in a way that reinforced confidence in him among the crew and the scientists working aboard the vessel.
I have taken several leaves from his book, applying his examples in the way I run safety meetings, training and drills on board my vessel as Captain. I am thankful for his willingness to teach and share lessons he learned while growing up abroad, an experience that gave him an understanding of different cultures and customs. Being accustomed to working with people from every background proved useful, as our vessel’s crew was quite diverse. It had an upbeat vibe that kept the crew coming back year after year.
Other mentors I have had the privilege of knowing are Captain Kathleen Friel and Peter Hyams, both of whom are instructors at the AMO Safety and Education Plan’s Simulation, Training, Assessment and Research (STAR) Center.
Kathleen taught the stability, meteorology and cargo courses for my upgrade from Second Mate to Chief Officer. She took time to refresh my memory and knowledge while working through the equations and sample US Coast Guard exam questions. Her assistance while I was in training was a tremendous asset when I sat for the nine three-hour exams that were required for me to upgrade to an unlimited tonnage Chief Officer/Master Mariner Licence.
Peter taught my Radar/ARPA, ECDIS and Train the Trainer (TTT) courses. The TTT course teaches the leadership skills of organising training sessions and effective public speaking. For a Chief Officer or Captain, this is a skillset that comes into its own when there’s a need to train the crew in, for example, the use of life-saving equipment, company and IMO policies, and new rules and regulations. The class made me evaluate how I can better encourage people - especially my crew - to speak up, ask questions and become involved in insightful discussion.
Numerous courses and many hours of training at STAR Center, combined with my experience, have contributed to the way I lead my crew. I truly believe that people do not become leaders by themselves, but through teamwork and observation, learning and experience - good and bad. No one makes it to the top alone.
Then-Chief Officer Alexandra Hagerty worked with SUNY Maritime cadets aboard the Ready Reserve Force ship Cape Washington in July 2020. Deck cadets led a training meeting on safety equipment and lifesaving appliances for the ship’s crew, in addition to tracing various systems of the ship.
Captain Kathleen Friel was among members of American Maritime Officers who participated in the tenth annual Maritime Industry Congressional Sail-In in March 2019. More than 150 representatives from a wide spectrum of the US maritime industry met members of Congress and their staffs on Capitol Hill, Washington DC.
STAR Center Instructor Peter Hyams (second from right) conducted Integrated Bridge Systems training for AMO members aboard the natural gas-powered combination container and ro-ro El Coquí during a voyage from San Juan to Jacksonville in May 2019.
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