How I Made It

Amy Durrah, Industrial Electrician

FLARE #HowIMadeIt celebrates 100+ talented, ambitious and driven Canadian women with cool jobs. Want what Amy has? Here's how she did it

Amy Durrah posing in her Navy uniform

Amy Durrah; Halifax; @amydurrah

Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?

I would tell you that I’m a sailor onboard a Canadian warship. My job is to actively maintain all of the major electrical systems, as well as the main control systems on the ship.

Where did you go to school and what did you study?

Before joining the military, I attended Nova Scotia Community College in Sydney, NS. I graduated from the electro-mechanical technician program in 2005

What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)

My first paying gig would be the one I am still doing to this day.

What was your BIG break? How did you land it?

My biggest break so far in my career would have to be landing the position of IPMS Tech (IPMS is basically the central instrument that controls the ship) onboard the H.M.C.S Montreal. I spent months shadowing the previous IPMS Tech; working non-stop, vying for the chance to be nominated for the course. It’s been a wonderful opportunity for me.

Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?

Well, initially I was told that I wouldn’t be able to take the IPMS course, which was incredibly disappointing. I didn’t want to take no for an answer, this was an opportunity I was not only qualified for, but really wanted. I decided to keep trying, as this was the direction I wanted my career to go. Eventually I was nominated, and selected, for the next course. It was a very exciting day!

What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?

My first supervisory position was tough. I had to adjust from being friends and equals with my peers, to being their supervisor. Trying to maintain the same level of friendship made adjusting and learning my new job extra difficult. This unfortunately caused my performance to suffer. I wouldn’t say I bounced back from it right away; it took a lot of mentoring from my previous supervisors, as well as watching those around me. I eventually came up with my own management style that I felt comfortable with, that still gets the job done.

Name one piece of career advice you always give.

I tell everyone, all the time (especially new recruits), to ignore what everyone else is saying, and form your own opinions of this job, because negative opinions and attitudes can make or break it for you.

What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?

“Look out for number one.” You will never be great at what you do if you only look out for yourself.  On the ship, we are a family and we need to always look out for and take care of one another.

Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?

The biggest barrier for me, especially early on in my career, was fitting in without having to change who I was and what my values were. I really struggled with that. A male dominated industry can be a cliquey one, and when you stand out for any reason, let alone being female, there is a lot of pressure to conform to a certain stereotype. I realized that no one could fault me for my work ethic, so I just worked hard and treated people with respect.  It eventually paid off.

Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it

I think I do get paid very fairly for my job.  It’s a good wage with good benefits such as health/dental care, lots of vacation time and earned time off, and of course, a pension.

What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?

This is a harsh one, but, the worst I’ve heard is that we’re “useless.” And I don’t believe that for a second.

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