Case study: Lisa Wooderson


Lisa Wooderson is a marine engineer working in corporate shipbuilding at Carnival Corporation & Plc. Lisa is based in Southampton, but she travels to shipyards and goes on sea trials.

How did you become interested in maritime?

I’ve always been interested in how things work – and how to take them apart! After A levels, I did an apprenticeship with the Ministry of Defence. After nine months, I went to work on Portsmouth Naval Base, refitting Royal Navy vessels and carrying out repairs in dry dock. From this I gained an interest in marine engineering and decided to go to sea as an engineer.

What was your entry route?

Once I’d finished my apprenticeship, I went to uni to do a degree in marine engineering at the Southampton Institute (now Southampton Solent University). Whilst studying, I was a cadet with Cunard Line (now part of Carnival Corporation), which included a 13- month placement at sea, training as a watchkeeping and maintenance marine engineer. I achieved an NVQ in marine engineering and a Certificate of Competency with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to work as a seagoing engineer.

How has your career progressed so far?

Having been at sea for a while, I found a land-based job as a plan approval engineer for a classification society. I had to check that drawings and proposals for equipment and systems to be installed on ships were safe, environmentally sound and fit for purpose. I then found a job with a rudder design company. Whilst design wasn’t the career for me, I gained valuable experience. Next, I became a senior trainer for the Royal Navy, teaching artificers thermodynamics and fluid mechanics. I found this challenging, particularly as a female in a male-dominated environment, but it was also extremely rewarding. Having gained a variety of experience shoreside, I went back to sea as a marine engineer with P&O Cruises (again, part of Carnival Corporation) and not long afterwards moved into my current position in the new build department. I’m currently studying for a masters degree in engineering through the Open University.

What are your main responsibilities/tasks?

My main role is to check that drawings and specifications for equipment and systems in new cruise ships comply with regulations, and are safe, practical, environmentally sound, cost effective and fit for purpose. There’s usually scope for improvement, so I have to do research, including visiting suppliers. Whilst the ship is in build, I occasionally go to the shipyard to ensure that things are being fitted as agreed, and to help solve any problems. Following the build, I go on sea trials to check that all the equipment and systems work. 

What are the main qualities and skills you need to do your job? 

Engineering requires a logical mind and the ability to think outside the box. A certain amount of dedication to the career is required, but the rewards make this more than worthwhile.

Where do you see your career heading?

There are areas of marine engineering that I haven’t yet been involved in, but at the moment, my main goal is to obtain ‘Chartered status’, which will open up more doors.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy the challenges and variety – there’s always a problem to solve or something to research. The travel is a bonus, although it doesn’t always allow for sightseeing!

Do you have any tips for someone considering a similar career to yours?

Start by gaining as much experience as possible. This will also give you useful contacts. Don’t forget that there are different routes into engineering…you don’t have to do A levels – there are apprenticeship schemes and other vocational routes. That’s the great thing…it’s so flexible! Keep records of all your experience and training. Also keep your CV up to date and every now and then, look at jobs on offer to see what is happening in the industry. Most importantly, enjoy all the experiences and make the most of every opportunity that comes your way!