The term “it’s a man’s world” does not faze Sandals’ Marine Division’s only female shipwright, Erica Taylor. Instead, it motivates her.
Taylor has always had a passion for conquering skills traditionally associated with men so it’s therefore no surprise that she bears the distinction of the first and only female shipwright in the resort company’s Marine Division – a 16-man strong operation.
Erica first joined the Sandals team at Sandals Montego Bay in her teenage years as a housekeeper on work experience. She left to complete her exams and moved on to other opportunities but always had a love for the auto-mechanic field.
Having a father who was a mechanic, Erica wanted to learn the trade from an early age but was told “this a nuh fi woman Erica, after you a nuh tomboy” and was turned away.
That however did not deter her. She soon joined her brother-in-law in an auto mechanic shop where she finally learned and mastered the skill.
“I remember when I first went there and told him I was ready to learn and he asked if I was sure,” she recalled.
“I told him ‘I am so sure that I am ready, that I left my job and now want to do this fully’ and then he said to me ‘I am not going to give you a fish, I am going to teach you how to fish’ and I knew what it meant; it was up to me to learn what he had to teach and benefit from it myself,” she added.
Mastered the craft
Erica mastered her craft in the buffing and polishing of vehicles and went back to work with Sandals at the Marine Division as a Spray Painter in 2008.
She was also tasked with the duty of buffing and polishing the luxury vehicles used for the airport transfer of VIP resort guests. Erica did not settle there however, and desired to learn the art of being a shipwright.
Through on-the-job-training and by shadowing her seniors, Taylor quickly learnt the skills needed.
As a shipwright, she is responsible for boat restorations, fibreglass installations, ship hauling and spray painting the company’s land and marine vessels.
Holding her own
These responsibilities also require her to be knowledgeable in ship building. Taylor is responsible for ensuring that all boats are in prime condition and though her job primarily involves taking care of the hull of the boats, she intends to learn how to maintain engines in the future.
Erica is holding her own in the field and on the job but she revealed.
“It’s hard to survive as a female in a man’s world. I have to constantly prove myself so they know I am not here to play,”
Ironically, the thing she loves most about her job is being the only female on the team. “Knowing I am the only female amongst all those males and I’m still doing well is definitely what I love most about my job,” she said beaming with pride.
Director of the Marine Division, David Bell, confirmed Erica’s commendable work ethic and hailed her as a key member of the team.
He shared, “Erica is very dependable. I can ask her to do anything and I know it will be done as long as she understands the request. She is always interested in furthering her knowledge and always jumps at training opportunities. She motivates the rest of the team. I know her capabilities and she’s quite well versed in what she’s doing. In fact, we’re about to give her added responsibilities here at the Boatyard.”
Learnt a lot of skills
Taylor admits that she has learnt a lot since being employed at the Marine Division, including the skill of servicing vehicles and through the company’s cross-training programme, she has even learnt bartending.
“I went to a staff party once at the corporate office and I noticed they could use some help in the bar,” she said. “I went to the event coordinator, and I asked him if I could assist and he said sure. By the end of the night, he was pushing me to get certified in the area through the Cross Training Programme because he said I handled myself very well”.
Taylor, after some consideration and having enjoyed the time spent in the bar, decided to get certified in bartending at Sandals Montego Bay. “I worked at the Marine Division from 8 am to 4 pm and then I would go over to Sandals Montego Bay and start my training by 4:30 pm until 11 pm every day as I needed to complete a total of 180 hours for my certification,” she said.
“Sometimes I didn’t get home until midnight but I didn’t mind because I wanted it and they say ‘if yuh want good yuh nose haffi run’”. Now a fully trained bartender, Erica finds joy in providing service from behind the bar, a skill she often demonstrates at corporate events.
Erica has an attitude of determination, diligence, and a thirst for knowledge which has commanded the respect of her colleagues and superiors alike and she describes her team as her family.
She applauds Sandals for the impact it has had on her life and family, revealing that her daughter now also works at the company’s Procurement Division.
She is also grateful to the Sandals Foundation for helping with back to school preparations for her grandson. A true all-rounder, Erica is also a member of the company’s Environment, Health, and Safety Earth Guardians programme, an avid Sandals Foundation volunteer and a certified Fire Warden and First Responder.
She shared, “My plan for the future is to learn, learn, and learn. If I can develop another skill, I want to do it, I don’t want to stop learning”.