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Opportunities in choppy waters

14 Jan 2021


Alsyifa Huthami at her workplace at Bourbon Offshore

An accident and an economic downturn didn’t stop Alsyifa Huthami from answering the call of the sea. The Singapore Polytechnic grad explains how she is steadfastly pursuing her dream of becoming a marine engineer with some help from the Graduate Support Package.

Five months into her six-month internship with oil and gas company Apex Ship Management, Singapore Polytechnic (SP) student Alsyifa Huthami, broke her finger. The 21-year old was out at sea off South Korea.

The accident forced Alsyifa to cut short her internship in May 2019. Although she was initially dejected, Alsyifa’s passion to work in the marine sector was not doused.

Five months later, she landed an internship as a purchasing assistant at Bourbon Offshore Asia. This was part of a separate six-month internship she needed to undertake to complete her diploma in marine engineering.

“At Apex, I learnt about the technical aspects of managing and operating a ship,” says Alsyifa. At Bourbon, she learnt the other side of being in the marine industry – the logistics of buying supplies, stocking vessels, and other behind-the-scenes work that went into preparing ships for sail. “It was a great opportunity to see a different side of the industry,” she says.

Finding opportunities in an uncertain job market

Just as when she was about to graduate, in May 2020, the economic climate took a turn for the worse due to the COVID pandemic. But Alsyifa pressed on and looked for opportunities to gain experience. Her determination paid off, and over the course of the next few months, Alsyifa was able to land three jobs.

The first was as a procurement assistant for HSM Far East, a marine supplier she had worked with at Bourbon. “I was lucky because the company remembered me. So when I reached out to them, they brought me on because I had experience working with vendors while I was at Bourbon,” says Alsyifa.

She worked there for only a month – because Bourbon came back with a new offer for her to work on one of their vessels. It was only a temporary job, however, because the ship needed an extra hand for a month while it was docked in Singapore.

Despite having several work opportunities, Alsyifa says she wanted to further her studies to learn more about her industry and develop her skills as a marine engineer.

A boost from school

That is why when her alma mater emailed her to tell her about a new Graduate Support Package, she jumped at the chance. The programme was launched in early 2020, and it offers two free Continuing Education and Training (CET) courses to eligible SP graduates.

These free CET courses are part of a joint effort by the Ministry of Education and SkillsFuture Singapore to help recent graduates access more job opportunities across different sectors.

Alsyifa chose to enrol in the Specialist Diploma in Maritime Superintendency, which consists of two post-diploma certificates that will earn her a Specialist Diploma in the maritime sector. These two certificates count as two separate CET courses, and are designed to help professionals in the ship management industry deepen their skills.

“This diploma will equip me with the knowledge to plan, direct and co-ordinate marine and technical operations from shore,” she says. “It will complement my knowledge and skills in marine engineering.”

Juggling work and studies

Alsyifa also recently applied for and received another job offer from SembCorp Marine Ltd, an engineering services company, working as a financial administrative assistant.

 “Yes, this may not be an engineering position, but back in Bourbon, I had to deal with both supply chain and finance matters as I was assisting with purchase orders,” she says. “It’s good for me to understand the financial process as I may have to deal with similar situations in the future.”

Between her new job and diploma course, there is not much time for play – or sleep, which she tries to catch up on when she is on the bus to work, she says.

Alsyifa attends night classes on three week days.  On the other days, she catches up on class assignments after work. Saturdays are for self-study. Sundays are her only rest days.

She is hoping to take an exam with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore to qualify as a Class 5 marine engineer officer sometime this year.

Importance of keeping an open mind

So, what motivates Alsyifa to continue to pursue her passion of becoming a marine engineer? She quotes Michael Dell, the founder of Dell Technologies: “It is through curiosity and looking at opportunities in new ways that we have always mapped out our paths.”

Says Alsyifa: “I believe this relates to my life experiences as a whole. I am always seeking new alternatives and opportunities to build my career -- and character. And I believe having this mindset will benefit me in the long run.”

For more tips, advice, opportunities and resources to get started on your career, visit GradGoWhere (, a specially created portal for young graduates.