Erik Seither's incredibly successful and distinguished transportation career all began with a desire to set sail and see the world.
"Going to sea and sailing led me to be interested in the field," he told Fast Forward.
From an early interest in oceanography, Seither earned his college degree in marine science and engineering. He then joined the Merchant Marines as a technical engineer, spent 10 years traveling the globe, and became an expert in ship technical systems in the process, all while learning the ins and outs of the shipping business. He has since spent years managing ships of his own. Aside from his tremendous success, Seither's career seems to have given him the international experience he had sought after as a college student.
“[Transportation is] a very international business,” Seither said. “It’s exposed me to many different cultures and ways of doing things, and business practices and people of course. And that’s been always a very interesting and exciting part of the business that seems different from many other career paths.”
Naval architects and marine engineers, like Seither, play a major role in every design aspect of seafaring vessels, including designs that ensure safety. When you think about it, each and every ship is truly a significant feat of scientific achievement, from the smallest sailboat to the largest, most luxurious cruise ship: As Seither pointed out, the sea is an incredibly harsh environment; ships have to be designed not just to stay afloat, but to withstand years, even decades of salty, corrosive waters; temperatures ranging from Arctic chills to equatorial scorchers; raging squalls that have sunk the sturdiest ships; and (of course!) the occasional vicious shark bite to the hull (extremely large ships exempt).
Needless to say, it takes an incredibly talented and diverse team of engineers to design and build a ship that will last; not to mention a ship that can safely accommodate lots of passengers and cargo.
“You’ve got everything from the hull strength and materials to the electrical systems and plumbing,” Seither said. “There’s a lot of opportunity for getting your hands on things and making things work."
With so many different elements involved in ship planning and building, there is definitely no shortage of career possibilities for students interested in this aspect of the transportation industry. Think of all the elements that go into building a giant cruise ship: from the initial design, to the hull, propulsion systems, electrical work, interior amenities, navigation, safety systems...this list doesn't begin to cover all the technical design aspects of ship-building, and doesn't even touch upon an entire universe of transportation careers in cargo transport and ship management.
“There’s just many, many aspects of this industry that provide opportunity that can hold someone’s interest, and that are very rewarding careers,” Seither said.
Seither also said that students who might be interested in the shipping industry should start by conducting career research online. Specifically, he recommended visiting the websites of organizations like the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME). Some organizations, he said, even offer hands-on K-12 programs where students can begin to find out firsthand what it is like to be a naval architect or marine engineer. And because shipping professionals are in demand, SNAME and many other organizations offer college scholarship opportunities to industry students. Make sure to check out the exciting possibilities!
Bon Voyage! ??