Alumnus of the Week; Apprentice Marine Engineer, Joseph Ng’aru

Brazil is six hours behind Kenya, but of course I didn’t know that earlier. There was never a subject that demanded that I master the time differences between my country and all the other countries in the world. So when I got Mr. Joseph Ng’aru’s contact and engaged him on WhatsApp, I courteously said ‘Good evening Sir, my name is blahblah…’ But Joseph is a nice guy. He pardoned my ignorance and politely answered, “Good evening Tobias, though where I am it’s still morning. I am Joseph M. Ng’aru, currently serving as Apprentice Engineer onboard a merchant ship in Brazilian waters…” It was 4.42PM, Kenyan time, 10.42AM in Brazil. It was a fine September Tuesday.

Let me start this from the beginning. For your sake. Few weeks ago, through a relentless search for relevant content on Marine Engineering, I happened to meet a lady. A very nice lady I must say. She goes by the name Tracey Maritim. But I’ll just call her Maritim, because it is very close to maritime, see the sense? And no, we unfortunately did not meet physically or have coffee. We met online. Tracey is a student of Marine Engineering at JKUAT. At first I had thought she was already an alumna and wanted to engage her in that line for a story for the Alumni Segment but later found out otherwise. Fortunately our story did not end there. She gladly offered to point me in the right direction, to a few students who had finished their Marine Engineering course at JKUAT. All she said, typed, was ‘Plz give me a moment I track them down. Wako somewhere kwa maji…’

I don’t know which seas and oceans she dived into, but minutes later she managed to locate for me two Marine Engineers from whichever the waters they had been hiding in, one currently in South Korea and the other in Brazil. Today we focus on Mr. Joseph Ng’aru. I am basically going to transcribe how the rest of our conversation went.

IMG-20160908-WA0007So where are you currently as we speak?

I am in a Brazilian port now, waiting for my shift in 40 minutes. We have docked like 2 hours ago.

I will be starting my shift from 12 noon to 6 PM (6hrs behind Kenya)

Briefly describe your career journey from your graduation to your current position.

I have to tell you first that I have not graduated. I finished my course work in December 2015 after 5 years. I’m now doing my sea based training to enable me qualify for my class 3 engineer of watch license. This training is taking 12 months onboard merchant ship since April this year.

What does your current job entail and how did you land it?

My current job as apprentice Marine Engineer is more of training. I work with senior and junior engineers assisting in ship machinery maintenance. This is meant to let me acquire technical knowledge as I assume responsibilities. This includes mechanical and electrical works.

How exactly did you land this opportunity?

I got here through JKUAT Marine Engineering Department, in SoMMME. I’m one of the six students the University sent for sea based training (cadetship). We are two from JKUAT in my ship. The other 4 are in Korea Maritime University training ship in South Korea.

How has the experience been so far, serving as an apprentice marine engineer?

It’s indeed a wonderful experience having handled almost every machinery I studied in University, which makes it much simpler. It’s also thrilling being part of a global maritime crew. Meeting and living with people of different nationalities makes me learn a lot of people’s living and cultures.

Joseph Ng'aru, (second from left) doing a fire fighting drill on the ship alongside other Marine Engineers
Joseph Ng’aru, (second from left) doing a fire fighting drill on the ship alongside other Marine Engineers

Apart from academic provision, how has JKUAT contributed in your professional growth?

In all honesty I can say JKUAT is a unique University. It gives you the endurance of mind in tough situations. If you check into the training Marine Engineers go through I’m sure you will agree with me. From going to NYS for 1 month paramilitary training, learning Korean language, doing wet drills in swimming pool to going for basic safety training among others, it is an intensive experience. That is besides normal class work, which makes you holistic in the field.

What are some of your most treasured memories in JKUAT back when you were a student?

Some of my treasured moments is being in the Assembly Hall and Lecture Theatre (LT) listening to sermon and worship songs in CU. They always were an inspiration.

What are your career plans going forward. Any anticipated change/advancements?

Currently I’m in a junior level of my career. To reach senior level requires the desire to be better. I have a lot to work on in this dynamic global market. A change is inevitable. Maritime sector is very large. We have the emerging markets in the offshore oil and gas especially in Africa. The key thing is being prepared for viable opportunities.

Joseph (Standing second from right) with the other crew members
Joseph (Standing second from right) with the other crew members

What’s your advice to prospective and current marine engineering students in JKUAT?

I must tell them that they are in the right career. It’s always hard in the beginning but believe things will always smoothen after some time. Let them work hard and smart with aim to better their lives. Listen to good advice for it might save a situation someday.

How do you intend to make impact in the society using your expertise?

My core objective is to make Kenya a better global maritime player.

If you were to go back in time and become a student again in  JKUAT,what would you do differently?

I believe I did my best at the time. Maybe by then conditions will have changed but I would try my best.

In your current position and in everything you do, what keeps you going/what is your life philosophy?

What keeps me going is faith that I can always be better tomorrow than I am today. My life’s philosophy: do my best and give my all in what I do. God will always reward with justice.

Do your best and give your all in what you do. God will always reward with justice. Quite a philosophy, don’t you think? Now I have to say our conversation did not happen in one sitting. At one point I had to let him resume his shift and ambush him once again in between his breaks, sometimes in the middle of the night, thanks to our gaping time difference. It paid off though, didn’t it? Now are you a JKUAT alumni or know of any? Simply contact us through the provided contacts on this site and allow us to tell your story too!


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