Samira Ali – One of Ghana’s few female ROV pilot technicians

Samira Ali – One of Ghana’s few female ROV pilot technicians
6 min read

Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) are robots used to conduct various undersea tasks in support of a wide range of industries including scientific research, and oil and gas exploration. These robots are operated by ROV Pilot Technicians.

Today we share the story of Ghanaian ROV Pilot Technician, Samira Ali, currently working at Oceaneering International Services Ltd., a global oilfield which provides engineering services and products, primarily to the offshore oil and gas industry, with a focus on deepwater applications.

Samira Ali with a typical ROV

Samira completed her basic education at Services Basic School in Accra, Ghana, and then continued to St. Rose’s Senior High School, Akwatia in the Eastern Region of Ghana, where she studied General Science. She then ended up at the Regional Maritime University (Former Nautical College) in Nungua (also in Ghana) where she pursued a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical/Electronic Engineering – Marine option. She is the last of four children of her parents and the only one who pursued the field of engineering to this level. 

  • What made you pursue Science in the first place?

 “Well, I actually told my mom, who filled out my entrance forms, to put in General Arts as my first choice course when I was preparing for the Senior High School level. She was however coaxed by my teachers to put in Science as first choice instead and General Arts as second choice. And that is how I ended up studying General Science at St. Rose’s.”

  • Why Engineering?

“After being kind of ‘forced’ to study Science in school, I naturally developed interest, especially in Physics, and decided I’d go further in it after Senior High School. I realized my basic school teachers saw in me what I was refusing to accept. The drive was real. And so I decided to do engineering; electrical/electronics to be precise, since this included more physics. And I actually decided I didn’t want to be in a school where I’d meet all my old schoolmates. I wanted a fresh start, a new crowd, new venture and that is how I ended up at the Regional Maritime University.”

  • What were some of the benefits and challenges that came your way as a young woman in engineering?

For starters, I’m a “tomboy” and hardly ever intimidated by male presence, and their natural ‘dominance’ hardly scares me, so I fared pretty well in school especially at the Maritime University where my class of 78 or so (number dwindling as the semesters passed) had only 5 females. The boys never disrespected us in any way pertaining to the course. Au contraire, they boasted to the others about the few brave girls that decided to pursue a ‘man’s course’.

The real challenges however come when you begin to work with people of different races, from different countries, bearing different perspectives about women in any field. For example, I have been called “a weak member of the team” before and I’m expecting so many more challenges even worse than this. I am ready for whatever comes.”

  • What is your job like?

 “I am currently working in the oil and gas industry; specifically with a company called Oceaneering International Services Ltd. They are major manufacturers and providers of subsea infrastructure and services and I work in a unit that operates Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) for the purposes of inspection, construction, drill support, pipeline laying, etc. I have mainly been involved in drill support so far, hoping to get the chance to venture other work options.

So basically, ROVs are like underwater robots that can be manned remotely via a tethered (attached cable) system from surface. The vehicles are launched subsea and everything the vehicle sees can be seen and recorded on video through the cameras mounted on it. It has manipulators (arms) which we control from surface to grab or pick up items, turn knobs subsea, etc.”

  • Does Ghana need more women in engineering?

“Ghana does need more women in engineering to prove to the world that women are not timid in pursuing such courses; to prove that women are just as good or even better at providing technical solutions; to show that education is never gender biased and knowledge can come freely to anyone. “

  • What is your advice for the young girls out there who want to pursue an engineering career in future?

“To all young girls and women out there who have stopped in their steps towards pursuing an engineering career and any others who may just be considering it, I would advise them to listen to their gut instinct and shut out completely anything they deem negative or anything or anyone that keeps discouraging them. It may be a current job, a lecturer, a family member, a friend, a challenge one is facing at school trying to study; it could be anything. Studying engineering is not easy. It does not make sense at first, but over time you will look back and smile at the things you found so difficult to understand. Use that as leverage to plunge further with the assurance that one day you will look back to this very day and thank your stars you carried on.”