Interview

What were some of the things that interested you as a child?

As a child, I loved to collect bugs and insects. I don’t know why. My children do too. I used to spend a lot of time in the back yard digging up spiders and bugs.

My family is from Venezuela, my mother’s side of the family. So we would go down for six months at a time and live there. My family had a house on the beach, so we ended up being on the beach for a long time. When we lived here, we lived on a little ranch in San Diego. My sister and I would get on horses. We would be gone for eight hours at a time. Just wandering the hills. We would run into rattle snakes. I always loved the outdoors.

Talk about your interest in political science. Was it influenced by your trips to Venezuela?

I learned Spanish before I learned English. Because we would go to Venezuela so often as I was just learning to talk, when I came back, I had forgotten my English and was speaking Spanish. But I think the thing that I learned most through my trips to Venezuela was the political difference. You go to buy a stamp, and it takes five people. Everything you did took a lot of time. Because of the way the economy was, they created little jobs and little bureaucracies for everything. And my family, they would always have very vivid political discussions every time we went during elections. Everyone was involved in politics.

When I went to college, I was really interested in political science. I studied international politics more than U.S. politics, and I studied international history. So in my mind I was going in that direction.

How did you get your job in the scheduling office?

I helped George in the scheduling office as a student. He gave me small jobs in here to help in the office. Eventually that job grew, and I was given more responsibility. When I graduated from UCSD, I had a permanent position here. It grew quickly during the time frame I was in here as a student.

I think the turning point for me was a class I had at UCSD on the law of the sea. I think it clicked for me then that oceanography and the sea had a lot to do with politics and that the two could really go well together. I could make a career out of something that I loved from both ends. I decided that I would stay here. Eventually George retired and handed me the position of scheduling and doing clearances. That’s how my job evolved from being a student to being a scheduler.

What challenges have you faced in your career as a woman?

It definitely is a male-dominated field because Liz and I are the only women schedulers. When we walk into the room, we are surrounded by men who have been in the business, who are captains or have marine maritime licenses or have come up through the Navy. We have come through a different route. But I think once we start expressing our ideas and showing them what we have in mind, there is total mutual respect. Through the years, it just hasn’t made a difference. I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed working with them.

Initially the challenges with a family situation were difficult: having a baby, having to do this job, and take care of the baby. Our ships operate 360 days a year. Many of them are gone for long periods of time. So you can’t just close the door and walk out of this office. Sometimes you have to take calls in the middle of the night. I found that to be very hard and difficult with two babies. When I approached my supervisor about job-sharing, he was very receptive and thought it was a wonderful idea, and it has been wonderful.

Talk about your job-sharing arrangement.

Elizabeth Brenner and I job share. We have job shared for seven years. We have it worked out very well so that each of us is able to take time off when needed. We are able to be there for our children and school. Because of the way our job is, one person is here at the beginning of the week, the other person is here at the end of the week. We are in constant contact with each other. During the rest of the time we are not physically in the office, we communicate, we leave notes, we basically think alike in many situations, we bounce ideas off of each other.

What continues to inspire you about your job?

I think the reason that we have succeeded in our job-share situation is that it is very inspiring to come in here. It’s never the same job. You never know what the challenge is going to be. The ships are all over the world and are confronting new situations. It is inspiring when the job is finally done and the clearance comes in and the cruise is over. They’ve gotten the data they’ve set out for that has taken two or three years to bring to fruition. Some of these clearances and schedules have been with you for a long time. It’s inspiring.

What are some of your other interests?

I have two boys. My oldest is nine, my youngest is seven. In my spare time when I am not here, I’m at school or taking them to their karate class or baseball. I’m a very involved mom, and I really like that. I like being in their classroom and seeing them grow and making sure that they are getting the kind of education that I think that they need.

Also when I’m not taking them to their classes or not in their school volunteering, I like to work in my yard. I like to be outdoors. We like to go to Montana. We spend a lot of time with our kids outdoors. I think my job-share situation lends itself to doing that. Having interests outside of work.

Do you have any advice for people considering a career in oceanography?

I think my advice is to keep your options open. You never know where the next door will lead you as far as your career goes. And because it’s not what you think you want to do, it may in fact be more interesting and you may be able to bring two things that you are interested together into one position. I think that although we are constantly having people compromise in their positions as far as getting a cruise done and developing clearances, you don’t necessarily have to compromise in your own life as far as what you would like to do.

Rose Dufour

  • Ship Scheduler/Clearance Officer, Ship Operations and Marine Technical Support
  • Scripps Institution of Oceanography

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