Women Making Waves – Melanie Silver

Area Supervisor, Canadian Coast Guard

Melanie has a long family history in the maritime industry and feels that the calling to work alongside the ocean is in her blood. She started her maritime career as a Red Seal Electrician with the Coast Guard in 2009 and now works as the Supervisor for the same shop. She was delighted to be able to move home to Nova Scotia and find her dream job after spending some years in Alberta.

1. How did you end up working in or alongside the maritime industry? Please tell us the story of how you got to your current role. 

When I noticed the job posting on the government website for a Red Seal Electrician with the Coast Guard, I couldn’t even contain my excitement.  I had recently moved home to Nova Scotia from Alberta and was looking at the job postings, daily. 

An entire year later, after I had applied, been interviewed and completed the tests, I received THE call.  “When can you start?”.   

2. What education have you taken a) pre-working in or alongside the maritime industry and b) since joining the maritime industry? 

Before working with the Coast Guard, I really had zero marine industry education.  

3. What is the most rewarding thing about working in or alongside this industry? 

I feel in my soul that I was born to work for the Coast Guard.  My Great Grandfather was a lighthouse keeper (George Crooks).  My Great Uncle was a lighthouse keeper (Don Crooks), my grandfather was a lighthouse keeper (Vernon Zwicker).  My mother and her siblings grew up in a lighthouse.  Then many years later, here I am. 

There are many stories that can be told within my family about the sea, the solitude, the ship wrecks, the storms….It is certainly in my blood.  I learned to take my first steps as a child on Country Island.  My Grandparents still kept the light at that time, until 1982. When they finally were brought to shore due to retirement.  At that time, I would have been 4 years old, and I have a memory of the helicopter bringing everything they owned, ashore in the net.  Little did anyone know, that this same little child would be going back to the same island, (and many other), decades later to service the light.  My family’s names are still carved in the rocks out there. 

4. Did/do you have any female role models in the industry? If so, please tell us about that experience and tips on how to approach someone for mentorship.  

In the first few months as a new employee for the Coast Guard, there was a Town Hall meeting at BIO.  Many people were giving speeches that day, but the only one I remember was from Darlene Sampson. Darlene had a career on the ships for many years, took time off to raise a family and returned to her career with the Coast Guard.  Myself, working in an under-represented trade, I thought Darlene must have had many similar experiences that I have had.  I admired her, and her story inspired me.  I was able to let Darlene know just that, many years later.  Darlene was a role model for me, as she had important roles within the organization, including being my Manager, before she became the Superintendent of Aids to Navigation and Waterways where she continues to be a role model, and in a leadership role. 

 5. What is your advice for someone looking to get into this industry in our region? Any important events or associations to be following? 

If you are seeking a career in the industry, I would recommend keeping an eye on jobs.gc.ca.  This site is regularly updated with future requirements that the Coast Guard may be seeking.  There are many social media outlets to subscribe to, to keep up to date on what is happening. 

 A lot of people assume that the Coast Guard only has available positions based on board ships.  Although, that is a large part of the Coast Guard, we have a huge shore-based side.