When I joined the maritime industry in 2009, I did not know what I wanted out of this job. I wasn’t sure if this was a viable career, and I never would have guessed I’d end up as the Director of Safety and Sustainability for AWO.
Like many of us, I ‘fell’ into this line of work. Now, after nearly 15 years of service to the maritime community, I understand how lucky I am to have this opportunity, and I know my success is dependent on the people around me, including the man who exemplified leadership and mentorship during the time I worked with him, Mr. Jim Harrington.
My career has been full of people who have helped me see the next step, even when I wasn’t sure what that step should be. Some have offered advice, some offered options, and information, but Jim showed me the right way to be a good mariner, a good boss, and a good person, simply leading by example.
Jim joined Turn Services in 1995, helping the company grow from a small cleaning and repair operation in Davant, Louisiana, to an eight-shipyard and twenty-one push boat operation before he retired in 2016. By the time I joined Turn as a deckhand in 2009, the business was growing by leaps and bounds, with a new facility or vessel entering service nearly every other month. To facilitate safe and smart growth, Jim moved into risk management, writing Turn’s first Facility Safety Management System, working hand-in-hand with insurers and regulators to investigate recordable or reportable incidents, and fostering a culture of safety and support that kept incident rates low while taking care of those who did get hurt, often performing the claim manager functions personally to help the men and women who were out of work get through their injury without losing benefits or pay whenever possible.
It was during Jim’s time in risk that I got to know him well, but unfortunately for me, our careers did not overlap for long. Jim retired in July of 2016, and it was at his retirement that I realized the immense impact Jim had on me and the other members of his team.
We celebrated his retirement in an Irish bar on St Charles Avenue in New Orleans. The entire upstairs was rented out, and it was bursting at the seams with employee’s and their families coming together to celebrate. It was at this celebration that I learned Jim’s story, as he had never been keen on talking about himself. Now, one person after another shared stories about Jim’s generosity, kindness, willingness to help, and strong moral beliefs, with each story ending with a “thank you.” It wasn’t a company line, it wasn’t scripted, it was real people and their families, many with multiple generations in attendance, all genuinely thanking Jim for the positive impact he had had on their life.
It was while watching this parade of thanks that I decided that I wanted to be like Jim. I wanted to help people and their families throughout my career. I wanted to support my fellow mariners when they needed something, and I wanted to push safety and sustainability practices that ensure crews were able to return home in the same condition that they left for work.
I didn’t have a good story to tell at Jim’s retirement, but in the years that have followed, I have told more than a few of my friends and family about how impactful that evening was on me. That is why I was happy to have this opportunity to recognize Jim and offer this forum to share the story of how important he was in my career and in my life.
Jim Harrington is my mentor. His example remains a strong influence in my work, pushing me to constantly seek to improve mariner safety and industry sustainability. I hope I can continue to support my fellow mariners and their families as he did; I know that I can follow his example to reach that goal.
Mentoring is a longstanding tradition of the river. Sharing your journey with a mentor may encourage others to follow your lead by walking in your footsteps or stepping up and becoming a mentor to another crew member wishing to advance. Please sn personal experiences of mentoring with RiverWorks Discovery, so that we may use them in our social media Mentor Monday posts.
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