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A dream come true: Mila’s voyage to becoming a SeaBus Officer

A dream come true: Mila’s voyage to becoming a SeaBus Officer

SeaBus officer Mila Gonzalez on the SeaBus wheelhouse

“It’s not common to see women in the marine industry,” says Mila Gonzalez. It’s something she realized as a young kid when she found out women weren’t accepted in the navy.

Despite this, she believed that one day she’d fulfill her childhood dream of having a nautical career. That she did because she’s now a SeaBus Officer.

But her voyage to becoming one wasn’t smooth sailing.

From the deli to the SeaBus wheelhouse

Inspired by her uncle who’s a sailor, young Mila knew she wanted to be a seafarer. But the odds were against her favour as it required work experience in the navy to even qualify. Knowing that this opportunity wasn’t available to women back then, Mila pivoted and pursued another career that felt familiar. Inspired by her dad who is a handyman, she decided to study electrical engineering.

Before moving to B.C., Mila worked at a Venezuelan electrical company comparable to B.C. Hydro. When she moved to Vancouver in 2006, she took on jobs such as owning a bakery and working in a deli.

While Mila was happy to live in Vancouver, she was still searching for fulfilling career. So, when she heard other people talk about local marine industry jobs, she was inspired to take the chance to realize her childhood dream happen.

Mila then enrolled and earned a bridge watch certificate at British Columbia Institute of Technology, and completed courses in navigation, seamanship, and maritime safety.

She was finally sailing in the direction she’d always dreamed of going.

Starting off, Mila drove small vessels for the False Creek Ferries. As she spent more time doing what she loves, she thought:

Since I used to ride the SeaBus and I was already serving customers on smaller vessels, I thought I could do this with SeaBus, too.”

Following this intuition, she applied to be a SeaBus Attendant.

From SeaBus Attendant to SeaBus Officer

Mila was a SeaBus Attendant for three years before she took the next step. Following the advice of a SeaBus Officer, Mila completed Transport Canada’s training program so she could work her way to becoming a SeaBus Officer.

Just as she finished writing the exam for her Transport Canada ticket, a job posting for a SeaBus Officer became available, and Mila was the successful candidate.

“I was really surprised because it all happened so fast,” she said. “I was finishing up my studies, then I passed the exam right as the position was posted and one thing led to another.”

Initially operating a 5-tonne vessel at False Creek Ferries, Mila now steers a 500-tonne vessel as a Controller Mate on the SeaBus.

“It never crossed my mind that I could become an officer, but being on the water, doing what I love – that’s what kept me motivated,” said Mila. “CMBC also provided me with lots of opportunities to make it to the wheelhouse and training to drive our unique vessels.”

The same Mila who grew up at a time when women weren’t accepted in the navy, is the same Mila who is SeaBus’s second woman officer today. Although it took her a little longer to reach the career she dreamed of as a child, she believes a detour doesn’t mean a dead end.

“Even though sometimes you have to put your dreams on hold, it’s always worth finding out what you can do to achieve them,” said Mila. “Sometimes it may take a bit of time, but when the right opportunity comes along you just have to do it.”

Today, Mila is living her dream. And it’s many thanks to her peers at Coast Mountain Bus Company who believed she could do it.

Priscilla Leung


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