Life After Ships: How Stephanie Built Her Career At Sea

CAREER ADVICE, TALENT MANAGEMENT   |   3 minutes  |   May 7, 2018

Describing herself as “bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and seeking adventure”, Recruiter, Stephanie Thomas signed up for the University of Cape Town Human Resource Management online short course while working as a Youth Activities Counsellor onboard a Disney Cruise Liner.

“With only my cell phone to work on, and relatively dodgy WiFi, I watched the video lectures, read the course material and completed the assignments, and in November 2016 I was recognised as a Notable Achiever by Getsmarter.”

Two years on, and Thomas is now working as a Recruiter at Africa’s leading safari company Rhino Africa, and planning on taking the UCT Advanced Human Resource Management online short course next.


Working with people

GS_Blog_pullquote_Month_GS_Blog_timeline_Life After Ships How Stephanie Built Her Career At SeaGS_Blog_pullquote_GS_Blog_timeline_Life After Ships How Stephanie Built Her Career At SeaGrowing up in Cape Town, Thomas describes how her greatest dream was always to travel the world to meet a diverse amount of people and immerse herself in unique cultures. After studying a Bachelor of Social Work degree from UCT, she went on to gain four contracts worth of international experience in the travel industry.

“My experience on a Crew Advisory and Support Team is where my passion for HR sparked. I love working with diverse groups of people, learning from them, engaging with them, and seeing them succeed.”

After completing the UCT HR online short course, Thomas began her pursuit of a career in the HR field, which is where Rhino Africa came in.

“I decided to return home to gain experience in the HR industry and apply what I learnt in the course. I began as a Junior Recruiter in July 2017, and now midway through my first year, I’m hoping to sign up for the Advanced HR course to broaden my skill set and apply what I have learnt in the workplace because the only way is up.”


Seeking continual improvement

GS_Blog_pullquote_GS_Blog_pullquote_GS_Blog_timeline_Life After Ships How Stephanie Built Her Career At Sea mobile GS_Blog_pullquote_GS_Blog_pullquote_GS_Blog_timeline_Life After Ships How Stephanie Built Her Career At SeaThrough her experience, while working overseas and in recruitment, Thomas has recognised the need for employees to continually improve themselves if they want to further their career path.

“Onboard Disney Cruise Line, I recognised the need for crew members to have a solid support structure within the company to keep them engaged. Working at Rhino Africa in a relatively small and young HR/Recruitment team has allowed me to play a pivotal role in continually updating and improving on current HR/Recruitment processes and systems.”

When it comes to online learning, Thomas says it offers the opportunity to learn continually, while networking with fellow working professionals.

“The world is constantly changing and evolving – the more we learn the more we grow. The latest HR trends and best practices are always on my radar. Working for a company at the forefront of travel and technology has inspired me to continually seek to innovate and learn as much from each unique opportunity I am afforded. I encourage anyone wanting to enter the HR industry to do the same – never stop asking questions!”

Habits to succeed

Thomas has developed the attitude that every decision you make in your career is likely to have a knock-on effect. As someone who used to work grueling hours with minimal breaks, she appreciates having had that time to develop good habits.

“Every career decision I have made thus far has gotten me to where I am and I couldn’t be happier with the path I am following. The most pivotal decision, however, was definitely joining Disney Cruise Lines. Working 10-14 hour days, seven days a week for up to 6-months (while meeting people from all over the world and hopping from country to country), forces you to learn a lot about yourself, fast! It also helped me find my true passion – HR.”

Thomas’ top three tips for success:

  1. Organise everything – I use a detailed desk calendar to ensure I stay on track with all my tasks and objectives and key results (OKR)s.
  2. Stay active – I’m an avid hockey player and definitely need sports to de-stress.
  3. Use every opportunity as a learning opportunity.


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