Jennifer Epp works for Mercy Ships: “It’s meaningful and I am glad to be a part of it”
On your commute to work, have you ever thought about the impact you make on people? How does your hard work really affect other people’s lives? Jennifer Epp works for Mercy Ships and she knows exactly what her work can establish. We got the chance to interview this very inspiring woman.
What is it exactly you do at Mercy Ships? What does your day look like?
For the past four years I have helped customers with their various desktop,
laptop, desk phone, cell phone, copier, and printer problems, including their
personal devices as it is difficult for them to get help in west African
countries. I am also the most senior person on the team, so I helped
train and mentor the newer crew. This year I transitioned to doing
preliminary work for larger projects. I work with people on the ship and
at our International Support Center in Texas to document, design, and get
approvals for projects before they go to our other IT teams to implement.
When did you know you wanted to be working in tech?
When I was in high school, I knew I wanted to do something with computers
or math. I didn’t want to be a professor or do research, so math was
quickly eliminated. A few years later, I was a student worker in the IT
department at my university and fell in love with service desk support.
What steps did you take to actually get where you are now?
I have a two-year degree in Computer Information Technology and a four-year degree in Computer Science Engineering. I am not really using either of my degrees, though those experiences helped me get my first job after university. Firstly, it was important to my first employer that I had a four-year degree – it didn’t matter what it was in. Secondly, I was able to work at my university and also have an internship with an external company to gain valuable experience and be sure that it was something I wanted to do long-term.
Are there many women working in your team?
In my five years with Mercy Ships, I have worked with probably 30
men and one woman on the ship. But at our office in Texas, there are
around 15 women in our 50-person IT department.
What is the success you are the happiest with?
In the general sense, I am proud that all of my
experiences leading up to this point has prepared me personally and
professionally towards my work with Mercy Ships. It is
meaningful work and I am so thankful that I get to be a part of it.
What do you like most about your job?
I love that I can use my technology skills to help the Africa Mercy crew and, in turn, the forgotten poor of Africa.
What is the most tricky part of your job?
To maintain healthy work/life boundaries. When I first came to the ship, it felt natural to ask someone a work question in the dining room or while walking through the corridors, but it is important to be able to step away from the job in my off-hours.
Was it difficult for you to be taken seriously and to follow your dreams?
Not really. My coworkers have always been really supportive and haven’t treated me differently than others on the team.
What advice would you give a girl that wants to be in tech too?
You can do it! Just like any other profession, work as hard as you can to develop the knowledge and people skills needed to excel.
I imagine you work with many different cultures: how do you make sure everybody understands each other?
It can be difficult, but it is incredibly rewarding! All crew are
given training on how to work and live well with those from other cultures and
it is something we talk about a lot. But the cultural differences are
often the most rewarding too! I have close friends from all over the
world and I visit during my holidays. Also, we had 35 events this year
during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays and many of them were celebrating
cultures from the different countries that are represented on the ship (we
typically have crew from 35-40 nations at any one time).
What kind of people are you looking for at Mercy?
Anyone with an adventurous and servant’s heart. It takes all kinds of
people to run a hospital ship as we are like a little city – we need people to
work in the bank, post office, galley, hospitality, dental clinic, hospital,
housekeeping, engine room, supply, chaplaincy, and many more departments.
How does technology help the Mercy ships?
We are able to do more surgeries and train more Africans because of our