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Lt Cdr Jenna Kelway - 'Old Girl'


I remember clearly the Open Day I attended at King's High before I sat the entrance exam.  King’s felt like a warm and happy place compared to some of the other schools I had visited, with girls enjoying learning and keen to show others what they were doing.

I took Maths, Chemistry and Physics at A Level, as I knew | wanted to study engineering at university. To be honest I wasn't even sure I'd be good enough to take Maths at A level but my teacher at the time was very encouraging and gave me the confidence to persue the subject, I'm so glad she did! Everyone at King's were extremely supportive in helping you reach your future ambitions, whatever they may be.

King's definitely helped shape who I am today by developing leadership skills through mentoring other girls, leading sports teams and also having strong female role models to look up to. I was able to develop vital skills in leadership, which had served me well in my career. I thoroughly enjoyed my time learning and generally growing up in a very supportive environment.

I passed the Admiralty Interview Board (the Officer Selection board) whilst in my last year at King's and from there gained a sponsorship through the Defence Technical Undergraduate Scheme (DTUS) to study Mechanical Engineering at Southampton University.  Having graduated in 2005, I joined Britannia Royal Naval College in January 2006 to start Initial Officer Training.  After six months and further sea training in HMS NOTTINGHAM and HMS EDINBURGH (where we deployed to the Falkland Islands) I started my Marine Engineering Training in HMS SULTAN in Gosport.  Further sea training in HMS NORTHUMBERLAND followed, this time joining her during a NATO deployment to the Red Sea.  After two years of training I joined HMS YORK as the Deputy Marine Engineer Officer, deputy head of a department of 60 people working to bring HMS YORK out of a refit and back into service.  A hard two years followed, culminating in another deployment to the Falkland Islands, spending Christmas 2009 in Rio de Janeiro and a total of seven months away from the UK. Next I was fortunate enough to be offered a role working with the Dutch Ministry of Defence in The Hague.  Here I oversaw the programme to maintain and repair the Rolls Royce Marine Gas Turbines used in the Dutch LCF and M-Fregatten.  Living in The Hague for two years is something I will never forget - I thoroughly enjoyed it and managed to become a fluent Dutch speaker by the end!

In December 2015, after almost 10 years in the RN I was appointed the Marine Engineer Officer in HMS SOMERSET – a role which I continue to hold today. I am the head of the Marine Engineering Department, a department of 34 men and women who maintain some of SOMERSET's key enablers - ie the diesel generators, electric motors and gas turbines that are required for propulsion and keeping the lights on onboard,  hot and cold fresh water systems, galley equipment, lighting and the most glamorous of all - the toilets.  Without us SOMERSET cannot go to sea and deliver the Ministry Of Defence’s aims and objectives.  Leading a team of intelligent and keen individuals has been a true honour through it certainly hasn’t been easy. SOMERSET is 23 years old and the technology requires a lot of care and attention to keep going.

My advice to current girls is always be yourself and never think that that might be a hindrance to you.  I have learnt during my 11 years in the Royal Navy, an organisation that remains only just 15% female, no matter who you are if you show up as yourself you will add tremendous value and succeed.  Also, from a university and career point of view – do what you want to do, not what you think you ought to do, as they can be very different.