We've talked in recent blog posts about the exponential growth in computer-based systems on board yachts. These days, everything from yacht management, VSAT, A/V and telephony is computerized, often using an integrated system.
It used to be that computer-related tasks simply fell to the individual on board with the best computer skills. This could be a second engineer, stew or even a chef.
But as yacht technology has become more complex and ubiquitous, additional time, effort, and knowledge is needed to maintain on board technology. In order to help manage multiple electronic and computer-based systems, many larger vessels are adding the position of Electro-Technical Officer or Electronics Technical Officer (ETO) to their crew.
Selecting a Yacht ETO
Including these interview questions and paying attention to the answers--might make the difference between hiring a self-taught computer geek with a few brief classes under his or her belt and someone with the technical chops to provide vital systems maintenance, repair, operation and upgrade assistance.
Along with radio, radar, electrical maintenance and engine room watch keeping, today's ETO needs fundamental knowledge of computer systems architecture. To that end, we've come up with 5 computer technology-related questions to ask when interviewing ETO candidates.
5 Questions to Consider
1. What are the candidate's technical skills?
Does the individual have some amount of formal education in computer technology, including systems architecture? Demonstrated knowledge of the network infrastructure required to support integrated systems makes it more likely that the candidate will understand how to efficiently manage those systems.
It also makes it more likely that when systems are added as yacht technology advances, the ETO will able to coordinate and maintain the evolving system as a whole. The ETO must also be able to anticipate how alterations to one system might affect other systems and plan for these changes.
2. Does the individual possess good problem-solving and trouble-shooting skills?
Technical systems on a yacht can be complex. When things aren't working as expected, you need someone with strong problem-solving skills to isolate the problem and devise a viable solution. A methodical, linear approach works best. To a large degree these skills can be taught, but they also require some degree of innate critical thinking ability.
To test a candidate's problem-solving skills, you might consider laying out a specific scenario in the interview and ask the candidate how he or she would go about trouble-shooting the problem.
A basic example of a common scenario might be something like: "All systems were working properly when the vessel experienced an unplanned power outage. When everything came back online the computer network appeared to be working properly, but no computers were able to access the Internet. How would you go about trouble-shooting the problem?"
3. Does the candidate have the skills required to develop procedures and provide crew training?
As more technical systems are added to your vessel, someone needs to teach crew how to use them. If your ETO will be training crew in your yacht's AV, VoIP telephony, etc., the individual must be able to explain concepts, answer questions thoroughly, and check for understanding.
Good verbal and writing skills are essential to convey this information. The candidate must also understand that teaching and instruction are ongoing activities as the vessel adds new systems and crew.
4. Is the candidate curious about and interested in the latest yacht technology developments?
Since on board technology is changing so quickly, you need an ETO who is interested in the latest updates in the field. Maybe you don't want to hire a complete computer geek, but at least find someone who keeps him or herself informed regarding the latest in yacht technology and is interested in sharing that knowledge with you.
5. Does the candidate possess the communication and organization skills necessary to work well with technical experts and vendors?
The ETO not only needs to communicate with crew, but with vendors and service providers involved with the yacht's systems. He or she needs a sufficient technical background to understand each system on board so any problems can be reported to the appropriate vendor in a productive manner. The candidate must also be organized enough to coordinate planned maintenance on systems with shore-side technicians.
If the candidate can communicate ideas succinctly and effectively, both verbally and in writing, he or she will be able to maintain a good relationship with vendors and work with them efficiently to maintain systems and solve any problems that arise.
Do your Due Diligence
Don't rely solely on your gut feeling to determine whether to hire someone as your ETO. Ask candidates for work and school references and follow up on them. Call references to inquire about candidates' communication and inter-personal effectiveness, as well as computer knowledge and skills.
Ask to see transcripts including technical courses related to the job. Be wary of individuals who are "self-taught" or who lack any formal training.
If you need a little help evaluating interviewees' qualifications, consider checking with your yacht systems expert. Ask the IT company you currently work with to vet your ETO candidates.
Great Circle Systems is often asked to check the qualifications of ETOs, including their computer knowledge and yacht system maintenance potential. Feel free to contact us if you need help in this area.
We hope these suggestions help you hire a qualified ETO. Please add to the discussion by posting your comments and additional ETO interview questions in the comment section below.