A female doing men’s job in a warehouse is a thing of the past for 23-year-old, young and plucky Phyllis Entrikin.
Known affectionately as Phylli to her colleagues and friends, the young Vonavona beauty was the Procurement Officer for the National Fisheries Development (NFD) Limited – one of the biggest tuna establishments, based in Noro – the tuna town, Western Province.
She looks after the NFD warehouse, making sure that what comes in and goes out from the shed is being recorded.
What is special about the warehouse was that, most of the stockpiles were shipped directly to Noro and they are vital for the day to day operations of the company.
In a recent visit to Noro, Sunday Star had had the opportunity to interview Phyllis.
Driving the fork-lift and actually administering the company’s warehouse is something that tells how this female is matchless in her undertakings.
Before working at NFD, Phylli was helping her parents looking after their family owned Zipolo Habu resort – on Lola Island.
This was after completing her high school education in New Zealand some years back.
She was supposed to go back to further her studies at the University of Waikato but could not make it because she was not applying for a scholarship back then.
It all started when a distant couple Glenn and Kathy Hamwood, who once worked with NFD, approached her at the resort to help out with minor trades, at the company’s workshop.
“At first, I have no knowledge of any single thing in the workshop. What is a nut and a bolt, or even a screw, I have no idea because I did not have qualification on mechanics or electrical,” Phyllis recalled.
“Through the couple, I came to know how to communicate with people, by email, telephone calls, and even customer care services. It was from them that I can differentiate tools and other workshop equipment,” she added.
“The Hamwood couple taught me about every single thing that I was now able to do without assistance today.”
She started working for the company about three years ago, when she was 20 years old.
From there, she slowly built her courage and passion for the job, which saw her later transferred to work in the warehouse.
Phyllis told the Sunday Star that, holding a very important job in one of the biggest tuna companies is something she was pleased with.
Having said that, she did not have any qualification or whatsoever to permit her for the job- this is quite normal in the Solomon Islands for people in the workforce.
Just as many people in the country, Phyllis first learned how to drive a forklift the easy way with very little instructions.
This is what most Solomon Islanders are good at – the ‘look and learn’ theory!
“I have not had any proper training to drive this fork lift.
“When I first started more than two years ago, there are only two of us in this warehouse.
“It was me and another male colleague, but he has more experience than me due to the fact that he was a long time employee of NFD.
“So he taught me how to handle the forklift from his own experience. He directed me during my early days of working in the warehouse,” Phyllis said.
She explains in order for one to work in the warehouse, he or she must know how to drive the folk – one of the useful machineries in such a place.
“We have hierarchies in the warehouse and if you rely of others, you will have issues with your job in the warehouse and at the end of the day, you will be affected.
“Manpower could not carry heavy loads further up the shelves, so we have to use the folk”.
Phyllis added that being a female working in the warehouse and actually doing what only most men can do is very challenging.
“Our mindset of tradition and culture sees women as house keepers and are only meant to stay at home, do gardening, washing, cooking, and the list goes on.
“So when people see me as a female on this job, they would think negative at times.
“Many people especially some of my friends have also dazed when seeing me performing my job.
“To others, seeing me driving the fork was just wow. It is also a challenging experience,” the Roviana lass said.
Phyllis also said that this was her first serious job since finishing from high school, and she benefits a lot from her three years stint within the tuna industry.
This has made her to become self-reliant instead of depending on her parents for survival.
She is also thankful for NFD for allowing her to be part of the company’s 100 plus staff, and also believing in her, only through experience without any qualification.
When asked about her future plans, she said she wanted to go for further studies in business.
“In the future, I am looking forward to continue school at some point, and maybe get qualification. But for now, it was great to be part of the tuna industry.
“If I go for further studies, I might go for something that comes under business. Since high school, I have always wanted to be a doctor or a nurse.
“But from my work here, I have had all the experience and I would go for business instead.
“It is a totally different thing because you have to do more counting, compare prices, and also making good deals with your customers or clients.”
As a young woman to secure a good job at an early age, Phylli encourages female and youths like her not to give up to negativity.
“Don’t let the people’s comments or criticism let you down. For me, people would say, don’t do the job, it’s a boy thing!
“You just have to build a cell around you, and just be yourself. If you have a goal to reach, then go for it and don’t listen to what others might say”.
Meanwhile, the procurement officer said she felt blessed without a qualification to hold her current job.
She also thanked Glenn and Kathy Hamwood for introducing her to be part of NFD and giving her the opportunity to continue on and learn.
By RONALD TOITO’ONA