Sixteen-year-old Jennie Morgan had an unshakeable plan to be a fighter pilot. Her pilot’s licence under her belt, her university degree would be sponsored by the RAF followed by a 16-year commission.

“There was no question that was what I wanted to do,” she said.

After a five-day selection process, she was the only female in the final 10 selection line-up for five pilot places. When the offer came, it threw her completely off course.

“It was to be an air traffic controller,” she said. “The final health tests had revealed I was slightly short-sighted, and the five pilot places were awarded to the highest scoring candidates overall.”

Rejection taught Jennie to embrace flexibility and explore new ideas.

That early shock shaped a new career path that included a geophysics degree, a doctorate and worldwide research as a submarine volcanologist, offshore surveying, business development, leadership roles and now, with Seaway7, negotiating contracts for heavy lift vessels.

Eastern Daily Press: Jennie on board the Seaway PhoenixJennie on board the Seaway Phoenix (Image: Jennie Morgan)
“This is so many millions of miles away from what I planned as a teenager. I knew very little about these specialist vessels, but this was a role where I could use my knowledge of the sub-seabed, risk assessment expertise and business development skills.”

It’s a role she loves, recently sealing Seaway7’s contract award for ScottishPower Renewables’ East Anglia THREE off Suffolk, to be the world’s second largest offshore wind farm.

Seaway7 will transport, provide logistics and install the 95 monopile foundations for its 14.7MW turbines. The deal, which is valued between $500m-$750m, also includes engineering, supply and installation of the 95 inner-array cables as well as providing scour protection, preparing the seabed beforehand and, of course, survey.

Jennie works with offshore wind farm developers to understand their needs, working on detailed costings, creating bid strategies for future clients and negotiating contracts. Quite a diversion for the geophysicist and volcanologist.

“By the end of my degree, I knew I wasn’t going to fly as a commercial pilot, and it was suggested I went to what is now the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton.”

Her specialism was mapping submarine volcanoes to predict their extent, putting her once more as the lone female, this time on board her first offshore research survey ship.

Her doctorate, largely in collaboration with US universities, took her to Greenland, Mexico, Alaska, Azores, Bermuda, Hawaii, the Galapagos, Fiji, Guam and the mainland US as a mid-ocean ridge volcano specialist coding and developing new technical mapping systems to visualise where lava comes out on to the seabed in deep water.

Eastern Daily Press: Jennie in Rome with her daughters, Lili’I, 13, and Isabelle, 11Jennie in Rome with her daughters, Lili’I, 13, and Isabelle, 11 (Image: Jennie Morgan)

Returning home after nearly a decade in academia, she responded to an advert for a geophysicist for Fugro in Great Yarmouth.

“This meant working with a great team. We had all the different seabed and sub-seabed investigation disciplines together in one site and were able to directly collaborate to help integrate the information and explain the ground conditions as a really good story.”

After the birth of her first daughter, Jennie left offshore work to work as a geohazard specialist interpreting and communicating clients’ data. Here she faced a fresh challenge that left her “personally pained”.

“Colleagues would joke and say ‘afternoon’ when I arrived in the morning after dropping my daughter off at nursery. What they wouldn’t see was me still working in an empty office at 7pm.”

The effect of that ‘banter’ cut deep. “I felt I had to have a higher output, and everyone needed to see it.”

It was an attitude that prevailed in future roles.

“As I moved more into talking with clients and business development, I needed to travel, and that was at the expense of my family.”

When Fugro left Norfolk, Jennie moved to the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR) as general manager, then to James Fisher Marine Services.

Eastern Daily Press: Jennie visiting an offshore wind farmJennie visiting an offshore wind farm (Image: Jennie Morgan)
“I learned to be open to new opportunities and ideas and take a path I felt was right for me at that time rather than being upset and feeling derailed when things didn’t work out as planned.” Jennie’s current role took her on another new route.

“I joined OHT largely because I felt inspired to be part of a company who really believed in renewables so much that they would deliberately let go of their oil and gas revenue. Seaway7, who merged with OHT, are wholeheartedly carrying forward that shared commitment to renewables, which makes them a great business to work for.

“It is a very commercial role and helps to influence and build our strategy as a business. One day I could be working through spreadsheets with our cost controllers, then the next day I could be hopping on a train to meet a client or representing Seaway7 at a conference.”

Jennie’s path might have been diverted, but she remains a fan of a career plan, just like the 16-year-old who learned to fly with the Air Training Corps.

“I have five and 10-year plans. I want to be part of the senior management team that influences the business strategy at Seaway7 and use my experience to shape our future.”

She is proud of her strong work ethic, which her daughters, now 11 and 13, can witness and benefit from as she works at home.

“They can learn from the most amazing people they sometimes see on my screen, which is showing them there is no limit to what they can do and achieve."