Spotlight Feature - Anahita Laverack

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Anahita studied aerospace engineering at Imperial and is a keen sailor. She has co-founded a start-up called Oshen, which aims to use autonomous micro-vessels for en-masse ocean data collection. Oshen aims to fill in the areas of the ocean where we have sparse data coverage. Making a design that’s small, simple and robust means Oshen can manufacture it in large quantities and send the micro-vessels to places where they’re currently just not getting the data that’s needed.

What attracted you to the Maritime world?

I wanted to be an engineer since I was quite young: I loved designing and making things, the more complicated the better. I used to make mini sailboats and try to sail them on the Thames! Aerospace engineering was a brilliant degree to study and I really enjoyed it, but as my passion for sailing grew I wanted to do something that combined the sea and the marine world with engineering.

I also think the maritime world is exciting because the engineering problems are huge and challenging – especially when it comes to greener ways of doing things – but there’s room for people to innovate fast. With new regulations on emissions coming in there’s also a financial incentive to seek out and adopt new technology and innovations.

In your maritime career, what is your proudest moment/achievement?

This is probably really unusual, but it’s the decision to get started with Oshen and the microtransat challenge attempt. It was very much a solo project at the start and everyone thought it was too ambitious and I was wasting my time. Now it’s paid off: we’ve got funding from the European Space Agency and a grant from Innovate UK to look into using our vessels for acoustic data collection. It was a big act of self-belief and it’s completely changed the course of my career in a way that I’m thrilled with.

What is the biggest misconception about your job?

I think people have hugely varying perceptions about what the job of a start-up founder is, and that makes sense because the job is so different: person to person and day by day. One week could be taken up by a load of meetings with people in the shipping industry to better understand how wave, wind and ocean currents data factors into their decision making for voyage planning. Then the next week could be completely taken up with manufacture of the next vessel: fibreglass work, sawing, drilling etc. At one point I was spending entire days sanding – we were going to take a mould off a 3D printed sail so it was really important it was super smooth. But then a couple days later the dust was scraped off and I was in a suit presenting Oshen to about 100 people at an event.

Because the job is so varied it’s inevitable that you really won’t enjoy a lot of the work you end up doing, and unless you’re a perfect all-rounder there’s a lot of work you’ll naturally be terrible at – and that’s also something I think people don’t realise. However, all the work’s contributing to the success of Oshen which I care deeply about, so it’s actually quite easy to motivate myself to get on with the stuff I don’t naturally enjoy.

What would you say to anyone thinking about the possibility of embarking in a career across the maritime industry?

If you want to work on big challenges that affect the future, I think the maritime industry is great for this. From collecting data on our oceans to protect marine life to making alternative green propulsion work effectively, there’s really exciting work going on.

 

Oshen has been featured in The Times, read the article here

Visit the Oshen website here

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