Challenging the Challenges
My career journey has been driven by the question “are the challenges, challenging?”. This may seem slightly unusual and confusing, but I strongly believe that if a challenge drives you out of your comfort zone, keeps you on your toes, and gets you to a new horizon then it is worthwhile seeing the challenge through. A challenge in itself is just a part of daily life. Commuting to work these days for many is also a challenge – just to give some perspective!
With that said, I decided to take a leap of faith and challenge myself by joining an industry I had very limited exposure to previously. An industry perceived to be “Macho”. I joined SAGT coincidently at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a time the global industry and company were transforming to adapt to the still emergent new normal. Although the time was challenging for many on different levels, it presented an opportunity for me to grasp the new operating environment as it took shape.
During the first week with the company, I was assigned to a project which panned out to be another significant industry achievement by SAGT. It was for me a groundbreaking moment when I realized I had what it takes – the portable skills, competency, and attitude to nurture an enriching career in the maritime industry. I worked with a team to revolutionize overnight, a decades-long paper-based, manually intensive import clearance process. We introduced a simple email-based process that allowed for greater convenience and safety for both our customers and staff at a time when social distancing and state-mandated lockdowns were strictly imposed. My team and I were at the forefront of introducing and onboarding customers to this new work process within a week. The solution ensured that the port as an essential service provider was able to offer uninterrupted services to our customers and consequently to the import trading community despite the constraints prevailed upon by the pandemic on previously considered “normal business” activity.
Since then, SAGT has progressed to a fully automated process, providing our customers with a self-service electronic delivery advise printing facility. This ensures customer access to the facility 24/7 365 days a year from the safety and convenience of any remote location. Just as one does with the printing of a boarding pass for airline travel. An initiative considered impossible pre-Covid, yet today the benchmark for considering an “ease of doing business customer experience”.
My role within the Commercial & Marketing department also requires me to lead the operationalization of the company’s sustainability agenda. Sustainability has always been a subject that intrigued me, but I didn’t quiet grasp the essence of it until I joined SAGT. It’s been interesting to understand the innovative solutions that have been put forth by Team SAGT. Innovations adopted by the company to ensure that sustainable operations are driven from the heart of the business within the context of “why does the organization exist”. We are encouraged to rethink the usual work processes and to innovate to improve efficiency and introduce sustainable practices whether it be the enhancement of equipment performance, efficient operational processes, or simple activities such as reducing paper use or managing waste. It is not about reducing cost or increasing profitability. It is all to do with doing the right thing.
My role at SAGT provides me opportunities for exposure to frontline operations, the maritime industry as a whole and even technical areas such as engineering that have expanded my knowledge and understanding far beyond imagination. I have also had the opportunity to engage in several community service projects which have been both exhilarating and humbling.
Often, I have found myself in the “deep end” as most would call it. However, I have also found supportive mentorship and professional guidance from the top leadership team to steer myself out of the “deep”. These experiences have strengthened my personal and professional “tool kit” to be a better person in doing meaningful work.
I felt empowered from day one to “challenge the challenges”. Within a few months of joining, I was invited to deliver presentations at multiple international virtual forums and webinars. Nerves were beyond me, but I was coached to prepare extensively which gave me the confidence to present myself and the company as expected at such forums. An experienced presenter counselled me saying that “everyone has butterflies in their stomach before a public presentation. Experience is to have them fly in formation!”.
These experiences over the short few years have really changed my perception of the industry and the notion that it is ‘masculine’. I have felt an active drive and encouragement from both the company as well as the industry to encourage females to further their careers within the industry. I am increasingly inspired by the stories of women who have challenged the negative perceptions and life’s realities to shatter the glass ceiling. We see a paradigm shift in the industry with more women daring to take on positions in technical fields such as engineering, seafaring, heavy machine operations and excelling to take their rightful positions such as CEOs, chairpersons in local and international logistics & maritime organizations. The success stories of these women demonstrate the opportunities for women within the maritime industry.
Ultimately, for me, It is simply a matter of having the right attitude to be able to seize the opportunity and to stand up to the challenges and daring to live the dream.