Love at first sight
I am a fully trained shipbroker under the German Apprenticeship System. In addition to this, I studied Maritime Economics at the Hamburger Verkehrsakademie with a Master of Transport examination.
I met my now-husband in a discotheque and was not only impressed by him, but also by his job! At the time he was an apprentice in a Hamburg shipping company and his father was a Captain on-board a chemical tanker. My parents were farmers, so this was a totally different world to where I came from and I thought to myself, “I want to try this as well”.
I barely knew anything about shipping and the transportation of our daily goods. When I joined the industry, it was fascinating to get a whole new world laid out in front of me, especially one where I felt I could make use of a lot of skills that I had. No other job had truly caught my attention until then – this may have been an office job, but it was one with a whole lot more to it than just sitting behind a desk!
Career at Clarksons
I joined Clarksons in 2012. After 20 years working in shipping as an owner, I felt it was time for a change and started looking for a new job. It was around that time that my now-boss – Jan Aldag – contacted me and asked if I was interested working for Clarksons. I had heard from Clarksons when I started working with Essberger in 1992 but at that point they didn’t have an office in Hamburg so it didn’t work out. By 2012 Clarksons had an office in the city, I went for an interview and the rest, as they say, is history.
Initially, my role was to work as a broker, as well as doing operations and structuring the operational workflow in our Hamburg office. These are all areas I have continued to focus on during my time at Clarksons – and somewhere along the way came a promotion to divisional director.
On a day-to-day basis, my work involves working spot cargoes on the market and I cover all aspects of getting a deal done. In addition to this, I operate Contracts of Affreightment (COAs) as well as taking care of all the operational side of things myself. Another key aspect of my job is to train up and coming talent in our office. I absolutely love this part of my role and always find it interesting see young people start in a new job and watch how they develop their skills and make the best of their talents. Alas, occasionally they move on to other jobs in the industry, but I find that a strong link always remains with Clarksons, where they got started.
When I started my career in shipping, I always used to joke that there is never a boring day in this job as you never know what challenge is waiting for you from day to day. Nowadays, of course we have our mobile phones which makes things a little easier, but we definitely still have our fair share of surprises coming along.
Coordinating all the different demands from different departments within one company can sometimes be a challenge. Particularly in the current market, it can be tough to fix a vessel at a good rate if the customer has a very specific demand. On the flip side, what makes my job really interesting is having to stay up to date with global events. For me, as a broker in Hamburg this means I always need to be aware of what is going on in the world, on the River Rhine, in the offices of the charterer and also in the office of the owner!
What does it take to be successful in your role?
For me personally, the ability to communicate in different languages is a really important skills – especially being able to write and speak in English. The German Apprenticeship scheme that I studied under gave me a solid base of knowledge, helping me to learn how to best give advice to customers (charterers and owners). Apart from that, I think that to be successful as a ship broker, one must be open minded, have a keen interest in other cultures, be flexible when it comes to working hours, and always be on top of things (or at least know who to ask when questions crop up). What do I like most about my job? I think it is still the fundamentals of my role – whether that’s a good fixture or when I save my client a lot of money and they acknowledge it.
A successful day for me usually involves a good talk with a customer, finding a solution to an issue that has cropped up in daily logistics, or completing a good fixture. But there are so many different aspects to my job that it could also be attending a training session I have wanted to be part of for a while, a great team event, or a successful meeting with clients.
What is special about your division? Why do you find it interesting?
Shipping is an ever-developing industry which plays a crucial role in all our lives – yet most people have little idea what it takes to actually get cargo on board and shipped to its destination. I was initially drawn into specialised products by my now-husband as he used to be an apprentice in a company that owns chemical tankers. Yet even to this day, I remain fascinated by the technical aspects of ships which have been constructed to transport various dangerous products, as well as the people on board who do all the hard work.
Clarksons’ Hamburg office opened 15 years ago, and I have been part of it for the last 11 of those. To be completely honest, at the beginning I was unsure about working for Clarksons and whether it would be the right fit for me, but since then I have most definitely changed my mind. We have a great team, especially here in Hamburg, that I feel lucky to be a part of.
Our team consists of many different characters and, naturally, we do sometimes see clashing opinions and views. The thing which is great at Clarksons is that, even when we disagree, we always help each other and fight for the best outcome for everyone. Although we are all individuals with strong opinions, we also respect one other – and I think this is the key to our success. When it comes to giving feedback to managers and peers, I have always been encouraged to speak up which, again, I think is really important and definitely contributes to how happy I am in my role.
If you're considering a role as a broker, my advice would be "Take it! You won’t regret it." I strongly believe that there should be many more women working in shipping – we have different social skills which I think are a great addition to any team. What I would say, however, is that when I transitioned from working for an owner to working as a broker, I learned that your professional and private life tend to merge. I think it’s important to be aware of this and if you don’t think that would work for you then a career in shipbroking might not be as fulfilling as it otherwise could be.
If you're not sure where to start your career, come to Clarksons and be an intern! If you are even slightly curious about the industry, I think it’s a great way to get some insight into what shipping can be. If you are interested in logistics, languages, negotiations and trouble shooting, and are able to think fast and be on the ball, then this could be the job for you. But one word of warning – the term ‘work–life’ balance has a different meaning in shipping!
Everyone has different priorities. For me, job security is really important for me. I don’t want to work for an employer with a ‘hire and fire’ mentality. In my experience, I have always found Clarksons to be a loyal employer and this peace of mind has definitely contributed towards reaching my potential in my career here.