In our last #MiMini, INFORM’s Matthew Wittemeier sat down with our surprise panelist, Sahar Lemanczyk, Managing Partner at bloog, to delve into the world of being a millennial, being a woman, and being an ethnic minority, and what all that means for working in maritime. As part of our exclusive series in partnership with TOC Digital, this article is a teaser of what we can expect to explore in the upcoming TOC Digital Millennials in Maritime People session (#MiM20People).
MW: Sahar, welcome.
SL: Thank you for having me.
MW: I find people are the best at introducing themselves. So, if you could please introduce yourself…
SL: My name is Sahar Lemanczyk. I am 34 years old now, and I’ve been working in maritime since 2015. I started out as an IT consultant in the maritime industry, and I just recently founded a consultancy company of my own. So now, I’m a managing director for the first time in my life.
MW: We’re going to circle back to that. Let’s start off with some easy questions. How did you find your way into maritime?
SL: I come from the City of Hamburg, and we have a large port here, as many know. I grew up watching the port and being fascinated by the big cranes and all the things moving around. I was drawn to it ever since. I studied math, so it’s not straightforward for me to go into maritime. In the last year of my studies, I tried to find something that suited me, and I did. I looked for jobs in maritime in Hamburg, and I was lucky.
MW: Having quite recently been in Hamburg, it’s interesting how integrated the port is to the broader city. I mean, you could be walking through the old canal parts of Hamburg or visit the philharmonic, and the port is right there.
SL: That’s the beauty of it. I think there might be people who dislike exactly that, but for me, that’s the beauty of the port.
MW: Interesting … So, where did you first land in maritime? You said you studied math. What was your first role? What was it like integrating into your first team?
SL: I started out learning something about the domain in a team of 10 people who were building software for a terminal at that time. It was a very, very good entry point for me because it was a safe environment, so to speak. I was able to learn about the processes and the domain and the industry in general. There were a lot of very experienced people on that team, and still, they were very open to a new person with no background in maritime just joining them and asking a lot of questions to learn. That was a really, really great experience.
MW: Integrating was quite easy. What was it like learning the domain knowledge? Did you find that challenging, or was it relatively straightforward?
SL: A bit of both, I guess. Obviously, there are parts of it that are very straightforward and clear. You can see it, it’s visual, it’s tangible, so it’s easy to follow. Still, when you dive deeper and try to understand all the stakeholders and their relevance to the processes, then it starts to get complicated. That’s also something I like very much about the industry, that it has a certain complexity to it.
MW: What would you say are some of the biggest challenges you faced in terms of integrating into the industry?
SL: I think the biggest challenge was really that it’s a very, very traditional industry. So, when you are working on digital topics, that’s one of the challenges you face. People are not as open to digitalization or data sharing. That’s part one. And for me, personally, I’m a woman. I was a young woman back then. And I joined groups of people that were mostly men of a little older age than me. So, you have to just be confident about yourself, I believe, and then most of the time, the experience is very positive. But this vision of the traditional industry might be something that keeps other people away from the industry.
MW: Other than maintaining your own personal confidence, are there other things you found as techniques to overcome those challenges?
SL: Being curious, of course, asking questions, and being, after a while, good at what you do always helps. Talking to people, having a network, building a network. These are the things that really helped me, and that I believe would help anybody to integrate into maritime.
MW: You said you were one of the younger people on the team. Over the course of the first five years, before we get to you founding your own consultancy, how did your workplace and team change since you joined it?
SL: Actually, it changed a lot. I was one of the first young people who joined the company for the IT consultancy. After me, there were a lot of hires. We were maybe 10 people who started in the past five years, both young women and men. That reshaped the structure of the teams in that company. I experienced everyone as very open to this change. We were welcomed with open arms.
MW: We’ve had the pleasure of talking previously at various conferences, and I guess I have a bit of knowledge about some of the initiatives you tried to spearhead in that organization. Would you give us an example of one or two of those and how they were received by senior management professionals?
SL: When I started working, the work environment was very traditional as well. We had strict working hours, nine to five. We had no mobile phones because everyone was sitting in the office, talking on a landline in the office. It was little things that didn’t bother me in the beginning. After a while, I realized they were not only bothering me, but also the other new people at the company. Some even might not join the company, although they were very motivated to work in this industry, because the environment did not suit them. So, I tried to change that. We have flexible working hours now, and we’re equipped in a modern way. It wasn’t difficult, but somebody had to come and say, “Let’s do this.”
MW: So, moving on from that, obviously now you’re in a position where you’re founding your own consultancy. I assume it’ll start off small to begin with.
SL: Yes. We are three. It’s me and two friends and colleagues, and we share the same vision and idea of how a work environment should be and how consultancy, a modern consultancy firm, should work. This is what brought us together.
MW: And what are some of those visions? What are some of those values that you share?
SL: In my opinion, it is not so important nowadays to have a lot of hierarchy, to give the people a lot of incentives, money-based incentives and big bonuses. These things are not that appealing to young people that you want to attract into the industry. What is much more important is to give them the freedom to create something on their own, to be independent, but still part of a good team that supports them. To give them a “why.” Why am I getting up in the morning to go to my job? What am I getting out of it? The purpose of the work. Letting them be free while still providing them a supportive environment. That’s the vision I have for bloog.
MW: That’s a great segue into my next question, which is, why do you get up and go to work in the morning now?
SL: To create that vision, actually. To one day be part of a company that creates value for customers, but also for the employees at the same time. That’s why I get up in the morning.
MW: That brings us to the end of our interview. So, closing thoughts … what is the one piece of advice you’d pass on to the Baby Boomer generation who are currently at the helm of the maritime industry?
SL: Be open to change. That’s the one piece of advice. Don’t hesitate, just be open and transform together with the younger generation.
MW: Thank you so much, Sahar.
SL: You’re very welcome.
Who is Sahar Lemanczyk?
Sahar Lemanczyk is an expert consultant for digitalization, innovation, and transformation. She recently co-founded the consultancy firm bloog to support the digital transformation of industries. She is passionate about people and is convinced that a team creates more value than the individual. With bloog, she sets out to deliver high-quality consultancy services based on this culture.
Over the past five years, she has used her industry insights and the trust of her clients to create digital innovations for port operations. She has enabled and implemented several lighthouse projects, such as the first real-time connection between ship and port to enable just-in-time arrivals (Navi-Port) or the vessel coordination platform in the Port of Hamburg (HVCC).
She is a valued speaker at conferences on digitalization and smart innovations and a contributor to the International Taskforce Port Call Optimization (ITPCO) as well the International Port Collaborative Decision Making Council (IPCDMC).
What is #MiM20People?
Building on the successes from the 2019 Millennials in Maritime (MiM19) panel, we’re back this year with an in-depth and focused look at millennials’ take on working in maritime. This is a must-attend session for any company looking to hire, integrate, and retain millennials on their teams.
To explore this topic, INFORM, in partnership with TOC Digital, has put together a multifaceted, multigender millennial panel to weigh in on the social issues of today and debate the millennials’ view of tomorrow. In short, millennials are now a central part of the world’s workforce, and their approach to work and broader social issues will define how companies perform in the coming decade.