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A glimpse of the inspiring people and stories of the maritime industry.

9 Questions with a HR Manager in a Maritime Tech Start-up

What does manpower recruitment in the maritime industry look like? For Jessica Kwan, Human Resources (HR) Manager at maritime venture studio and digital factory, ShipsFocus Group, it’s about playing a part in the industry’s future and hiring the right talent for digital transformation.

Despite not having a maritime background, Jessica took a leap of faith and worked her way up from a receptionist to managerial role. Read on as Jessica shares her take on the qualities you need to succeed in the maritime industry and why having the right attitude is more important than educational qualifications.

1. What attracted you to the maritime industry and what made you stay despite not having a maritime background?

I was looking for a job after my A-Levels and the recruitment agency offered me a temporary receptionist role at a ship-broking company. The rest is history.

Jessica Kwan, HR Manager at ShipsFocus Group

The industry is like a magnet and I was drawn in by maritime concepts such as laytime, laycan, demurrage, charter-party, to name a few! ‘Shipping people’ are always happy to share their stories, knowledge, and experience – especially over a meal!

At ShipsFocus, I believed in our founder’s vision to drive digital transformation in maritime. Sharing the same dream, I was determined to be part of the team that will turn this into reality. It’s been five years since then and I still find my role to be very fulfilling where I cultivate a positive, youthful, and challenging culture at ShipsFocus. I’m thankful to be on this journey with a team that is so driven and dedicated to digitising the maritime industry!

Jessica (first row, second from the right) with her colleagues at ShipsFocus

2. What is ShipsFocus?

As a maritime venture studio and a maritime fund manager, ShipsFocus offers digital solutioning both as a service and an investment to maritime corporates. Our technology-based solutions include data-analytics applications, value-aggregation, documentation-automation etc. and link inter-connected date silos enabling streamlined operations, waste-reduction and carbon footprint.

The key characteristics of our working environment are listed in the picture below. These values set expectations for our people, keeping them motivated at work.

A vibrant, flexible workplace is essential to keeping ShipsFocus’ innovative spirit afloat

3. What do you like most about being the HR manager of ShipsFocus? What are the challenges and rewards?

As a start-up, ShipsFocus’ business model is new and constantly evolving, making our recruitment efforts unique. My challenge is to attract and retain talents who are interested in the exciting opportunities a start-up like us has to offer.

When it comes to recruitment, be it for tech-related or other office roles, my base criteria remains the same. I gauge the candidate’s initiative. How bold and proactive are they in taking on new tasks? Are they curious to learn? Do they have the ability to adapt to changes in the maritime market?

Learning is indeed a life-long journey and I often push myself out of my comfort zone as well, especially when it comes to crafting unique job descriptions for ShipsFocus. Aside from assessing one’s skills, experience, and aptitude, I try to detect that spark of flame in candidates as well. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is anchoring the right person for the role and our team.

4. Can you describe the company culture of ShipsFocus?

I believe ShipsFocus’ ABCD core values says it all:

“Achieve a step a time with a clear goal in mind” – every step counts, no matter how small, and is celebrated as a sign of progress to our goal.

“Build open and honest relationships” – our open environment encourages seamless, transparent and regular communication with each other.

“Conduct each activity conscientiously” – when we decide to take on a task, big or small, we put in all our hearts into doing it well.

“Deliver service and value through simplicity” – our customers enjoy our service and clearly know the value we offer.

5. What positions will you be recruiting for at the upcoming MSC Maritime Career Fair (MMCF)? Tell us what's interesting about these positions.

ShipsFocus currently has exciting positions in three key areas:

ShipsFocus seeks a wide variety of talent to drive its mission of maritime digital transformation

While these positions may be available in other MNCs or SMEs, our roles stand out because candidates can look forward to:

  • Being a part of the pioneering team to create solutions through innovative thinking
  • Playing a direct role in research, creation, development, or delivery of breakthrough solutions
  • Being part of a future-forward of team with systems thinkers, designers, developers, and operators in maritime commerce

We are open to meeting new graduates or mid-career professionals and are excited to welcome new talent onboard. An avenue for our recruitment efforts is the virtual MMCF where we will be setting up a virtual booth and networking with potential jobseekers. This virtual event also further substantiates the importance of digitalisation, as we can continue to network despite the pandemic.


6. What do you look out for in candidates who apply to ShipsFocus?

Once the appropriate skillsets fit the role, we value the right attitude over educational qualifications. We first look at the candidates’ core values, capability and try to match their personal attributes to the various roles, playing on their strengths. In other words, we are looking for passionate individuals who take pride in their work.

7. What are the highs and lows of recruiting talents to join your company?

I always use the analogy of a match-making process – there are many candidates and openings but matching them to suitable positions is both a science and an art. As such, I communicate extensively with our teams to ensure that I articulate the role well to potential hires.

The next step is one of the best parts of the job: getting to meet the applicants, understand their needs through deep conversations and deciding if they are suitable for the role. Getting to know a candidate on a deeper level takes time and one of the challenges I face as a HR practitioner is that I might lose potential hires in the process. While it is unfortunate, it does help with sifting out candidates who may not be suitable for the role.

8. Can you give some advice to fresh graduates (who might have little work experience) and mid-career professionals (who might have experience but not in maritime) looking to join the sector?

My advice would be to know your strength, and what you can bring to the table. For example, as a fresh graduate, what new ideas or perspectives can you provide? If you are a mid-career professional, what are the skills you have developed over the years? It is important to evaluate yourself and think about how your skills, expertise, experiences, or network can add value to the company.

9. Your work sounds rewarding but challenging! How do you spend your free time when you’re not fishing for candidates?

I love to take walks and enjoy the nature, especially near the sea!

Interested in exploring maritime careers? Join us at the virtual MSC Maritime Career Fair from 25-29 October 2021, to meet and network with maritime professionals from over 20 leading maritime companies.

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