Navigating the Maritime Switch
A few weeks into his new job with Eastport Maritime, 53-year-old Andrew Herman Shipley found himself climbing up a rope ladder off the side of a massive chemical tanker. It was an unlikely position for the former banker to be in.
For nearly 20 years, Andrew worked in the fast-paced finance industry. “I spent most of my career in finance, first as a bank economist in Tokyo and then as a macro-strategist at a hedge fund and a proprietary trader in Singapore,” he shared.
The sudden closure of the trading firm where he worked left him at a crossroads where he decided to take a leap of faith. He had no prior experience in the industry he was switching to and while most people his age would be winding down in their careers, Andrew cast his eyes beyond the horizon.
Now at Eastport Maritime, he plans to enhance the company’s capabilities by introducing new research products and analytical tools. Andrew is currently developing structured financial products and trading tools to help clients better manage risk and capitalise on opportunities. He also relishes the opportunity to groom Eastport's future leaders. “The opportunity to work with the next generation of talented young analysts, and hopefully help them advance their careers, is also exciting,” he said.
Transitioning mid-career into the maritime sector would seem like a risk to many but Andrew is thrilled by the idea of dealing with what he describes as “the real economy”. Working with clients such as petrochemical companies and shipping firms, he plays a part in moving real cargo, not just paper securities. He added, “I get a kick out of meeting with ship captains and many other shipping professionals with vastly different backgrounds from myself.”
Gaurav Shukul, a 37-year-old former management consultant, enjoyed his stint in consulting, in particular the variety of projects that he had the chance to work on. His consulting work gave him the opportunity to briefly cross paths with the Gujarat Maritime Board, where he became intrigued with the proposition of an industry that is so intricately tied to world trade and the economy. Today, he is a Senior Manager for Global Strategy & Investments at American President Lines (APL), an international container shipping and ocean freight provider.
Gaurav appreciates the fact that he has the opportunity in his current position to not only develop strategies for improving organisation performance and revenue, but to also implement them and reap the rewards of their success. He added that it was interesting to learn how the business was run, and see all the associated ups and downs that it goes through.
A firm believer in having a global perspective, Gaurav views his new role as a perfect fit. Based at the headquarters of the global firm, he manages the integration of offices in over 80 countries while working closely alongside the top minds in the industry. “My current position involves working closely with the CEO and CFO, and therefore provides a great overall view of how the company is doing, what we are doing right or wrong; and how we can do things better,” he shared.
For Ng Suk Hang, being able to fall back on experience and business acumen proved to be just as important as industry knowledge. She had spent 18 years in commercial accounting in the IT industry before taking a three-year break to become a home-maker. She rejoined the workforce in 2015, yearning for a new challenge in a different industry. A compelling offer led her to consider a career with The China Navigation Company, which she quickly embraced with an open mind, curiosity and passion.
Armed with a fresh perspective in her first month on the job, Suk Hang deftly raised questions and sought advice from her team on the company’s closing processes. This ultimately led to a revamped process that enhanced productivity by more than 30 percent.
“The good thing about commercial accounting is that it is neutral to the industry. The accounting principles are generic; hence the skills are portable, to a large extent, over different industries. Business knowledge is learnt and re-learnt as you appreciate and understand the dynamics of different industries. Your experience and business acumen would be enriched as well,” she explained, revealing the secret to her adaptability.
For 47-year-old Marcus Han Peng Siew, he is making a difference as the tide turns at a most opportune time. The maritime industry in Singapore is on the cusp of change, with the Government launching the Sea Transport Industry Transformation Map on 12th January 2018, with its focus on digital solutions and better productivity.
Not too long ago, Marcus left a successful career as an IT solutions architect to join Alpha Ori Technology Holdings, where he specialises in developing new smart shipping technology and systems.
It was not an easy decision, but Marcus’ interest was piqued by the extraordinary opportunity to be a part of this industry’s evolution and growth trajectory. He credits his wife for her unquestioning support and sought advice from his father and family friends who were also from the maritime industry.
Now into his sixth month with the company, he is excited about visiting vessels and getting up to speed with the systems. "My previous exposure in various aspects of technology has definitely helped in getting up to speed. Also, my past involvement with port operational systems has helped to, in some way, jumpstart thought processes and adapt to the domain, but there are still lots to learn,” Marcus explained, when sharing about his contribution in charting a future of autonomous ships and automated ports.
New Horizons Await
The job roles and company business profiles may differ for Andrew, Gaurav, Suk Hang and Marcus but these four individuals have the shared experience of benefitting from the great support they received from their employers and teammates, and how it was indispensable in helping them to get on board as quickly as they did. There is a strong sense of camaraderie within the maritime industry and training is readily available to help jobseekers adapt to the industry.
Andrew cited the example of how he had expected “tremendous scepticism" about the forecasting and analysis tools that he had brought with him from the financial industry. However, the management at Eastport Maritime were very supportive of the new ideas as they saw the importance of providing high value-added services to clients.
“I made many, many presentations to shipping companies and charterers on fundamental research and eventually was fortunate to win over their interest and support,” Andrew revealed.
Tips for a successful crossover
It’s been said that the only constant is change, and yet change is never easy. For Andrew, Gaurav, Suk Hang and Marcus, they assimilated successfully into their new roles in the maritime industry because they embraced change in a brave new world. This is what they have to share for others who are thinking of making a mid-career switch.
Ng Suk Hang: “Be confident, open-minded, curious and furiously passionate. With these qualities, your fears of the unknown will be overcome. Your experience and knowledge will do the rest, and you will settle in in no time.”
Gaurav Shukul: “One needs to be open-minded and motivated to learn. If you’re coming from a non-shipping background, you will need to quickly get up to speed with the terminology, how the market works and understand the industry dynamics as you go about your work.”
Marcus Han: “Have an open mind and believe in yourself! Focus on understanding the industry and picking up knowledge as you go along.”
Andrew Shipley: “Try to get up to speed as quickly as possible. This generally means intensely studying the industry that they are joining. They should use their previous experience to develop (and market) new, innovative products in the industry; if they just replicate existing products or services, they have no edge over existing players. I am also a big believer in show, not tell. Show people fully developed products, don’t just talk about what you intend to do. And join a gym! Working out is a good way to reduce stress.”
For those who are keen to take up new challenges, explore new horizons and be part of a vibrant, dynamic and growing sector, explore the Maritime Singapore Connect website and find out more.