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Interview with Lisa Westerhuis & Erica Zini

Interview with Lisa Westerhuis – Head of Iberia & Greenbridge Trades
Interview with Erica Zini – Corporate Sales Support – Quay to Quay

‘I guess we can skip the glass ceiling subject’

‘The way to look at our business is to see the nature of the job,’ says Lisa Westerhuis, head of Iberia and Greenbridge Trade, to Erica Zini, a sales support assistant. A conversation between two young professionals bursting with enthusiasm. Here, they talk about whether or not logistics is a man’s world, challenging times and future goals.

‘Is logistics a man’s world?,’ repeats Erica who clearly enjoys the question. Erica, who hails from Italy, worked at the Milan office and moved almost a year ago to the Netherlands. Working at the headquarters in Rotterdam, she noticed that whether or not it is a man’s world depends on what department you work in. ‘In my division two out of ten are women. And I do see that the higher in hierarchy you go, the more men there are.’

‘Well, I guess in general it is,’ Lisa says, coming back to the question. ‘You do not see many women on vessels or trucks, for instance. But, it never stopped me from applying for a job at Samskip. What I believe to be very important is how you look at things. I grew up in our family’s logistic business, and to me, working in logistics is normal for both men and women.’

Erica interrupts her: ‘But there were probably more men than women in your family’s business, weren’t there?’ Lisa: ‘True, and I must say I never thought I would end up in the industry. I studied law and I wanted to become a lawyer. And it was not until I had a lecture in transport law that I actually considered going back to my roots. Then, after my bachelor’s degree, I chose a masters in maritime and transport law, which honestly felt like coming home. Now, I just love to see the big vessels coming in and knowing what an impact we make with our jobs.’

The nature of the job

‘But yes, most of my colleagues are men. Working in logistics is not a new, fancy or upcoming market,’ Lisa continues. ‘Trade is more old school, maybe that is why there are more men than women. But, even though I am the only woman on our team, I have never felt that I was treated any differently.’

‘I also find it hard to take a stand on a topic like diversity. Do I want to be treated differently? No, not really. Do I want more women to succeed in logistics? Absolutely. So maybe, the way to look at our business is to see the nature of the job rather than to put a stamp or bias on the business. Male or female, logistics is very tangible and dynamic. So, if you are into that, it will suit you perfectly.’

Erica agrees: ‘There is always something to do. In good times and bad times, people are always moving goods.’


Erica continues: ‘And the impact of our work is indeed huge. In good times, you see that the bookings consist of more luxury goods. But in times like these, during the Covid-19 pandemic, we ship dozens and dozens of containers full of face masks and medical equipment. During the first wave, we did not know if ports would stay open, or if we could cross borders with trains or trucks, so it was quite challenging. What worked in our favor was that Samskip is a multimodal logistics company, so we could be flexible if there was a lockdown in one of our trade countries.’

‘My trade, Iberia, is a good example of that,’ Lisa continues. ‘Instead of bikes, we were shipping basic goods like rice, tomato paste and hygienic products to, from, and between Portugal and Spain. During the first wave, my team began to see the challenges ahead, yet they anticipated every change. It really felt like we were managing a crisis, and I needed to stay on top of every move we made to keep going.’

‘My goal was to keep our business moving forward even though factories were closing. That meant focusing on the same important aspects as always — meeting our delivery estimates, making sure the rates are in line with the competition and as agreed upon with our customers, and last but certainly not least, making sure we are profitable. But I could not do all of that on my own, of course. There was a whole team behind me.’

Flat structure

‘This is very much one of the core values of Samskip,’ Erica emphasizes. ‘We are all working together to get things done, and we all have the same goals in mind. I really like working with our team because we are all on the same level. It also helps that the nature of a sales job here is not always fast-paced. We all take a lot into consideration before we go to a customer with a proposal. And because of this teamwork and the fact that we are all equal, my colleagues are less competitive with one another.’

‘I do work in a competitive department. But not in a nasty way,’ Lisa emphasizes. ‘We challenge each other by asking the out of the box questions, and we make an effort to ask each other why we do things in a certain way. Because of Samskip’s flat structure, it makes it easy to get feedback and learn from one another.’

‘This flat structure, especially at headquarters, is a big perk,’ Lisa goes on to explain. ‘For example, when you come up with a good idea — and you have a business plan to back it up — it can, and probably will be, executed. Our management board is very open and approachable.’

Glass ceiling

‘And coming to think of it, we actually have a female CHRO in the management board. So, I guess we can skip the glass ceiling subject,’ Lisa remarked. ‘If there is one person who would never allow that, it is her. She is great. I really learn a lot from just observing her, and I hope to one day join her on the management board. But for now, I want to gain more leadership and communication skills. Covid-19 has helped me do that, oddly enough, because this new situation forces you to grow and adapt. That is the biggest lesson I will take from this pandemic.’

Erica: ‘I believe we do not have a female sales manager in our division yet. That would be great, though. Me, one day? Well, I would sure love to. But there is still a lot I would love to learn first. I have only been in the Netherlands for a year, so I spend all my time learning something new. During my time at the customer service department in the Milan office I learned a lot as well. For example, how well I could handle pressure, and how to get things done quickly. Things I never knew I could,’ Erica confides. ‘But when the time is right to take the next step, I will be sure to take it.’

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