Back to Career Blog

Interview with Thijs Cramer – Management Trainee – Rotterdam Office

Project manager The ball is always in your court
Interview with Thijs Cramer – Management Trainee – Rotterdam Office

‘The ball is always in your court’

‘Even before my traineeship began the emphasis was on my development. This made me feel so incredibly welcome’, says Thijs Cramer, former trainee and now project manager. A conversation about freedom, responsibility and taking chances.

Thijs Cramer (30), project manager at Samskip, spent the first sixteen years of his life living across Romania, France, Germany, the United States, Argentina, South-Africa, Brazil, Japan and Thailand. It was not until he decided to study at the University of Leiden and Erasmus University that Thijs and his expat parents came back to the Netherlands. ‘During my master in Economics, I was not sure where I wanted to end up in the job market, admitted Thijs. ‘The only thing I was certain about was that I wanted to make use of my international background.’

‘When it came to figuring out what kind of job was right for me, I started applying to a few different traineeships — but Samskip was the most appealing because of their massive portfolio of international trade. And even though I had very little knowledge of logistics, this sparked my interest. After my first interview, I was thrilled to find out that they were just as enthusiastic about me.’

‘I felt so welcome by the team right from the beginning,’ Thijs reminisced. ‘During my first interview, they asked me what I wanted to achieve and how I wanted to develop myself. It was then that I realised this was the kind of company where I could grow. Plus, there were absolutely no hesitations at Samskip about having done a very different area of study. In fact, when my group of trainees started that year, I was excited to learn there were people who had as little knowledge about logistics as I did. My fellow trainees studied everything from Art History to French — but we were all willing to learn and help one another out. We were all starting from scratch.’

Freedom and Responsibility

Thijs started his first year in Customer Services and after several months, he moved from Customer Services coordinator to being a pricing analyst. It was a big jump, as he was now responsible for at least five thousand containers of odd-sized equipment for which he had to analyse the market and had to set rates. ‘I had already heard that Samskip gives their trainees a lot of responsibility in a very short time whilst they are on the job — and this was something I was very keen on.’

‘On the one hand, big projects like this are great because they give you a lot of freedom. But, on the other hand, it is also a big responsibility for a trainee. What I always tried to keep in mind was that I was shaping my career path. And over the next two years with Samskip we did just that. Through training and workshops, I was able to not only learn about different jobs and aspects of the business

but develop my own skills. Listening, for instance, was not one of my strongest traits. But, a training course on coaching skills really helped me learn how to give and receive feedback well. Now, it is something I use all the time in my current role.’

Entrepreneurial urge

All of the trainees in Thijs’ year are now in leadership roles One of them is responsible for all of the transport to and from Norway while another former trainee is leading the whole European trucking department. ‘I was asked to develop a new product: the railway service from China to Rotterdam,’ explained Thijs. ‘I felt so incredibly honored! I am not only developing the railway service right now, but I am also in charge of the commercial aspect.’

‘What a lot of people do not realize is that many loads from China reach Europe via rail, and it typically takes about 45 days. We are helping customers who need their products to reach Europe faster; and with our new service, their products are here in just two weeks. That is twice as fast!’

Vision on the future

‘To develop a new service like this, you really need to have a certain entrepreneurial urge. Customers are understandably apprehensive about new things. So from the beginning, I really had to sell this solution to them as well. Now, I have been able to take that even further by adding two women who speak Chinese to my team. It has been a great help because now I can serve all my customers much better.’

‘Samskip has a very flat organizational structure — it is open and direct in its communication and there is a lot of room for different views and opinions. We are big enough to be a huge player in our market, but we are also small enough to know everyone by name and have fun together. You are not just a number here. Lines are short and chances are high you can end up where you want. I think that at Samskip, the ball is always in your court.’