Why the shipping industry is an interesting career choice
I used to work for a stock exchange for nearly 3 and half years after my B-School stint. Hence when I decided to shift to the shipping industry, quite a few eyebrows were raised. I myself wasn’t sure what I wasn’t walking into when I joined Maersk Line India Pvt. Ltd. (Part of AP Moller Group, Denmark) As part of their Global Leadership Program (MLGP) this year
However, nearly half a year in the firm, and I find the industry and extremely interesting one to work with. Quite a few myths were broken down as I settled down in the industry that is hardly known in B-School campuses in India, let alone people from other walks of life
First let me give a brief idea about the industry. Shipping can happen either in containers (the ones you see in Bollywood movies – used to carry apparels, automobiles in normal containers and food products like fruits or fish in air-conditioned ones- Maersk Line is into container shipping industry for example,) or in open large metal plates (known as break-bulk shipping – use to carry minerals, crude oil etc).
Let me list 5 aspects of the industry which makes it an interesting career proposition:
- The application of knowledge acquired in B-Schools
Mugged up those macro-economic books? Know everything about international trade? Discussed FDI in retail over cups of coffee? Well, if there an industry if you can apply all those you learnt, it is this industry. Which markets India should import from or export to? Which industries and which seasonality should one look at? The application of those economic and finance fundamentals and correlation with your daily work is what would define our work here
Photo taken by author – containerized cargo is being lifted by cranes from a vessel
- The people
Well, we do use a lot of gadgets at work– we have our iPads and Blackberries and Laptops, but at the end of the day, we work with our colleagues. And the shipping industry has perhaps the most diverse group of people working under the same umbrella organization. From people who work in ports, operating gigantic cranes to lift containers, to people who use the most sophisticated software to record data and keep it in a usable form, there are people with knowledge in wide range of human endeavor
- The depth and variety in the industry
In most industries in this world – you work either in the manufacturing or the service sector. Here is an industry where you can work in the two extremes – you can be in sales or customer services, or you can be in the frontline operations, giving details of vessels that leave or enter the ports and related technical information
The inside of a reefer container (temperature controlled, used to carry sea food etc) (photo by author)
- Chances of exciting global roles
Most of the big shipping firms are headquartered outside India, or have significant operations outside India. It means a good performance can lead to exciting roles, globally. And these would not be the usually “big economic hubs” like London or New York. But can include exotic places like Brazil, Central America, Western Africa and the Middle East. This also means an opportunity to work with, interact and know people from different cultures – exchange notes on food habits, arts, literature and lifestyle
- Responsibilities at young age and matching remuneration
The shipping industry is a very young industry. The average age across shipping companies and functions barely touches 30. Hence the responsibilities and ownership of business processes come early.
A young manager at work in the MLIPL office
However, the variety of roles, non-repetitive nature of work, opportunity to undertake interesting rotations and hands-on experience with a great mentor-buddy system means the industry rarely burns out people. Plus, a senior role at young age means good remuneration, bonuses and incentives, and subsequent low rates of attrition. It’s very difficult to come across people who have worked in the industry for less than 5 years
Overall, a very interesting career prospect indeed!