Meet Maria, our Head of Sales in Germany
Maria Schepers is our Head of Sales in Germany and has been working in the German office for 17 years. Growing up in a shipping family, she was drawn to the maritime industry.
Tell us a bit about your background Maria
I joined the company back in 2001 as a trainee in Germany. Shortly after, I got the opportunity to move to the head office in Oslo where I was based for two years working in various departments to learn about the business.
After my time in Oslo, I moved back to Bremen, Germany as part of the commercial team. During the years, I have been responsible for managing customer accounts in Germany and am now leading the German organisation.
What do you like most about your job?
I love shipping and working with people. Every customer has different requirements and I enjoy working together to come up with solutions. The satisfaction the team gets when a customer has successful experiences with us is what makes the job so rewarding. The success is made possible thanks to our experienced and diverse team in Germany and around the world. It is our different experience and backgrounds that helps exchange opinions and ideas, particularly when it comes to transporting a diverse range of cargo.
What do you like most about working for Höegh Autoliners?
There are many reasons I enjoy working in Höegh Autoliners. Being part of the company for so many years, I have built strong relationships with colleagues. Many of my colleagues around the world have also been working in the company for numerous years, and it really feels like being part of an extended family. Over the years we have also brought in people from different companies and segments and this generates different views and ideas, which has strengthened the team especially in Germany.
Höegh Autoliners is a very non-hierarchical company with a Scandinavian culture. No matter your position, you always feel seen and heard. It is easy to reach out to the top management team to express ideas and give suggestions.
One of the wishes often put forward by women who are taking on more senior roles is the need for flexibility. Höegh Autoliners has a very flexible work environment which is important when combining work and family life. The company also has a very inclusive culture. I have always felt that I have been treated with respect and been given equal opportunities throughout my career.
During my years in the company, I had the opportunity to travel to e.g. Australia, South Africa and Japan where I experienced loading/discharging operations and meeting the customers on the importer side. It was good experience to understand the whole supply chain.
How has the COVID-19 situation affected the way you do business in Germany?
When the Coronavirus situation started back in March, our ability to adapt to the situation business wise was a seamless transition. We were prepared digitally and could work from home with laptops and mobile phones straight away. Working from home or working flexible hours is not only a matter of technology – it is a matter of culture and acceptance. This is something that resonates throughout the Höegh Autoliners global organisation; a flexible and adaptable work environment.
It has enabled us to keep daily contact with customers via digital solutions and discuss their requirements and availability of our vessels. Being able to meet our customers virtually gives a more personal element in the challenging situation; however, we do look forward to when we can meet them in person again.
It was not only customers and the sea transport being impacted during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, but also our agents, ports, terminals, tally, and stevedores. With good collaboration we have been able to work with our partners and suppliers and provide solutions to our customers as well as sustain our ocean service.
As a leader, how do you support your colleagues during the COVID-19 situation?
The Coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on individuals, both professionally and personally. Following advice from local governments, we continue to work remotely to safeguard our colleagues and business partners.
Working from home for many months, we understand that it can take a toll on individuals. That is why wellbeing is a top people priority in the company. As a leader, it is important that I check-in with my colleagues to ensure that they remain healthy both physically and mentally. We have regular virtual meetings, not only to discuss business but also private issues as well. Given our flexible work environment, I also encourage colleagues to take time for physical or mental activities.