(The below article is directly extracted from Women in the Route of Shipping, special Posidonia issue from ElNavi by Theano Kalapotharakou.)
Change, hope, and fear… Words that elicit a wide range of emotions.
How many times have we considered and analysed areas of our lives that we wished to change? And how many times have we actually done this? At times, even the smallest acts have more dynamic than the noblest intentions.
Change occurs as a result of a shift in one’s thoughts, feelings, and culture. The everyday person is the hero of our time – the student who studies without a library or a computer; the woman who works long hours to provide the best for her children; the baker baking his bread with the inspiration of a Picasso painting, the gracious taxi driver who works with dedication, the nurse dealing with an epidemic.
Marina Tzoutzouraki and I discussed these and other topics of interest. Marina, CFO & Co-Founder of SFG Ship Finance Global Ltd., who hails from the banking sector, belongs to the open-minded people who venture and invest in change because change is the secret element of progress and evolution. She took action, and the vision became a financial reality. “I’m not sure if I transformed it, but I did lay the first stone on the way to real change.”
In Conversation – Theano Kalapotharakou & Marina Tzoutzouraki
Is there a specific moment in life where one decides which direction to take? Did something influence your decision to join the maritime industry?
– Initially, it was both my studies and my acquaintances that created the connection to shipping. I fell in love with the shipping world in 1984, while working alongside Andreas Vgenopoulos, my first mentor, who introduced me to maritime financing. It was amazing how successfully I adapted and was recognized and embraced in a historically male-dominated industry like shipping; allowing me to develop and diligently enjoy the long hours it demanded.
Later, after beginning a family, I had to be away from my children on a regular basis, which meant that I missed crucial events and activities in their lives. We are, however, all aware, that a profession in shipping necessitates being vigilant 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Next major step was my Postgraduate studies of Shipping Trade and Finance at City University of London. Started my banking career at Greyhound Financial Services in 1985 and went on to work as credit officer at Banque Franco Hellenique from 1989 to 1994, and subsequently as a relationship manager at Eurobank from 1994 until 2014.
The key milestones in your life?
– The birth of my three children—two girls and a boy—and the arrival of my grandchild have been the most significant events in my life. I divorced in 2000 and dedicated my life to my children and my career.
In 2014 together with Dagfinn Lunde we created Dagmar Navigation Ltd., with aim to assist our common clients in finding suitable leverage for their projects. Since then, we have worked diligently, with efficiency, integrity, and dynamism. The excellent relationship we have with Dagfinn, as well as the rapidly evolving financial sector, inspired us to establish an innovative online platform eShipfinance.com with our experienced partners Tarun Gulati and Aparna Gulati.
Tell me about the importance of your business with regards to the Maritime chain of services?
– eShipfinance.com is the first online platform dedicated to shipping finance. Founded in 2018, it is a digital pioneer in the sector of maritime finance, simplifying and optimising existing procedures for both ship-owners and financiers. eShipfinance.com is a group of shipping, finance, and technology experts with a shared mission: to change the way ships are funded, by integrating digital technology with 200 years of experience. eShipfinance.com makes ship financing Easy, Fast, and Secure for borrowers and investors.
Through eShipfinance.com, of which I am a co-founder, I continue to advise and support ship-owners in finding the best financing terms for their investments, especially now with the extremely difficult and over-regulated banking sector measures and the multitude of alternative finance solutions.
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What is the profile of women in shipping?
– The woman in shipping is something like the ingenious Odysseus. Patience, perseverance, planning, but also humour and diplomacy are required. I believe the role of a leader is in itself demanding and has no gender. Every professional in a high level position is required to manage a wide range of barriers and challenges on a daily basis.
Personally, I have never felt compelled to deviate from my moral values. Loyalty, perseverance, dedication, respect, and kindness are significantly more important qualities in my opinion than dictatorial and competitive behaviours.
What obstacles do young women encounter when entering the labour force?
– A female adolescent is more likely to face obstacles and bias in a professional capacity..
Young women who begin their careers with zeal may confront discrimination, be denied equal opportunities, and get disillusioned.
In my situation, the most difficult obstacle was the subliminal pressure I felt in respect to the priority I sometimes gave to my family and other times to my profession.
As my daughters develop in their careers while also desiring to create a family, I strive to be there to counsel and encourage them.
We saw that Greece dealt with the pandemic in an exemplary manner. What was your weapon against this crisis?
– Greece managed the pandemic admirably, and now, as time passes, we will begin to reap the benefits of this model approach particularly in tourism and our interactions with guests who will visit our country since, as we all know, Greece symbolises hospitality. During this period, we had time for our family and at the same time, we set up a more effective online platform. I am blessed with a summer house, where I stayed during the pandemic, it was more convenient and stimulating than living in an apartment in Athens and allowed me to continue working online.
Does a good student take the role of a teacher and the good teacher the role of a student?
– The teacher, in my opinion, plays the most important role in this interaction. Just as headwinds assist an aeroplane in gaining lift at take-off, a teacher must assist his students in evolving and progressing through the stages of knowledge; of course, a prerequisite is the student’s eagerness to learn.
If a child approached you and asked you why it is worth living this adventure of a life, how would you respond?
– I would tell him that the adventure of life is our most wonderful journey and we must live it to the fullest.
Are the mistakes of man ultimately his bibliotheca of knowledge?
-Working long hours away from home was both a catalyst and a revelation for me, as I realised that our children are our most demanding teachers. The more time I spend with my children, the wiser I grow as a parent and, more importantly, as a person.
What is the difference between knowledge and enlightenment?
-The search for enlightenment is a constant, internal process whereas knowledge has an educational character. As I spend many months in the Netherlands and work in the Norwegian market I am currently learning Dutch and Norwegian. Actively involved in the development of our electronic platform.
Enlightenment has a different approach; it is the kind of experiences, inner voices, and cognitive awareness that lead to self-consciousness.