Q : Would you tell us a little about yourself and the exceptional work you have been doing around the world?
Ans : I started in the shipping industry 13 years ago working as HR assistant in the head office of Wilhelmsen group. I gradually took on more responsibilities, eventually became global project manager. On the side I started working as a volunteer for a local Norwegian organisation for young people in maritime industry called YoungShip. I saw that it had the potential to become International ...so I ended up leaving my job as global project manager in Wilhelmsen to start my own company and to build up YoungShip to become an international organization.
So, at the age of 28, I was running my own project management company in shipping and working on YoungShip parallelly. The first to basically fund my living cost and the second to create lasting change in the maritime industry.
Through four and a half years, YoungShip went from being a local and regional organization to becoming the leading global body for young people in shipping. While creating it we based the whole organization on a few basic principles of Diversity, Innovation, Entrepreneurship and sustainability. We managed to get attention from the big leading maritime bodies, I was invited to speak at the IMO and International Chamber of Shipping and also OECD amongst others and I was given the opportunity to challenge the seniors and established industry with the young perspective. I challenged them a lot on the lack of visibility and attractiveness of the industry, and the lack of young and female role models. I’ve been a vocal challenger advocating people to put women more on the agenda and see the Next Generation as the key tool for creating more innovation and visibility. After 4 and half years I was appointed as first female director of one of the world’s leading maritime exhibitions called Nor-Shipping and also the first leader below the age of 50 (laughs), I was 31. I did the same exercise there with respect to integrating my values, and I told them that if they wanted me in the position then they also had to commit to using that Exhibition to promote Diversity and Sustainability and improving the industry to suit the next generation.
I developed a concept called disruptive sustainability from 2014 out of Norway and it got a lot of international attention. We looked at how the maritime industry could deliver on the UN Sustainable Development Goals; We invited and challenged the young generation of entrepreneurs, students and professionals to come up with their solutions and ideas to create new maritime business models and to solve societal problems linked to the maritime and ocean sector.
And parallel to this, I have been very been much involved in the Norwegian board of the WISTA – Women’s International Shipping and Training Association. We have also done quite a few pilots from Norway on new concepts to fuel diversity - to set up the first female mentoring program. We also created a big conference on diversity leadership for sustainable maritime industry called Waves of Change, and on top of that last year I fronted #MeToo in global shipping.
And then in Spring I was hired by Oslo Business Region, a company owned by the Capital of Oslo working to fill gaps in the start-up ecosystem, connecting start-ups with the established industries. The untapped potential of utilizing our leading ocean clusters of technology and innovation capabilities, to mobilize Oslo to become the world’s capital for ocean entrepreneurs focused on tech and sustainability. I’m heading the business program for Oslo as European Green Capital 2019, and the Ocean Entrepreneurs’ Capital is being launched this year as part of this project. As a part of it we are also building an alliance of creative ocean societies and we will invite Mumbai to join alongside Oslo. We are planning now to build a stronger cooperation on sustainability focus between Oslo and Mumbai.
Ms. Birgit Marie Liodden, Activist for transparency, diversity and entrepreneurship. She is a dedicated spokesperson for young professionals and women in global shipping. With a passion for the shipping industry and dedication to promoting this industry to the younger generation. She is a true visionary who challenges established truths, and is not afraid to speak her mind and raise her voice.
Q : Any projects you are looking at exploring in the Indian Environment –like bringing young ship to India?
Ans : So, we have had a couple of meetings in Mumbai where one of the ideas is for me to go back home to Youngship International and connect them with contacts here to look at the potentials for establishment of Youngship in Mumbai. We also have a couple of new pilot projects and really good tools for gender diversity coming out of Norway and one of them will do their first international pilot with the maritime industry, we do hope that India will be a pilot country among a few others.
We are looking at innovative ways to tie new alliances between Mumbai and Oslo, focusing on ocean entrepreneurs, women, technology and new areas for the maritime industry to identify new business areas based on society problem - solving.
Q : So, tell me something that youngsters reading this might be motivated by: what does it take to be nominated to such a forum, what’s the kind of work somebody needs to do, and should this be an ambition every youngster has?
"I know that you were shortlisted for the Young Global Leaders at the World Economic Forum."
Ans : I think the best ambition for young people is to find something that they want to change in the world. I mean that for me it's always been about identifying gaps that I see that don't work properly where there is room for improvement and then go in and actively offer myself as a resource to fill the gaps. I think that finding those areas where you really feel that your purpose driven, set your footprint, create a different future, that is what has been the motivation that has pulled me through a lot of hard work, a lot of obstacles and a lot of challenges. As long as I wake up every day and I know that I have a mission then it's okay, then I can cope with anything. So, I would say that I haven’t had the big ambitions of becoming someone or whatever, but I have had the big ambitions of changing things. And I think that was also the background for me to be shortlisted – nominated for the Young Global Leaders by WEF was because I have done a lot of “pay it forward” initiatives. I see myself more as a tool for creating a good change.
Q : Can you share with us your source of motivation? Any mentors on your journey?
Ans : My key motivation comes from being useful and help making a difference towards a better society and improving the maritime industry. My key mentors have been shipowner Ms. Elisabeth Grieg, who was the first female president of the Norwegian Shipowners Association, and who is a strong advocate for sustainability, women and youth. The other is Mr. Roberto Giorgi, the former owner and Chair/President of V. Ships. And others who have been instrumental advisors or sources of inspiration on industry innovation are KD Adamson of Futurenautics, Mr. BjørnHaugland of DNV GL, and other female leaders across the world such as Sanjam & Sumeet of Wista, India. I was so Lucky that very early on in my career, I had some key heavy profile professionals offering to become my mentors. So, I have had both male and female mentors on the more senior level and then in the last, past few years I have also recruited younger mentors for myself to mentor me on digital developments.
And on the third PART for the past 8 years I have been offering myself as a mentor for young females in the industry. I'm currently mentoring two Indian girls from Goa and Kerala – one girl from Pakistan; one girl from Djibouti and a couple of others. And I would say that mentoring is really the best way of bridging the gap between generations.
Q : What according to you is the single biggest task of young leaders of the global maritime space?
Ans : I think the biggest task for the young generation/leaders is basically to bring their competence in digital technology, new mindset and collaborative approach and more sustainability-oriented attitude on you know delivering more value to the society through the maritime industry.
Q : Where do you want to be in the next 10 years?
Ans : Omg! I don't have a school education, I left school at 16 and started working so my original goal was to become a secretary So I Think I have already reached far far beyond my expectation , but I would say that in ten years I hope that I have contributed significantly at influencing the industry with both: sustainability and inclusion of the next generation and the most important part for me to really have helped out making the maritime industry a pioneer and a star industry with gender diversity.
Q : To conclude, what is your message to the next generation:
Ans : I would say for the Next Generation that the Young Generation now need to create the change that they want, so they need to step it up and take the lead and they need to challenge the established industry. They need to show the value proposition to the established industry and to fully relay the learning that you need to accelerate and build the right competence and insights as a leader.
Q : I think it’s a great message to leave the youngsters with … to look for a goal/mission in life which will take you beyond short-term success/ failure.
Ans : Ya because that’s so shallow I mean titles and possessions and power and money yeah that's nice but it's more shallow. I think if you have that sense of commitment that you do something for society that you really believe in with your heart – that this is some area that you can make it – you know put your foot stamp on it and work with others, collaborate, to achieve it.