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PRETTYka in a man’s world

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She quickly informs me that her first name is spelt Preetika and not Prettyka; I tell her that I am simply using my journalistic license to emphasise that a beautiful and charismatic lady has made her mark in a man’s world. That’s Preetika Mehrotra for you- Director (Maritime) at Stanton Chase, a reputed global executive search firm. With expertise in the maritime, offshore and logistics fields developed over a period of over 13 years and aided by a strong entrepreneurial streak and result-oriented attitude, Preetika joined Stanton Chase International (Greater China, Hong Kong) in early 2014.

A graduate in Political Science with a post graduate qualification in Advertising and Public Relations, she also holds a diploma in Crew Management from the Lloyds Maritime Academy.

Preetika entered the maritime world with Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), working in its Delhi and Mumbai offices. In 2005 she founded a start-up- Swift Maritime- in Pune, India, providing placement services (afloat and ashore) for international shipping companies.

In early 2009 she moved to Hong Kong as Crew Manager with BSM (HK), managing a diverse crew pool for a fleet of over 40 ships, a position she held until mid-2012. Soon after she was BSM’s Head of Port Agencies, successfully expanding their footprint to several new locations in Asia, Europe and the Americas.

In an exclusive chat with the Editorial Lead of Maritime Matrix Today Nishit Doshi, Preetika talks about maritime HR, her new work environment, placement agencies and her love for shipping.

Preetika, what particular qualities does a shipping executive require to become successful?

Boards and CEOs today are seeking leaders to drive transformation and success, with strength in business strategy combined with multicultural sensitivity.

Qualities required for business leaders are strategic vision and team leadership, effectiveness in delegation, focus on outcome, readiness to learn and to coach, adaptability, effective communication, focus on customers, innovative thinking and initiative.

Specific to shipping, the following criteria are of particular importance: excellent domain knowledge, internationalist outlook, doggedness and persistence, ability to stay calm in situations of multiple simultaneous crises and the ability to successfully motivate and lead.

How different is shipping from other manpower-intensive industries like IT?

In shipping there is higher risk (financial and operational) and severe consequences when decisions are wrong. The shipping industry is also much more traditional than most, and generally shuns publicity.

Unlike IT where focus is more on creativity and product innovation, mistakes in the shipping industry can result in human casualties and major environmental damage. So the focus in shipping is more on risk management and safety.

Please tell us a bit about Stanton Chase?

In a nutshell, our brand stands for flexibility, partnership, expertise and reliability. We are systematic, result oriented and respectful in our approach.

The company operates through focused industry practice groups like transportation and logistics which also covers the maritime sector. We are everywhere in the world our clients need us to be, so we can offer global perspective and access as well as local insight. This relationship is based on listening, learning, integrity and trust.

Our aim is to be able to seek the best candidates wherever they are located. More than ever, maritime enterprises now transcend boundaries and so the need to connect with the world when searching for talented executives. Our team has extensive industry and sector expertise to stay on top of global trends and issues within the transportation, logistics and maritime industry.

Please bust some myths about executive placement.

One myth is the perception that we steal talent. We do not approach candidates from our existing clients, so clients can completely trust us. Additionally, we actually can’t steal any candidate without their own will. We can merely approach them with a potential opportunity and share factual background information with them. Our added value is our insight and understanding of our client’s organisation, which allows us to judge if there is a fit in terms of both job profile and values.

Another myth is that executive search is an expensive proposition. The fact is that a company incurs losses of at least 16-18 months of salary in reality if they recruit the wrong candidate for a senior executive position. This does not take into account reputational damage!

How accurate is the selection process for a head honcho? Is it more gut feeling or science?

The key is to define what the objective of using executive search is and how the performance of the successful candidate is measured. Clients need to be clear and we need to fully understand important selection criteria. For instance, at Stanton Chase we start with the premise that past performance can be the predictor of future performance. However we check the ‘fit’ between the candidate and the organisation and also integrate psychometric assessments that probe into the individual preferences, likes and dislikes and values to ensure the right match.

Understanding the client‘s industry and having a thorough understanding of the candidate by integrating psychometric assessments and reference checks is vital.

If only based on gut feeling, our conclusion would be very subjective. It is when our gut feeling is substantiated by facts that the right match is confirmed. It is our values, personal experience and chemistry which make up our gut feeling and help us to be successful in business related to human capital advisory.

Please tell us a bit about your family.

My husband Capt Firoze Mirza is presently Managing Director of BSM in Hong Kong. We have a 16-year old daughter, Tinaz, who studies in HK and is turning into a lovely young lady.

Fascinated by the ‘Maritime’ world

“Shipping and maritime related professions are amongst the most male dominated with very few women in leading roles worldwide. I am glad that I have managed to climb the ladder successfully. My husband is a mariner and I have two uncles who are involved in shipping; I consider myself very much part of a ‘marine family’.

I am a member of The Nautical Institute, a premier international organisation for shipping professionals, and also the Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA).”

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