She does not have many female colleagues, but in the man's world of shipping, Natascha Madho already knows how to hold her own. Her goal is to progress into becoming a project manager in the fascinating maritime world. "I have a thing for vessels," she says.
Natascha is currently working as a project administrator at Alewijnse Marine on a placement working on board a vessel that she joined midway through the electrical installation phase. There, she is regarded as just one of the ‘guys’. To get the job done on time, there are more than a hundred hired technicians from various countries working on board. The administration of all these cable pullers, commissioners, electricians and foremen lies entirely in her hands. "Given the dynamism of the project and the need to be able to switch focus very quickly, I feel that this job was made for me,” says Natascha.
So what exactly is your role?
“I am the point of contact for all the hired engineers on board. So I am responsible for their badges, time keeping, orders and safe working,” Natascha explains. “On average, between 120 and 130 technicians are employed on the worksite at any one time, but we have had peaks of up to 177 contractors. I was thrown in at the deep end, but I was hooked immediately. It is the most enjoyable job I’ve ever had.”
What is it like to work as a woman in a men's world?
“It can be easier to work in a man's world. Men make decisions more quickly than women so you often have a better idea of what lies ahead. Recently a technician had to leave as he was still not following the safety regulations after two warnings. Well, he was dismissed within ten minutes.”
“On the other hand,” she continues, “some men think women are easier to work around, but when they speak to me they quickly realise that no-one can order me around," observes Natascha. “Sometimes men whistle or call out to me, or sometimes at the coffee machine one will ask if I have a boyfriend. I can laugh it off. I just say that it’s none of their business, that is private."
What characteristics do you need for this work?
“Taking the initiative and being precise, sharp and stress resistant are important. But most of all, you definitely must have a pretty thick skin or else people will just walk all over you. Some men can't handle women and tend to treat them with disrespect; they talk to women the way they would have a conversation with a man. Cultural differences have also a role to play. Dutch men are often more polite and demonstrate more respect towards women.”
Did you feel that you had to prove yourself?
“No, luckily I didn't have to do that. I was immediately accepted into the role. Maybe it was because I am not doing the same job as the men on board. Of course, I have to deal sometimes with difficult colleagues. On one occasion a worker did not want to organise a toolbox; a meeting about safety. He said ’I don’t think so’ and I had to react right away, making it clear that I wanted the results on my desk that same day. Usually I try not to involve my supervisor, but if it really gets too bad, I can always bring him in.”
Is this work different from a job at the office?
“It is a very different working environment. It is much more dynamic, which is why you have to learn to switch quickly between tasks. The international nature of the work is also nice. I get to explore other cultures and try to learn other languages. It’s very educational and I feel I'm doing well.
How do you see your future?
My next goal is to grow into project management. There you face a lot of pressure and stress and you must be available at all times, but the job is very diversified and challenging as well. I want to continue to develop myself within the project environment at Alewijnse. This work is tailor-made for me.