Women and technology – for many, this is still a source of antagonism, which still persists within society as a cliché. Nadine Petram, partner of German Dry Docks and daughter of the majority owner Dieter Petram, is one of the examples that clearly demonstrate otherwise.
The fact that the young entrepreneur is so natural and calm in her father’s footsteps and is thus securing the succession of the family business, appears unusual only at first glance. She has always interested been interested in engineering, explains the 34-year-old, which is why she decided to study industrial engineering and management. As Nadine Petram describes her work and her professional career, you sense her commitment to shipyard operations. She knows exactly what she is talking about and is more than well-acquainted with the day-to-day business operations of German Dry Docks. After all, over the last five years, she has been directly involved in the projects for ship repair operations. Since she completely switched to being a partner in the company in October 2015, she is responsible for the strategic decisions and measures at German Dry Docks.
Quality – on schedule and on budget
She has learned her trade from the bottom up, on various shipyards before she started working for her father’s company at the Bremerhaven engine works as a project manager. During her studies in Bremen, she assisted the Bredo shipyard as a construction supervisor. At that time, the ships were constructed in two parts at different shipyards and then firmly and forcefully ‘married’ (joined) together by the so-called ‘Hochzeitsstoß’. In theory, she has learned to test the viability of projects and to structure, plan schedules and agendas, to arrange work sections and to monitor the processes as an interface manager. In reality, it often does not always work that way. Plans cannot always be completely implemented. What ultimately counts is that quality work has been done, on schedule and on budget. You can only get this experience through practice.
In order to get to know the shipyard operations from all sides and gain shipbuilding expertise, after graduating, Nadine Petram decided to stick at it by training as a welding engineer. At the same time, she could certainly have chosen a shorter and more comfortable career path. Because she, like anyone else, has been tenacious and successful and did not shrink from working at the water’s edge, she earns respect from the employees. The change of perspective has not least sharpened her point of view on the essentials. This includes developing a bird’s eye view in certain situations or being able to come up with a water-proof documentation and paper layer. She learned this at the Seebeck shipyard from the Dutch project manager Rik Vrugt when she was responsible for producing and assembling hatch covers, as well as the interior construction of an inland cruise ship. That still stands her in good stead, especially in phases where things get critical.
Tough deals are part of the business, but so is trust
The word “agreement” has something in the broadest sense to do with agreeing, but sometimes it also helps to know how to deal with matters and people in a objective and tough way, when in doubt. This is part of business. As well as the unwritten rule, to be true to your word once is has been given. This creates trust and the basis for long-term relationships – with customers, as well as with employees. It is not surprising then, that German Dry Docks from point of view of the employees is a cross-generational family business. The generational change has, of course, left its mark on the company, explains Nadine Petram. Once her father said he never worries if the docks are full, but about who will work there in the future. It is all the more important to ensure in good time that it continues for generations to come.
New members bring in new ideas and perspectives. That is positive and necessary, in order to test out routines. The entire operation benefits from this feedback. “We think as a team. This is often a process in which something quite new and much better comes into being from many individual ideas”, she explains. The open debate is part of the corporate culture, even when things do not go so smoothly. In these situations the priority is to rescue the situation as quickly as possible and not to spend a long time discussing about who and/what was possibly to blame. When everything is cut and dried, follow up the analysis of the causes with the premise to eliminate any possible problem areas in order to avoid errors in the future. This open error culture forms the basis for a trustful working atmosphere and is confirmed by the commitment of the employees, who often contribute their knowledge and experience.
Lots of variety in everyday working life
The shipyard places importance on a balanced mix of young and experienced staff as well as training within the company. For those who crave an exciting activity, variety in everyday working life, responsibility, opportunities for advancement, internationality and contact with people, German Dry Docks is the right place. The range of tasks is wide ranging. The attractiveness of the company is confirmed by the fact that former interns have found their career perspectives at German Dry Docks after studying or stations in other industries and companies. Apart from that, shipyards offer unique professions. A special challenge here is to maintain continuity. The dock master, for example, is not an official apprenticeship occupation. You can only learn docking directly at the shipyard. Dock masters are absolute experts. Every ship and every dock is different. “We want to pass on this intrinsic knowledge to the next generation, so that it stays with us well into the future”, says Nadine Petram. At the same time, the shipyard is committed to dual degree programmes as a practice partner. The advantage is that students are involved in everyday operations of the profession from the outset and learn which topics from daily practice are particularly relevant. Nobody knows that better than Nadine Petram herself.
With her professional experience, the likeable and confident entrepreneur has long emerged from the shadow of her famous father. When she talks about employees, jobs and the development of the site, her father’s influence on her is nonetheless hard to overlook. “At German Dry Docks, we pursue the aim of strengthening our strengths. Our speciality is the repair business – continuously, 24 hours a day, 7 days per week and 365 days per year. We are working successfully within this business field and in the future, we want to make further progress.” Like her father, she wants to continue promoting investments as a partner and internationally strengthen the great reputation of Bremerhaven as a traditional and modern locations for shipyards. “The main focus are the requirements of the market and the question: what will customers be needing tomorrow?” In order to compete in the global market, it is necessary to open up new perspectives and to look for synergies within the regional network”, explains Nadine Petram. Dieter Petram has successfully shown how to double the utilisation of the docks in a short time through comprehensive and extensive cooperation at the site.