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International Women’s Day 2024: Inspiring inclusion at 90POE

Updated: May 30

Today marks International Women’s Day 2024 and with it the chance to celebrate women's achievements, raise awareness about discrimination and take action to inspire inclusion.


At 90POE we sit at the intersection between maritime and technology, two industries which are striving hard to attract and retain women across their workforce, recognising the importance of diverse perspectives and solutions, and acknowledging the low representation of women historically in both sectors (ICS, 2020), (Women in Tech Survey, 2023).


As a remote first organisation, 90POE has been able to attract an incredible team from across the globe, including many women in various roles across the company. As part of International Women’s Day, we spoke to just some of the women who make up the 90POE global team, learning more about their journey to their current roles, what encouraged them to join 90POE and asking how is technology shaping the maritime sector and how can we inspire inclusion in this rapidly evolving landscape?


Peny Zerva, Product Manager at 90POE explains, “Shipping is an interesting industry but at the same time it can be challenging for a young female engineer who is trying to navigate into it, it is important to find opportunities and discover the areas that you would like to grow in”.


Peny’s own journey started at a software company, as a naval architect and designer for loading programs.

My career journey started 17 years ago when I obtained my bachelor’s degree in Naval architecture and Marine Engineering. I was fortunate to start at a software company, as a naval architect performing calculations for stability and ship’s strength and preparing loading manuals and stability booklets. This was my first work experience in a very friendly environment where I could be taught by very knowledgeable professionals how to put in practice some of the technical knowledge I acquired during my studies.”


With 17 years’ experience in the maritime industry, most recently in HSQE and QA manager roles, Peny never stops aspiring and ensures she has the opportunity to develop and grow, continuously seeking creative ways to keep this journey exciting.


As a Product Manager, I would use all my shipping experience in a very creative way so we can develop products that can be used from shipping and oil companies. And here I am now, seeing all my knowledge, experience, and ideas of how we can improve our ways of working to transform into products that will make the difference in the shipping industry.”


Work-life balance and company vision are often important considerations when starting a new role and these were both essential for Dhara Patel, Head of Product. When asked about what motivated her to join 90POE, Dhara explained:


I interviewed with the leadership team who were very passionate about the company mission and product vision but spoke equally about company culture and creating an inclusive environment. This influenced my decision to join the team. At the time I was transitioning back to full time employment after maternity, and nervous about the choices I'd have to make between my career and motherhood. It hasn't always been easy but 90POE have supported me in striking the right balance between work and home, and over the years I have felt fulfilled in both ways.”


Dhara also shared her vision for the development of 90POE’s OpenOcean STUDIO and discusses her perspective on how technology will transform the maritime industry in the future.


“The maritime industry is investing in its future and recognising the value that can be realised by adopting more advanced technologies and new ways of working. Amongst the backdrop of complex geopolitics, the cost of resources and ambitious targets for climate change the industry is becoming more reliant on platforms, like OpenOcean STUDIO. The platform provides an extensive set of features for crew management, proactive monitoring and alerting, onBOARD reporting, route optimisation, fuel & CII predictions, post voyage analysis and more to ensure crew, vessel and cargo safety, operational efficiency, and technical management across a fleet.”


Swapna Bakshi, Lead QA Engineer, has worked in various industries as a software engineer and finds maritime to be the most challenging yet rewarding.


In the past 13 years, I have worked in various industries - banking, financial services, the fitness industry, and maritime. Without a doubt, the most challenging of all has been working in the maritime industry with 90POE, and I am still learning a lot. When I moved to the UK eight years ago, I never thought I'd stay here this long. It was a hard decision, personally and professionally. I thought being a woman of colour in the tech industry would limit my growth in a foreign country, but not once have I felt like an outsider. The support I have always received from my colleagues has been tremendous, and I am grateful for it.


One person who understands the importance of inspiring inclusion across a fast-paced organisation, is Ellie Heavens, Chief People Officer at 90POE.


Both the maritime and technology industries have a low representation of women, especially in leadership and decision-making positions. This can create a lack of role models, mentors, and networks for women, and a lack of recognition and opportunities for their contributions and achievements.


With over 20 years of experience in human resources and talent acquisition, Ellie has a clear message to encourage more females into fast-paced industries:


• "Be curious and confident: Don't be afraid to explore and learn new things, and to challenge yourself and others. Be supportive and encouraging: Seek and offer support and guidance from and to other women. Showcase your work and achievements and celebrate your successes and those of others. Join and create communities and networks that can empower and inspire you and others. Be vocal and visible: Share your ideas and opinions, and voice your concerns and needs. Raise awareness and advocate for the issues and causes that matter to you. Be a role model, a mentor, or a leader for the next generation of women in these industries."


So, what inspired Ellie to join 90POE? Two words stand out, passion and innovation.


“It was really refreshing to chat with a CEO who showed as much passion and energy for the goals of the company as he did for the people who works at 90POE. A real human centric leadership which aligned completely with my own values was all the encouragement I needed. I was also excited to be part of this ambitious and impactful business that was disrupting an industry, as their People leader, and to use my skills, knowledge, and experience to make a difference.”


90POE's DNA revolves around clarity, belonging, and success. Prioritising clear and transparent communication, and acknowledging success is not about perfection, but instead agility and continuous improvement.


“We changed our Company values to include Belonging because we wanted everyone to feel as though they are part of 90POE, can be themselves, share thoughts and challenge ideas safely. We encourage our team leads to know everyone in their team so that they can understand the human behind the role.”


A global business spanning across 25 countries


Ellie’s journey at 90POE started back in 2020 and has contributed to defining the company goals through the creation and implementation of people strategies which covers the whole HR spectrum.


“When I joined 90POE four years ago we were 60 people in two locations. Today, we are a global business with over 200 people based across 25 countries. Leading the people agenda through this change was a challenge, but having such strong foundations and solid leadership supported a successful transition. We enjoy and benefit from the diversity of thought and culture that our workforce brings to our business.”


Discussing the challenges of promoting inclusion in a fast-paced organisation, Ellie comments:


“As a remote first business we recruit nationally and have over 30 nationalities working at 90POE. We do regular pulse surveys where everyone has the opportunity to share their experience of working at 90POE. It also allows people to ask questions to the leadership team and also to call out exceptional work of others. Finally, we share insights into the different cultures we have at the company; last month we learnt about Madagascar from two members who live there.”


Peny, Dhara, Swapna and Ellie’s journeys are four valuable examples of the important and varied impact women are having in the maritime and technology space and today, we are proud to celebrate and show our support the creation of inclusive spaces for women and to acknowledge the fantastic work being done to shape and redefine our industry.


Discover more about life at 90POE through our Careers page.



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