Educated and trained as an engineer, Yuri Sakurada shares insights on her path to a leadership role at DNV.
While many careers in maritime start with a passion for the sea, this was not the case with Yuri Sakurada, HR Director, DNV Maritime, who fell into maritime by chance following her engineering studies at the University of Osaka. “But I must say that my passion for the industry has grown since I started to work for DNV as a surveyor for new maritime projects in Japan, many years back.”
While Sakurada’s path did not start on the maritime track, it has evolved into a full-fledged marine career, as she has worked as an engineer, a surveyor and a project manager “in almost services we deliver today.”
In particular, Sakurada is intrigued by the contrast inherent in maritime: it is a global business, one of the most essential industries for all societies; but at the same time, it is a small industry. “Relationships and experience are highly appreciated in this industry.”
As a part of Maritime Reporter & Engineering News’ profiles in maritime female leadership in the run up to the Women's International Shipping & Trading Association’s (WISTA) annual conference, scheduled to be held in person October 12-15, 2021, in Hamburg, Germany, Sakurada said that being a female in a male-dominated business has its pros and cons.
As the female leadership in maritime is still a relative rarity, she said that “people tend to remember me better, so that's an advantage in a relationship-based industry.” But that positive can be a negative, too: “because people tend to remember me well, they also naturally remember the things I want them to forget … when you make a mistake or have an embarrassing moment!”
As the HR Director for DNV Maritime, Sakurada oversees a model of diversity, as DNV is an organization with 115 nationalities among its employees, operating in more than 100 countries, with 25% of its employees being female.
Looking exclusively at the maritime portion of the DNV business, there are 3,175 employees spread across 180 offices in 67 countries. As one might expect of classification, the majority of employees – about 70% – come in with engineering backgrounds, helping to feed the future of this “knowledge-based company.”
Finding, attracting and retaining top-tier employees is always a challenge in maritime, based largely on the specific nature of the industry and the relatively low numbers of new candidates coming in each year. Sakurada reckons that as the industry is “somewhat overlooked and not so well known” as a career path, collectively the industry needs to do better to attract new talent. But maritime is changing, and the need for more data analysts and math majors is pronounced, as the age of digitalization and autonomy come to the fore.
“The most recent challenge for recruiting new talent, is that we are competing for talent with many different industries,” said Sakurada. “Especially for these new skills, the new knowledge.”
For the next generation mulling a career path, Sakurada says that DNV – with its global footprint and broad brand reputation and recognition – is a desirable landing spot for a number of reasons. First and foremost, for those interested to see the world, DNV and classification societies in general offer amazing opportunities to travel and live abroad.
“We have a lot of career development opportunities around the globe,” said Sakurada. “Personally, I have worked in 10 different offices in seven countries across three continents. That is a fantastic opportunity not many organizations can offer.”
In addition to the international exposure, Sakurada sees many pervasive global trends in regards to the environment that suggest an organization like DNV – with its driving purpose of safeguarding life, property and the environment – as attractive career landing spot today.
The job of Sakurada and her human resources colleagues across the maritime sector are more critical to an organization’s success than ever before, as a traditional, hands-on, meet-and-greet, in-person business like maritime with complex problems melds emerging distance learning and distance working skills; aiming to deliver the same quality of service, but more efficiently and cost-effectively.
And COVID-19 has effectively fast-tracked a number of trends already present in maritime – namely digitalization– which has effectively helped to change the types and level of talent that DNV seeks, particularly as it takes the lead on advanced operations such as fully remote inspections. “As we are going in to more remote operations and more automated systems, it requires more digital competencies in the company,” said Sakurada. “But it is important to emphasize that it does not mean that we don't need a traditional, core knowledge about shipbuilding and ship operations, which is very, very important. That's where we still have the majority of our employees, holding those competencies.”