Posted: 26th March 2020
For university graduates with a maritime services related degree, the V.Group graduate programme offers a unique opportunity to complete placements across the company’s global offices including the UK, Cyprus, Greece, Germany, Monaco, France, The Philippines, India and Singapore.
Gabriele Dado, who previously took part in the grad programme and is now Head of Sales at SeaTec, describes his experiences in the scheme.
Briefly tell us about your background – what did you study at university, where and when?
Although my initial background was mechanical engineering, I always had the passion for ships and sailing and wanted to pursue the marine engineering field of study. I have been sailing and racing boats competitively since I am too young to remember and always wanted to follow my passion. Because in Rome, where I am from, there is no availability for marine engineering, I decided to go with mechanical and move abroad at a later stage to do my masters in marine engineering. This way I would not put my parents in a difficult situation to support me while away from home for a few years while studying. In Italy, studying engineering is a fulltime job requiring 10-12 hours a day. With a solid background and a degree in mechanical engineering, I then moved to Glasgow, where University of Strathclyde offers one of the top three marine engineering courses in the UK.
What attracted you to the V.Group grad programme?
The possibility of getting a job in the industry that I had studied so hard for was the main driver for me. At the beginning of my career I was of the mind-set that I wanted to be a superintendent and be involved with the technical operations of ships. The grad programme gave me the possibility to try out many different roles, including that of the superintendent, work abroad and in multi-cultural contexts. Starting off knowing that you will have to be away around the world for two years feels like a leap in the dark and it’s a bit scary, however, thinking back to it, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. To really progress you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable and the exposure the grad programme gave me in terms of opening up to different cultures, roles and environments is second to none.
What were the initial few weeks like? What were the easy parts and what was difficult?
The difficult part was being away. Being in a relationship it was hard to know I was going to be away for two years and that was surely a tough one to cope with. I think that sharing a path with a person, knowing you both are going in the same direction, really helped. From the professional point of view being the youngest and less experienced in the team was intimidating. However, my approach has always been learning as much as possible from any experience, and you learn the most from the negative ones! During your development as a graduate you will work with forward-thinking teams who will welcome you and coach you to become a better self. You will also work with people who are more anchored to an old school approach and won’t always make you feel welcome and needed. The important thing is trying to make the most of any situation. I have taken advantage of humble tasks like photocopying contracts to actually read each and every clause of dozens of them. This proved to be greatly useful later on when I became commercial manager.
Tell us about your journey at V.Group since completing the grad programme.
After completing the grad programme my plan of becoming a superintendent was shattered. I started off thinking it was what I wanted to do, I did it and it turned out that I hated it! Luckily enough, I met some great people and made good friends along the way. One of these people, John, saw in me a potential which I never thought of – sales. He proposed a sales role to me and because I had no idea of what I really wanted to do, because I am always up for a challenge and because I am always keen to learn, I decided to take up the role and get back being uncomfortable, back being the least experienced guy in the room. It paid off and it turned out to be a great career path; one where I can make use of my engineering skills to talk with customers technically at any level, but also to have discussions on a serious level from a commercial standpoint. From technical sales executive, I went on to become the commercial manager for the condition monitoring business unit within Marine Services, playing my part in growing the business 25% year-on-year. Later, when SeaTec was re-organised, I assumed the role of global head of sales, supporting a portfolio of over $60 million across our main service lines: engineering projects; subsea; inspections, IRM; condition monitoring and navigation and communication. Every day is still a learning experience and no day is the same. A new challenge is around the corner at any given time.
During your time on the grad programme, what was your favourite placement, team or office?
Maybe it was the environment, maybe it was the weather, maybe it was the fact that I was under pressure… Singapore was for sure my favourite placement. It was all but sunshine and rainbows, it was hard work, often up to 3am. It was turning around our maintenance organisation and instilling the right safety culture in an environment where safety was questionable at best. I did it with the help of some great colleagues and mentors along the way. It was a full on experience which was hard on me but gave me the responsibility over 20 personnel and the personal accountability for the life of our team members on the field.
What is the single most important thing you learned during your time in the grad programme?
Without a doubt – get comfortable being uncomfortable. It’s the only way to push outside your comfort zone and grow.
What would you say to anyone considering applying for V.Group’s graduate programme in 2020?
If you are in it for the long run, if you want to develop on a professional but most importantly on a human level, if you have an ambition to become one of our future leaders, then the grad programme is for you. There will be ups and downs but when you look back you’ll be proud of what you have achieved and of where you are going. We look forward to welcoming you in the family!
Applications for the V.Group graduate programme close on 3rd April 2020. More information, including how to apply and the applicant criteria, can be found on the website. If you have any questions about the programme, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.