Inspirational Woman: Renate Schreiber | Global Business Line Director Marine Asset Integrity, Fugro

Renate SchreiberI was born in Germany, but have spent much of my life travelling. I have been lucky enough to spend time living in Namibia, South Africa and the Netherlands.

It was in South Africa where I completed a BA (hons) in Psychology at Rhodes University before heading straight into my career.

I began my career over 20 years ago in a small offshore survey company, where I was involved in all parts of the business. My roles were both offshore and onshore in various capacities, and after a few years I joined Fugro and moved into management, mostly in the offshore sector of the business. In my current role as Global Director Marine Asset Integrity, my mission is to drive Fugro’s strategy within marine asset integrity, focusing on transitioning the business towards remote and autonomous operations.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I would say that I took a typical route to begin with; completing high school, going to university where I got my degree in Psychology and then I took some time out to travel. It wasn’t something that I ever sat down and planned out on paper; it just went that way.

Once I returned from my travels, I started a position in a marine survey company and from there I was hooked. It really appealed to me, so I decided to do some further studies and obtain a survey-related qualification. I realised that my career growth would be well supported by having a technical degree in my practical field of work. So, I returned to university to obtain a master’s in Geographic Information Systems, which equipped me well for the digital data focus of our industry.

Deep down there was probably a match with my passion for maps, but what really kept me enthralled with my work was the variety. From generating seafloor charts, to learning about the latest innovative technologies available, I was given a chance to explore and practice an array of skills. Being able to combine that with the adventure of going offshore and travelling is what captivated me.

Maybe my master’s degree was one of the few concrete plans I made in my career. Most of my career growth – and sometime it was a meander – is the result of following what I enjoy doing and being prepared to take an active step towards an opportunity even when it comes at a less-than-perfect moment. I am a big believer in following my intuition and think that if you have a good feeling about an opportunity, you owe it to yourself to jump at that chance.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

We are in a time where technological innovations deliver change at a rapid pace. Staying informed and up to date with the trends and changes, and how they can translate into added value solutions to our partners and clients, can seem quite overwhelming at times.

And then there is work-life balance, which is a continuous challenge. Sharing my energy and attention across my family, looking after my health, my work… this can be tricky, but hugely motivating when I get it right!

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

A major milestone early in my career was the appointment as Operations Manager at Fugro. This position carried the responsibility for the operational aspects, budgets, projects, field staff, and support teams, for all our offshore survey operations taking place in West Africa and on the Dutch Continental Shelf.

In retrospect, I realise I was a rather unlikely candidate for this position, being a woman and 30 years of age – to me it showed the confidence my managers and my peers had in me and in my abilities. I experienced this as quite a forming time of my career.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Professionally, I’ve been fortunate that I have been surrounded by people who have placed a high level of trust and confidence in me. At the start of my career, I worked in a small survey company where I was encouraged to take on a wide range of responsibilities across the business.

When I joined Fugro, this experience equipped me to contribute across a broad scope of activities, from technical, offshore and onshore, to commercial, operational and various support services. The fact that I did not hesitate to explore all these sectors in the company certainly helped my career growth.

Secondly, there has also been a lot of support in my personal life to achieve growth in my career. The person that most marked my career must be my husband – we met at Fugro, and we worked closely together for many years, something that many couples would find quite a challenge. He has always been very supportive of my various career changes, whether they were relocations, promotions, resignations, or sideways moves.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

Mentoring has been a continuous element during my career, especially in more recent years, when we introduced a more formal mentoring programme at Fugro. I have mentored colleagues who recently joined the company, from new entrants to the workplace all the way to experienced managers who appreciated the mentoring and coaching space to explore new challenges in the company. I obtained a coaching qualification, to equip me with further skills to make a difference as a mentor and coach. Personally, I gain a lot from being a mentor and find it energising, often being inspired by young talent.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

In most maritime organisations, leadership lacks diversity; it’s probably historically rooted, but this clearly needs to change.

I believe that in order to make a meaningful change in diversity, and to counter what has been present for decades, we need to address it on all levels. As long as diversity is not properly represented at the top, it will always be a struggle to achieve diversity across the rest of the organisation.

From a business point of view, organisations must start by fostering a culture of inclusiveness which is open-minded to differences, and to openly communicate about their goals with respect to gender equality.

This culture starts from a real personal commitment by those who are able to make decisions, decide on training budgets, as well as hiring and nurturing talent. We all need to be in it for the long haul, it takes years to grow a balanced work force and even longer for a balanced society. So, unless we make gender equality and diversity and inclusion something that we are constantly striving for, everywhere, we won’t get it right. It must become part of the normal way of doing business, not a tick box exercise. So, the one thing I will aim at is to ensure explicit, personal commitment to diversity and inclusion in the leadership team.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Don’t forget to pause every now and then. Pause to take stock of your life, to take stock of your career, and to savour the moment.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

My role now is to focus on transitioning the business towards remote and autonomous operations. At Fugro, we are well aware of the climate emergency the world faces and we are determined to contribute to a far safer and liveable world for us and generations to come.

We are continuously innovating and evolving our solutions to bring the most cutting-edge capabilities to our clients, and we intend to use these innovations to reduce our carbon footprint and drive more sustainable work solutions in the long-term. I am also keen to be at the forefront of our continued commitment to diversity and inclusion at Fugro.


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