Occupations in logistics: behind the scenes

Loubna Gilani started her career as a trainee. A story of how curiosity and passion become a career.

Loubna Gilani is 22 years old and a young mum when she decides to start training. Her plan was to become a freight forwarding logistics clerk. No easy undertaking, as the job is not exactly sold to her: "The careers advisor tried to totally talk me out of it. He said, as a woman it wouldn't be easy in logistics because of the rough atmosphere. Would I really be up to it?"

Instead of being put off, Gilani did some research herself and found out there was more to logistics than trucks and workforces made up entirely of men. "The more information I found myself, the more I became curious. I wanted to find out why we were able to simply take products off the shelf in the supermarket from Argentina, Mexico and the US, and what the processes involved in this were. With its wide range of different areas and global profile, the job also inspired me right from the start to look into the different political, cultural and economic circumstances. That is still the thing which fascinates me most about my occupation."

Today she is a manager and was been able to pursue what she loves from her very first job as Automotive Export Shipping Specialist with Hellmann Worldwide Logistics - very international work and very demanding, as she emphasises: "The service-level here is absolutely critical. In the automotive sector, if you put your logistics service in somebody else's hands, you want everything to run smoothly. Consequently, there is a very low tolerance for error. You therefore learn very quickly to give 100 percent and more." This has clearly benefited Gilani: "My very first job motivated me to keep questioning processes and to test myself. And you also acquire a sharper focus for all the interrelated factors in a role like this. For me, the key quality you still need for a job in logistics is not being satisfied with the status quo."

Tying together loose ends

This attitude and part-time study to become a business specialist have taken Gilani via positions of team leader and office manager to become North Rhine-Westphalia Area Manager with Hellmann. In this role she is responsible for six offices, more than 300 employees, a wide range of logistics products and services as well as various types of transport.

In Gilani's view, this variety allows her to use all the skills she's been able to acquire in her career to date - tying together loose ends, cooperating with others, transporting goods in a network and above all effectively combine various branches, from air and sea freight through to land transport and container logistics. "I think one thing relevant to the job is the ability to think in terms of complex interrelationships and occasionally thinking outside the box. This enables you to integrate customer requirements in your own processes. Another is the importance of connecting people with one another, being genuinely interested in them, engaging with them and nurturing and maintaining relationships. A sense of humour and steady nerves also come in useful."

The last thing, in particular, is to keep training, which is critically important for logistics experts as she says herself. "In this respect the career advisor was totally right. Twenty years ago logistics was not an easy choice for women and this still isn't the case today. You still need confidence if you want to survive. I realise that it is not pleasant for many female employees at the start, but in my experience you can certainly learn to cope. And this is without letting go of your own way of communicating.

She therefore advises aspiring female logistics specialists not to be afraid of standing up for themselves when it is right to do so, and also to assert themselves now and again—particularly if they are going unnoticed among lots of male colleagues. "Over time you find a balance between assertiveness and a more co-operative type of communication. That is really important for me if I am going to reach all employees equally regardless of gender."

But that's just one side of the coin. In Gilani's view, a high level of technical competence and enjoying training and developing yourself is just as important as confidence and clear communication. "Only then do you get the opportunity to be involved and make a difference. And ultimately that's what logistics is all about - never standing still."

Family feeling and support

On her career path, the manager received support mainly from her family but also from Hellmann Worldwide Logistics, her employer of many years. "Right from the start, it was the informal atmosphere and the acceptance of different lifestyles which led me more than 15 years ago to go to Hellmann straight after my training . More than anything this was because it allowed me to look after my family despite my job. However, I was also supported and allowed to participate, for example, in the management programme. For me, this ultimately shows that there are plenty of different models to follow to become established in the logistics. And I am one of them."

Source: logistik-heute.de (website of the logistics magazine Logistik heute, revised by iMOVE, November 2020