Singaporean native Carolyne Wallmark (46) has lived many years in Scandinavia and worked with Danish, Norwegians and Swedish companies. In business she finds the Danes direct and decisive, and the Swedish are consultative and inclusive. Read the article to find out where she places the Norwegians on the scale!
Carolyne Wallmark is a native Singaporean Chinese who chose to venture into the maritime arena after completing her Diploma in Maritime Transportation. She spent 5 years at sea, first as a deck cadet and then as a deck officer.
Then she pursued her degree in Maritime Business and Maritime Law in the sleepy town of Plymouth, UK. After graduation, Carolyne worked in Switzerland for about 3 years and later moved to Sweden where she was based for almost 10 years prior moving back to Singapore in 2010.
Can you tell a bit on your upbringing and the difference between Singapore then and Singapore now?
I grew up in a traditional and conservative Chinese home with Buddhist and Confucius beliefs / values and I recall fun filled weekends with the extended family both the young and elderly. As with all local gatherings, there is always a potluck of homemade delicacies and goodies. Back then, the Chinese community spoke a variety of dialects and my generation of adults were fortunate to have been raised in multi dialect environment. These days the knowledge of Chinese dialects is very much diluted with the use of English and Mandarin as the main communication medium. I am often thankful for the multilingual & multicultural environment in which I was brought up as it made it easier to learn new languages and adapt every time we moved to a new country.
Can you share some reflections about cultural differences and perhaps differences in ways of doing business in the countries you have experience from?
There is a marked difference in social and work cultures in the UK, Switzerland and Sweden.
Coming from Singapore where food and shopping is available all days of the week, I had a culture shock when I arrived in Europe, where shops are closed after 1pm on Saturdays and Sunday is literally a day of rest for all.
Similarly, when it comes to work life balance, in Europe, there is a clear line between work and private life, when folks go away for summer vacation, people respect the time off and do their best not to disturb.
Language can also be a challenge, I really struggled with language difference during the early days when we moved to Switzerland where if you do not speak French or Swiss German, getting about can be very challenging.
In Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries, most people are very fluent in English so communications was never an issue.
I have worked with Danish, Norwegians and Swedish companies and the work culture is very different. I find the Danes more direct and decisive when a decision is needed, with the Swedish more consultative and inclusive before a conclusion is reached.
The Norwegians in my opinion, kind of between the scales, in their mediatory but direct approach.
If you put the three nationalities all in one event, like when we used to have the Scandinavian sports day, then I would say my Norwegian friends are the most competitive amongst the three.
A few words on your family… who they are, what they do?
My Swedish husband Per Erik retired last spring after over 40 years in shipping. His new project is a 46 feet sailing yacht in Greece where he will be spending at least 6-8 months once the sailing season starts. Our daughter, Ylva turned 21 last month. She is doing her final year of her Marine Biology degree in Townsville Australia. As you can see, there is salt in our blood with our close connection to the sea.
Can you give us a rundown on StormGeos business?
StormGeo is a global provider of weather intelligence and decision support services. We have leading solutions for shipping, oil and gas, renewable energy, onshore industries, and aviation. Offering solutions toward decarbonization, more than 12,000 ships rely on StormGeo software or services for navigational planning, route optimization, weather routing and fleet performance. The company has 24 offices in 16 countries, including eight 24/7/365 global operations centers.
At StormGeo, supporting the decarbonization efforts of the international shipping industry and accelerating the use of digital solutions is a top priority. We recently launched our Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) Dashboard that provides ship operators with the ultimate digital tool for calculating, reporting, and proactively improving the CII rankings of their fleet.
Singapore is the premier hub for our shipping operations, and many of our customers have significant presence in the region. To maintain a high service level to our local and regional maritime customers, we have expanded our operations in Singapore over past 4 years. Before we had a sales office of four people. Now, we have grown to a team of 18. The team includes sales, customer service, and an operations team comprising of Route Analysts and a fleet performance experts.
Being close to the customer is important. That way we can understand their business needs and better service their requirements.
How can NBAS best be of use for you?
NBAS is a facilitator for Norwegian business community here in SEA. For StormGeo this creates more opportunities to connect and network with the NBAS -members and other affiliated organizations.
NBAS provides a platform for StormGeo to connect to the wider business community to discuss ideas, innovate and network. There is also a regular update of regulatory requirements. Also, the members are linked to discussion forums with expert speakers on the topics of interests.
What is your best tip to those who want to do business in Singapore?
In Singapore, companies wishing to do business in the region have good access to local employees with good education background and who are fluent in English and at least another regional language, Mandarin and/or Bahasa.
For shipping, Singapore is the hub where most of the international shipping community have a local representation. This means that most owners, operators, charterers and other linked service industries are present in Singapore. The maritime authorities of Singapore and the local ports are also very supportive with business initiatives. Especially these days where we are all working on decarbonization and reducing the impact of our carbon footprints on the environment.
If you have a good business idea or suggestion for improvement in your industry, dont feel shy to approach the relevant authorities. If such plans are presented with clear thoughts process behind the suggested plan of implementation, you can expect a good response and support from the relevant authorities or regulatory agencies.
What do you love about Singapore? What do you like less about Singapore?
Singapore is very clean and safe for the family, especially if you have older children / teenagers. Getting about in Singapore is very convenient and it is comparatively cheap to commute.
Like most other Singaporeans, I am very passionate about food. There is a wide range of local and international cuisines readily available from hawker stalls to fancy restaurants. So there is always available choice to suit all tastebuds and budgets.
Pre pandemic, the connectivity and ease of travel out of Changi Airport was great for business and short breaks for family getaways. However, we felt the downside of being in a small city, during the past two years. There is only so much we can see and do in the city state.
Luckily for us, we have found the small oasis in Changi sailing club and Pulau Ubin. Here we can escape the city buzz and high-rise construction.
Which book do you have on your nightstand, and why?
Recently, I am reading a series of Dirk Pitt novels by the late Cliff Cussler. The fictions are themes of underwater wrecks, exploration and conspiracy theories.
With the pandemic and restrictions on travel, I try to escape into the imaginary thrills of adventures when I am not too bogged down with responsibilities of work and family.
What makes you happy? What makes you mad?
Being able to spend time with my family, especially with my mum and my husband makes me feel very happy. I long to see my daughter in person…. Its been over two years since she went to Australia.
It upsets me when I hear of bullying, whether in private or work life. I am a strong advocate of responsible vocal rights. It is not all about freedom to speak but to speak responsibly.
Singapore forever or open for new adventures abroad?
It has been about 12 years since we moved back to Singapore. We had not expected to stay more than 3 – 5 years then but we are still here.
I would love to move back to Scandinavia as I miss the four seasons. You never know what new adventure that comes around the corner.