Maersk Area Head of Finance UKI, Nishat Neelay Deshmukh changed her relationship status many years ago – or as she says so herself: “I married Maersk before I married my husband.”
My tryst with logistics happened very early in life. Joining the family as a little girl at my father’s small spare parts trading shop in Dubai, we helped him hand-pack engine spark plugs, watching them get sorted on to cartons, pallets and loaded into a 20-foot container.
That one container determined our livelihood. Even at playtime, I would prop up a ship on our family bed and pretend to sail the world with goods to sell. My strongest memory is a board of teddy bears, being presented an impressive fictious set of sales and financial charts at my make-believe company. In hindsight, this was perhaps the most definitive sign of the true adventures that lay ahead.
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Life as an expat family was hard. We did not make much and I could not wait to make myself capable enough to improve our lives further as a family. Like many who would grow up in such realities, I worked with a passion through school, earning scholarships and putting myself through a coveted University we could otherwise never afford.
In my spare time I worked a part time job in Carrefour. I would access the supermarket through the loading bays, fascinated by the operations that kept it going 24/7. In many ways this was a continuation of my childhood experiences helping my mamma and papa.
People say women often end up marrying a version of their father. It was no accident then that nearing my graduation, a new but familiar love came knocking. Maersk pulled me further into the enticing world of shipping and logistics and empowered me to create a life experience I had only dreamed of growing up. In other words, it was instant attraction.
Besides the comfort of familiarity; financial stability and the opportunity to travel the world were what first drew me to Maersk. For a while, my vision of success was very individual – young and unexperienced, my way of thinking was: “What do I get?”
But things got serious as I got challenged with one assignment after another. As I took on more responsibilities, I felt part of a cause much bigger than myself, which made it easy to put aside the desire of personal victory and instead work for a mutually rewarding relationship.
Certainly, no relationship is without its challenges. There have been moments of conflict, feelings of being misunderstood and let down. Those were the real moments of growth, where I learned the importance of interpreting and aligning values. It is also through those moments of conflict that I am still learning when to listen and when to speak up.
But why go at it alone? I feel immense gratitude for the extended family. The many colleagues, mentors and friends – and dare I say, couples’ therapists – who bring out the best in me, even on my worst days. They are distinct in the way they think. They provide an opportunity to reflect and broaden one´s perspective – in my case from “What do I get?” To “What do I give?”
This mindset switch from getting to giving is perhaps the sticking point of why any relationship survives and grows against all odds.
The other guy
It was at our UAE office I met Neelay - my other big love and my actual husband. 17 years on I continue to draw parallels between our marriage and my union with Maersk. Starting with an attraction, then an emotional connection, to a sense of comfort, safety, compromise – all worth the ups and downs.
It’s only logical to do a temperature check on any long-lasting relationship - an assessment of what it’s been like so far and what the future holds - so why stop with our personal relationships? I have found it truly rewarding to treat my career in Maersk with the same level of care and respect, and I pride myself in having not only one but in ways two successful marriages.
Part of compromising is sometimes tough choices. I am ridden with guilt each time my daughter falls ill when I go traveling - which is every time! But watching her beaming face as she settles into my office chair and pretends to be a full-time employee becomes a beautiful depiction of the circle of life.
This is when our revitalised purpose of ‘improving life for all’ truly resonates with me. It makes me know that I chose right. And it transports me right back to the 1-bedroom apartment, which I shared with my family growing up. I am reminded of the purpose-driven work ethic and resilience I saw in my parents. Work hard for the obvious perks in any relationship but work even harder for the purpose it exists.
Today, looking around our beautiful family home in Chester, England, I know that integrating yourself with others – in ways, the world – truly can improve life. Everything happens for a reason, and I am lucky my reason was Maersk… and of course Neelay!
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