Shipping runs thick through the veins of the Gullestrup family. Father, Per, headed up Clipper Group and now his daughter, Tanja, is human resources director of Pacific Green Technologies, the gas scrubber pioneer.

But Tanja did not always intend to go into shipping.

What did you want to be when you were a child?

“From a young age I knew I had people skills but also business acumen. It was something my parents encouraged me to explore but I never really did until I stumbled across occupational psychology and, more specifically, psychometrics. Psychometrics is the science of measuring mental capacities and processes. It is a lot more tangible than other areas of psychology because you can measure aptitude, behaviour and motivating factors.

TanjaGullestrup.jpg Tanja Gullestrup, human resources director of Pacific Green Technologies

Did your father help you out when you were studying?

Yes, the company he was CEO of, Clipper Group, provided the guinea pigs for my third-year university project on the Danish shipping company’s use of psychometric tools for recruitment and measuring staff performance, which earned me a coveted place on the UK’s only psychometrics master’s degree at London’s City University - I ended up with a distinction and the highest overall average in my year.

What did you do before PGT?

I was at recruitment assessment agency Thomas International, a consultant for LexisNexis in its news and business sector and a freelance consultant across the fintech sector, mainly helping start-ups and smaller firms implement HR processes. I also headed HR for English sparkling wine company Nyetimber.

You must’ve been busy since joining PGT earlier this year. The company has really grown in that time.

Yes, very busy! I’ve helped expand PGT’s European operation from three to 19 people, including a new five-person sales office in Oslo, and raising the female-to-male employment ratio to 40-60, from just the one woman, me, early this year. That ratio is impressive for a technical maritime group that is taking on a lot of engineers. A key path to gender equality is promoting flexible working for women around families. It is an aspect I am well aware of as a mother of three children, aged from two to 10. I drop my children off for school or nursery before work and pick them up afterwards as often as possible. I work a little in the evening after they have gone to bed.

Senior managers need to live and breathe diversity, and we need to make a conscious effort to ensure people are accountable, everyone has a level playing field and everyone knows what is expected...

How do you go about recruiting a diverse range of people?

One of the priorities when looking to recruit is the content of job adverts, making sure there are buzzwords that will appeal, for example, to women. But it is not just about talking about fostering an inclusive and respectful culture, it is also about inculcating it from management down - it does not just appear overnight. Senior managers need to live and breathe diversity, and we need to make a conscious effort to ensure people are accountable, everyone has a level playing field and everyone knows what is expected, male or female. We actually have a fair few female engineers now.

Have senior management been helpful?

PGT’s chief executive Scott Poulter has been exceptional in valuing soft skills and setting the foundations for the company to attract a diverse group of employees.

So, how do psychometrics help the process?

Psychometric testing is essential as it identifies the mix of skills and experience that will ensure successful candidates have the knowledge to do their job, but also the characteristics that make them valuable team members: that they are in the right job, enjoy what they are doing, are more likely to stay in the business and are going to be motivated. It links into productivity and flows from getting the early stages of recruitment right.

Does psychometrics help when you have a tough choice between two candidates?

You may have two final round candidates, say one male and one female. Psychometrics allows more insight and is unbiased, which enables a fairer selection process. The male candidate may have a few more years’ experience, but the female’s psychometrics profile may be stronger thereby making her a more suitable candidate.

And, of course, as PGT considers diversifying into other areas of environmental technology, Tanja will have to adapt too.

Our long-term intention is not to stay focused solely on scrubbers. PGT is looking at expanding into land-based renewable energies, such as concentrated solar power and fuel cells — areas that may well attract more environmentally-conscious candidates. It’s another set of engineers. I think I’m well equipped at recruiting engineers — and engineers that are not only technically talented but have soft skills too.

Soft skills?

Soft skills, such as the ability to communicate, negotiate, take responsibility, be flexible, manage time, self-motivate, solve problems and lead or work within teams are key in our type of project-based business and will only become more important as and when we diversify.

What do psychometrics say about you?

In my psychometric profile, I score very highly on needing variety in my job. Luckily, I rate this job as 10 out of 10 because no two days are the same. It is a very diverse role.

What does your father think of your career?

I grew up in Texas while my father was travelling a lot in the late 1980s and early 1990s. My mother was alone with two young children in a foreign country far away from home in Denmark. Now I’ve gone to work in the maritime sector, and my dad is retired and really enjoys being able to pick up his grandchildren from school, which we both think is just great.”


This interview was adapted from an article published on the Tradewinds website