In our special column, we are delighted to host an interview with Mrs. Diane Gilpin, Founder/ CEO, Smart Green Shipping Alliance (SGSA), who inspire us to always invest in our curiosity and dedicate time to listening without judgement and building strong relationships.
Mrs Gilpin has an outstanding career in innovation and systems design during the last 25 years in which she was honoured to meet interesting and influential persons that played catalytic role. From launching the mobile phone network in the UK to working for several Formula One motor racing teams, she now advocates for decaronization supporting new business opportunities as a Founder of Smart Green Shipping Alliance.
SAFETY4SEA: How did it come about that you joined shipping industry and your field of expertise specifically?
Diane Gilpin: I’ve always worked in Innovation and Systems Design. My career path has included the launching the mobile phone network in the UK, Formula One, Offshore Yacht Racing and renewable energy generation. There is huge potential in both innovation and systems design in shipping – by introducing zero emission, renewable fuels; new digital analyses tools; new financial products and manufacturing processes – all of which could significantly improve commercial and environmental performance.
S4S: What about your current job/ role most excites you and why?
D.G.: Developing new commercially superior systems solutions to help the shipping industry thrive in an uncertain future. Because building regenerative systems solutions is challenging, rewarding, fun and critically important.
S4S: When you think of the word successful who are the persons who come to mind and why?
D.G.: The first is Raye Montague a woman who faced racism and sexism in the segregated Southern USA, where she was forced to sit in the back of the bus and was denied entry to a college engineering program because she was black. But she went on to become an internationally registered professional engineer and shattered the US Navy’s glass ceiling to became the first female program manager of ships. She revolutionized the way the Navy designed ships and submarines using a computer program she developed in the early 1970s. It would have previously have taken two years to produce a rough design of a ship on paper, but during the heat of the Vietnam War Ms. Montague was given one month to design the specifications for a frigate. She did it in 18 hours and 26 minutes.
But for me success is also about happiness. This means balance between achieving work goals and enjoying a full and multi-faceted life.
I’ve recently got to know Baroness Bryony Worthington, Executive Director of the Environmental Defence Fund, who was instrumental in developing and implementing the UK Climate Change Act.
She is an incredibly persuasive speaker, identifies the common threads that help people build consensus when finding solutions to challenging issues. She’s really warm and welcoming and balances her work and family in a way that is inspirational.
S4S: Who are the most influential persons/mentors to you & why ?
D.G.: I am deeply honoured to be mentored by Dr Dianne Dillon Ridgely – one of the world’s leading advisors on environmental, sustainability, diversity and commercial transformation. Amongst other things she is a Director of Interface – a remarkable pioneering commercial success underpinned by sustainability – and she’s advised both Presidents Clinton and Obama.
She is incredibly busy but, remarkably, always finds time to push me, or lift me as necessary.
I’m also incredibly fortunate to work with Dr Jenifer Baxter, Head of Engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. She’s focused, effective and creative – a formidable combination. She keeps me sane.
S4S: What is the best and what was the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given and why?
D.G.: Worst advice: From a leading shipping industry expert in 2010 – “don’t waste your time on renewable energy for shipping” (delivered so aggressively other conference delegates felt compelled to step in)
Best advice: A colleague once gave me this quote to pin above my desk: “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no (wo)man could have dreamed would have come (her)his way.
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now
S4S: What is the most worthwhile career investment (in energy, time, money) you’ve ever made?
D.G.: I’ve spent much of my life figuring out how to ‘do’ sustainability so it works in technically, commercially and environmentally superior ways to incumbent systems. It’s a constant evolutionary journey.
I continually invest in my curiosity – through reading, attending lectures with leading scientists, thinkers, entrepreneurs, by watching TV programmes about great engineering achievements… and learning from nature is also really inspiring.
I also pay close attention to my mental and physical health by making sure to take time out (it’s often when the best ideas pop up). I run trails in beautiful countryside, work with my horses who are great no-nonsense teachers and I grow veg and keep chickens.
S4S: If you could give a piece of advice to your 18-year-old-self one thing, what would it be and why? What piece of advice should you ignore?
D.G.: It wasn’t until I was 30 that I began to realise I could shape my own destiny. That it wasn’t all about qualifications or status, that individual creativity and unique perspectives have immense value. I’m not sure at 18 I, or many people, are able to hear advice. In my 20s I was quite confident I knew everything! Learning by making mistakes is the most effective way to progress.
S4S: In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your business life?
D.G.: Listening. It’s so easy to believe one’s own PR. It’s so hard to understand another person’s perspective. Listening without judgement and from there building strong relationships allows new ideas to come to fruition.
S4S: What would you like to change in the current maritime landscape and your area of expertise specifically and why?
D.G.: I’d love to see very clear policy from IMO with clear very short term targets on GHG emissions reductions. We can see from the way the energy sector has rapidly decarbonised whilst at the same time creating new business opportunities, jobs and wealth that clear targets act as a powerful business stimulus.
S4S: What is your personal motto?
D.G.:Never give up!
About Diane Gilpin, Founder/ CEO, Smart Green Shipping Alliance (SGSA)
Diane Gilpin has worked for more than 25 years at the cutting edge of communications, technology, innovation and systems design. In the 1980s, she led on Advertising and Sponsorship on the launch team for the first ever cellular telephone system in the UK; she worked for several Formula One motor racing teams facilitating the transfer of safety, efficiency and performance technology from Grand Prix racing cars to road cars. Among others, she pioneered renewable energy, wind power and anaerobic digestion, with the B9 Energy group from the early 2000s and created and led B9 Shipping.