SAFETY4SEA: How did it come about that you joined shipping industry and your field of expertise specifically?
Sara Baade: I’m relatively new to the shipping industry having taken on my role as CEO in September, but I’m really excited by its diversity, history and innovation. Having worked for many years supporting Army families, where there are similar challenges to those experienced by merchant seafarers and their loved ones (long periods apart, tough working environments and higher rates of mental health issues than the general population) this role felt a very natural next step for me. It’s good to be able to ‘give back’ by putting my management skills and experience of both the corporate and charitable sectors to good use, and help better the lives of a largely ‘hidden’ group.
S4S: What about your current job/ role most excites you and why?
S.B.: Leading a charity that has been making a real difference to the lives of seafarers and their families for more than 200 years, and that continues to pioneer new ways of provision and support, is by far my biggest driver. We reach out to 1,000 seafarers plus their families every day through our port welfare and chaplaincy work, wellness at sea and mental health programmes, and community projects. With the current pandemic, our help is needed now more than ever – applications for welfare grants alone have increased 16 fold compared to last year and our helpline is receiving dozens of calls each week. These are tough times, but with the support of our partners, donors and volunteers, we are more than up to the challenge.
S4S: When you think of the word successful who's the first person who comes to mind and why?
S.B.: There are so many amazingly successful people in the world and my admiration is constantly moving from one to another, but right now I’m in awe of Vera Atkins, the British intelligence officer. I have just finished reading a book about her, and she truly was one of the most bravest, most intelligent, determined and successful people of her time. Despite her troubled start in life (her mother was Jewish and they had to flee from Bucharest in the 1930s) she established herself as one of the most successful intelligence officers and made such a difference (without the glory) during the Second World War. Truly inspirational.
S4S: What is the best and what was the worst piece of advice you've ever been given and why?
S.B.: One of my very first managers used to advise me ‘to be present’ in whatever situation I was in and that is a piece of advice that I have often used and come back to. When your time is stretched with different work streams and priorities it can be easy to feel overwhelmed or distracted. That’s when I remind myself ‘to be present’ right here and now, to deal with the situation at hand rather than worry or distract yourself with all the other tasks awaiting you. It’s stood me in good stead for many years now.
S4S: If you could give a piece of advice to your 18-year-old-self one thing, what would it be and why?
S.B.: Keep determined but also humble and agile, and you will reach your goal in due time. I was pretty headstrong at 18 and thought I knew exactly what I needed to do in order to get to my goal. As we all know life does not always go according to plan, and it is easier to deal with that if you take a humble and agile approach. Good things come to those that work hard, but there will be a number of challenges on the way and it is how we deal with those challenges that will determine how successful we are. Staying positive and confident throughout that is also really key.
S4S: In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your business life?
S.B.: Five years ago, I made a conscious step towards having a better work/life balance. As a single mum with 10-year-old twins, I was not looking for less challenging roles (I like challenges!) but recognised that I needed more flexibility. I’m a lot more determined, hard working and effective as a result. The biggest win is that I no longer have the guilt of struggling to have quality time with my children, but I’m able to support them as well as managing a challenging and successful career!
S4S: What would you like to change in the current maritime landscape and your area of expertise specifically and why?
S.B.: I can see that great strides have been made in the area of caring for the mental health of our seafarers and awareness of the challenges that a life at sea can bring. Yet, with more than a quarter of seafarers indicating signs of depression, there is clearly still much more to be done. I firmly believe that by working in partnership with the industry, our fellow maritime welfare charities and seafarers themselves, we can continue to bring about positive change and ensure that seafarers enjoy the fulfilling career at sea that they deserve.
S4S: What is your personal motto?
S.B.: I do not have a motto as such but there is something about the sense of achievement you feel when you have worked hard and succeeded. Another driver is knowing that our successes will have a positive and tangible impact on the people (seafarers) that we support.
Sara Baade, CEO, Sailors’ Society
Sara joined international maritime welfare charity Sailors' Society as CEO in September 2020, bringing with her a strong background in management and strategic policy, as well as extensive experience in leading a global charity from her previous role as CEO of The Army Families Federation. Her career also includes working as a senior civil servant for the Department of Business Innovation and Skills, a directorship at the charity UK Skills and substantial experience in investment banking. Sailors’ Society has been supporting seafarers and their families for more than 200 years and reaches out to more than 1,000 seafarers plus their families every day. The charity's port chaplains and ship visitors have a presence in more than 90 global ports, with wider projects and services covering 30 countries. More info at: www.sailors-society.org