Vivek Menon, serving as the Associate Director for Global Operations & Industry Engagement at The Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN), shares the motivating factors that led him to embark on his journey within the shipping industry. He expresses genuine enthusiasm about the continuous learning opportunities present in his current role, where he collaborates with professionals from diverse cultural backgrounds, fostering a rich and dynamic work environment.
dvocating for effective communication, Vivek urges maritime stakeholders to prioritize active listening as a fundamental tool for navigating the industry’s multifaceted challenges. Moreover, he underscores the significance of nurturing meaningful relationships with the individuals we encounter along our paths and emphasizes the value of acknowledging one’s mistakes. According to Vivek, mistakes should be viewed as invaluable investments that cultivate a culture of learning and serve as catalysts for innovative problem-solving. In essence, he emphasizes that these experiences are essential for uncovering novel solutions and fostering personal growth
SAFETY4SEA: How did it come about that you joined shipping industry and your field of expertise specifically?
Vivek Menon: This is indeed a good question. As you may know, in the maritime industry, we excel at documenting accidents. My journey into this field was also by accident. After high school, I was considered a failure as I didn’t achieve the ambitious 90th percentile marks. I was uncertain about my true interests. I had no inclination toward computers, medicine, or the idea of memorizing volumes of books for exams. Instead, I was drawn to hands-on experiences, and determined not to follow the crowd in my high school class. One day, while picking up my father from the airport, he shared a newspaper article titled ‘Experience and Explore the Globe for Free’, accompanied by a photo of a cargo ship (at that time, I couldn’t differentiate between ship types). That ‘accident’ or ‘incident’ ignited my passion!
I enrolled in navigation school, where I explored new and fascinating subjects. Equally important was the teaching style, which catered to my visual and auditory learning preferences, unlike traditional reading. Boarding my first vessel, a 1978-built general cargo ship in Ravenna port, Italy, solidified my love for this industry. Despite its age and rustic appearance, the ship taught me valuable skills, gave me sea-legs, and instilled endurance. Since then, I haven’t looked back, and my journey continues.
S4S: What about your current job/ role most excites you and why?
V.M.: At my current role, one of the most exciting opportunities I have is to learn from and work alongside individuals from various countries. These individuals come from diverse walks of life and bring years of experience, both within and outside the maritime industry. As the saying goes, ‘life is one long learning,’ and this philosophy is ingrained in my daily life. It’s precisely why my current role excites me the most.
S4S: When you think of the word successful who’s the first person who comes to mind and why?
V.M.: As the saying goes, ‘Success has many mothers and fathers’. It is challenging for me to associate one individual, organization, or even a nation with the word ‘successful.’ In my personal experience, the key element in any form of success is what I refer to as the ‘P-P Effect,’ which stands for Persistence and Perseverance. Being at the mercy of the oceans and high seas greatly influenced and moulded me to embrace this ‘P-P Effect.
S4S: Who is/was the most influential person/mentor to you & why?
V.M.: There are many people I am grateful to, who have influenced, moulded, or mentored me. My parents gave me the freedom and support to choose my life the way I wanted, despite the fact that I was considered a failure according to the ‘system of education.’ At each step of the way, I have encountered individuals during my time at colleges and universities, on board ships – from cadets to crew members, officers, Masters, and Chief Engineers – colleagues at various workplaces, managers, and some leaders in the industry. All of them have mentored me through their experiences and life journeys.
S4S: What is the best and what was the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given and why?
V.M.: Among the many pieces of advice given to me, a few stand out. One of them, which is paramount to me, is ‘respect for all’, and I strive to live by this principle every day. Believing in oneself is another valuable piece of advice. Even during life’s most challenging times, it can be a very useful tool. I am uncertain if there has been a worst piece of advice. From my experience, I have learned that the origin of any advice is neither inherently right nor wrong, good nor bad. It is the outcome that determines its value. This fundamental approach has guided me in life, recognizing that as humans, we each approach life with our own perspectives, perceptions, and priorities. Therefore, it is essential to consider advice from their point of view, i.e., the one who provides it.
S4S: What is the most worthwhile career investment (in energy, time, money) you’ve ever made?
V.M.: Investing in oneself, both in terms of learning or education and health, is vital. An even more essential form of investment is building, maintaining, and valuing relationships with the individuals you meet in all walks of life. Personally, this has been a significant source of daily learning, both professionally and personally. Finally, never be afraid of making mistakes in life. Mistakes are a form of investment as they nurture learning and lead to discovering new solutions.
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?
V.M.: Never be intimidated by failure, in all its forms, as this is the only way to learn.
S4S: In the last five years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your business life?
V.M.: I continue to work on ‘Active Listening,’ i.e., listening to understand as opposed to listening to respond. I also believe in what I like to call the ‘5-finger model of life’, which, simply put, is to understand individuals as each of your fingers. Each finger has strengths and weaknesses, and it is key to harness them together like a closed fist, where true power (or strength) lies. Another way to put it is that one cannot create a single ring that fits all fingers, i.e., ‘one solution does not fit all, as one problem is not the same for all’.
S4S: What would you like to change in the current maritime landscape and your area of expertise specifically and why?
V.M.: I believe we could all become better in active listening to better understand the core challenges of the society we live in. This is vital as the maritime landscape continues to feed half the world, and the other half, which it keeps warm. Especially in recent times, we are quite eager to find solutions to challenges, perhaps, we don’t fully understand or even want to understand. This is not something new, as we have showcased in the past, but at the same time, we are capable of understanding and co-creating. Perhaps we have simply lost our navigating skills of our persistence and perseverance as active listeners.
S4S: What is your personal motto?
V.M.: Respect to all, is my personal motto and I work with this every day.
The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.