Women At DFDS: Sylvia Heiberg

March 31, 2022

In our latest blog post celebrating inspirational women in the workplace here at DFDS, we meet Sylvia Heiberg, Business Leader onboard Princess Seaways. She tells us all about her role and how she needs to be multiple things to multiple people. She also shares her belief that female strength is not just leadership and decisiveness, but sensitivity, tenderness and empathy. Read on to find out more.  

Why did you choose to work for DFDS? 

It was a coincidence really. It was only meant to be a summer job during my studies. This workplace attracted me so much and gave me financial independence that I decided to carry on for many more years. 

What is your job at DFDS and what does it involve? 

My current position is Business Leader Accommodation and Service (in officer rank), which means I am a head of the accommodation department including Guest Service Centre (reception) and Kids Entertainment. My workplace is onboard  Princess Seaways sailing between Amsterdam and Newcastle, in a rotation system of 14 days onboard and 14 days at home.  

I lead a team of 30-40 people from different countries, making sure they have the necessary tools, training and motivation to deliver a high-quality product and service in the hospitality industry. Working in such an international environment requires many roles from me: motivator, mediator, coach, psychologist, mother, friend, nurse, etc. On a daily basis, my job is mostly office work: controlling and following up all ship’s accounts in the area of consumption and maintenance, handling orders and deliveries for catering departments, cooperation with external suppliers, planning renovations and maintenance of cabins and public areas. Furthermore, I am a member of Shipboard Management and crew representative in Safety Committee. 

How did you get where you are today? 

I started 21 years ago on the Amsterdam – Newcastle route as a stewardess and thanks to my hard work, keen eye for detail and positive relationships with work colleagues at all levels, I became Deck Leader three years later. My former managers were impressed with my outstanding everyday performance, handling responsibility, my ability to remain calm under pressure and in emergencies. This led me to being promoted to an Accommodation Supervisor position. During that time I learnt how to deal with difficult passengers and situations politely but firmly, how to set goals and achieve them. I became a trainer who creates a great working atmosphere within her team by building morale, maintaining the team’s self-confidence and training them to build success by improving people skills. In 2009 I transferred to the Copenhagen – Oslo route where I worked as Team Coordinator in the Accommodation department for seven years.  I developed my leader skills, diplomacy, tact and assertiveness together with multicultural sensitivity. Five years ago I applied for the position of Business Leader Accommodation onboard Princess Seaways where I am currently working. 

Are there any women that have inspired you within DFDS or externally? 

There was an exceptional woman, my former superior I worked with nearly two decades ago who actually believed in me and convinced me that I have the potential for becoming a leader and running my own department one day if I stay focused on the goal. 

What does International Women’s Day mean to you? 

It reminds of the female strength and the ability to function and pursue oneself and one’s dreams and passions in a world that is still not as favourable for women as it is for men. For me, female strength is also sensitivity, tenderness, intuition and empathy. It is something that makes you experience the world deeper and makes you enter into more sensitive relationships, based on deep listening, picking up nuances in behavior. It is a strength that allows us to multitask despite the obstacles. We can take care of others, without the need to cheer and applause. International Women’s Day puts a spotlight on the strong women who often stand somewhere to the side, in the back, often reluctant to step in the middle and shine. 

What do you think of DFDS as a workplace? 

I am proud to work at a company with 155 years of history and tradition. The Scandinavian culture in workplace means openness, informality, innovations, diversity and striving for climate friendly solutions. Being a part of DFDS is a privilege and feels like having an extra family. I love meeting people from different cultures and even after working for 21 years on five different ships, I can still learn and discover something new. DFDS supports employees in good times and bad times. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how lucky we are to be a part of strong and stable company but I also appreciate the support available to employees and their families in case of sickness or natural disasters. I remember campaigns for quitting smoking together, losing weight or running marathons for better health. This definitely supports one of our pillars: WE CARE.  All of this integrates employees and creates an unbelievable feeling of unity and solidarity while striving for the same goal. 

What is your proudest moment/highlight from working in DFDS? 

Christmas time is a special time for those who have families and homes but for lonely or homeless people it can be very hard. Therefore it was something special for me to be a part of the Christmas lunch organised for homeless people from Oslo onboard Crown Seaways in cooperation with local associations as a yearly event. I can’t describe the gratitude and appreciation in our guests’ eyes when we warmly welcomed them onboard. We set a full buffet with delicious food just for them and even had a small gift to give (warm scarf or hat). The biggest joy for them was the fact that they could pack the food leftovers and take them to their pets ashore. The fact that we can share with those who need it, warms my heart.  

Is there any advice you’d give to other women/girls either in general or about working in our industry? 

  1. Be prepared: My experience of typical male industries is that sometimes communication can be extremely direct. A sense of humour and a sharp answer are as necessary tools as a good computer. 
  2. Be good at what you do and take care of your PR: It’s not about bragging, but it’s about putting an end to downplaying your role in the team, hiding your strengths and keeping your achievements silent. Learn to bring to light your contribution to the success of the project or team. 
  3. Remember that you are the strength of the team: If you think differently to your colleagues, this is an asset, not a reason to be ashamed. It is in diversity that the strength of each company lies. Teams diverse in terms of gender, age and background as well as connecting people with different levels of competence and personalities, achieve better results. 

Where would you like to be in 5-10 years? 

I am perfectly happy where I am now. I just want to learn and develop more within my area both personally and professionally.  

Make sure to keep an eye out for more blogs about #WomenAtDFDS.

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