4 January 2018

From Rotterdam to Dubai, via Maastricht

Asked what she misses most about the Netherlands and she mentions her mother and her two dogs. Then there’s the clean air, cycling to work and proper bread with cheese. Otherwise, Eloise le Conge Kleyn’s life in Dubai looks a lot like her old life here. She studied Psychology at UM and has lived since 2015 in the Middle East, where she works for Maersk Line, the world’s largest container shipping company. “If you want to climb the ladder quickly, you have to make a disproportionate investment in your career.”

Leadership team

The Danish multinational Maersk Line is the largest container shipping company in the world. “We facilitate international trade”, Le Conge Kleyn explains. “To give you an idea of the size of the company: I have 33,000 colleagues, and we have 630 ships and 306 offices in 114 different countries.” As HR manager of the UAE cluster, which covers the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Iran, as well as interim HR manager for India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, Le Conge Kleyn is responsible for HR policy and leads the team that handles personnel matters. “I’m part of the ‘leadership team’, and it’s my job to make sure our HR approach enables us to do business while at the same time complying with all applicable laws and regulations. In India, for instance, you’re obliged to provide a crèche for offices with 50 or more employees. Maersk Line is still expanding. In November 2016 we opened an office in Iran, where I was involved in recruiting local talent.”

Challenging work climate

“The most challenging part of my work is the constantly changing world around us and the question of how we as a company can respond. We’re always alert. Changes in the political climate or developments concerning the environment and nature have a direct impact on shipping and therefore on our business. For example, in the past few years both El Niño and deep-sea fishing have affected the seafood catch in India. And during elections there can be less cargo, because if the political situation in a country is uncertain, smaller companies tend to hold off on shipping freight. All this results in a challenging work climate in which I have to make strategic decisions quickly.” Another plus in her current job is the chance to travel widely and often. “I’m on the road a lot. These days I travel regularly to India, Pakistan, Oman, Qatar and Iran, but also Denmark, Jordan and Nepal.”

Good home base

Because she is away so much, she likes having a good home base in Dubai. “I love it here. Dubai is an interesting city to live in. In my experience it’s one of the most modern cities in the Middle East, where people from all over the world come together.” She also finds it luxurious, culturally diverse and extremely safe. “Dubai has a beautiful beach and borders on the desert. I’ve made many international friends here and in contrast to what many people think, I’m just as free here as I am in the Netherlands. I’m fortunate to live in a beautiful apartment complex with a nice pool. The nightlife is good too, and in the winter you can swim in the sea.”

Pragmatic thinking

What advice would Le Conge Kleyn give to ambitious students? “If you’re interested in a career in business, I’d say think pragmatically and act fast. As I see it, if you want to climb the ladder quickly, you have to make a disproportionate investment in your career. I don’t see that as a sacrifice. That said, it does mean I’m very flexible when it comes to my working hours, travelling and moving. You can’t expect to make quick strides in your career if you’re not flexible and willing to take the opportunities that come your way.”


By: Graziella Runchina (text), Istock (photography)