The cyber security trailblazer
When your father is heavily involved in the world of shipping and you get to visit the ships it is perhaps unavoidable that you become absorbed in the world of maritime magnificence and in particular powerful marine engines. But little did Thomas Dewilde know when as a young boy admiring the Wärtsilä engines that he many years later would help keep the engines and vessels cyber secure and contribute to Wärtsilä’s digital transformation.
Thomas, you’ve worked in several industries including banking in Belgium and after that ended up in the City of London as an IT security consultant. Your passion for maritime things didn’t set you on a course straight towards the maritime world?
TD: Well, that could have happened! My passions are, in this order: maritime, digital and financial. So in a way I’ve gone full circle. That said, I’ve been spoilt for choice to combine my interest for maritime, digital and financial since joining Wärtsilä!
W: You started as a credit controller in Wärtsilä Services three years ago but it didn’t take long before you were picked up by the newly formed Digital Transformation team in cyber security, what happened?
TD: The timing of joining Wärtsilä was incredibly serendipitous. Not long after, our digital transformation was announced and I had the good fortune of being invited to the launch event in Munich. It was there that I met and discussed with some of the doers in the company that I am now working closely with day by day. Coming in with a fresh pair of eyes and a healthy appetite for positive change made my move to the digital organisation a natural progression. Every few years this company reinvents itself and I’m incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to do my bit in the current digital transformation which seems to be its boldest reinvention yet.
W: Tell us what you do at Wärtsilä and what your journey has been like so far.
TD: It’s full speed ahead. Cyber is a challenging area and I enjoy it immensely. Working together with some of Wärtsilä’s finest we’ve been able to further digitise our core with automation and new digital tools. We’ve improved our cyber security resilience and that of our customers and made great strides in achieving our smart marine vision. I’ve been able to attend multiple cross-business hackathons which have been intense but incredibly rewarding experiences to lay the groundwork for new and improved processes. I’m particularly proud of the men and women in Wärtsilä that I’ve had the pleasure of working with on exciting new solutions which have tangible benefits for everyone at Wärtsilä, our shareholders and our customers.
W: The digital transformation is in many ways a cultural change, as well. How is this visible in practice?
TD: Together with a network of extremely professional, experienced and knowledgeable colleagues we have successfully ideated, incubated and transformed one of the first Digital Acceleration Center (DAC) projects and while handing this project over to the business, I am now taking a second DAC project through the ideation and incubation phase. All of these opportunities are a true testament of Wärtsilä’s culture and the lateral way-of-working.
W: Describe your typical work day.
TD: A workday is rarely typical as my function consists of a mix of cyber governance, risk and assurance activities such as risk discussions for individual business lines or projects, addressing regulatory or contractual requirements through governance and planning and performing assurance activities. Working with cyber security makes it imperative to stay up-to-date of the latest developments both internally and externally and to pro-actively address cyber security concerns with ad-hoc assurance. I try to focus on a few key deliverables per week while juggling ad-hoc requests that pop up when you least expect them.
W: What do you enjoy the most about working in Wärtsilä?
TD: I thoroughly enjoy having urgent, mid-term and long-term projects which allows me to balance more complex situations with laying the groundwork for future cyber initiatives. In addition to the digital transformation journey, there are fundamentally important developments such as our operational excellence initiatives, robotised processes and automation, just to mention a few, taking place.
W: What, in your opinion, is your greatest contribution to Wärtsilä?
TD: I came with a mindset of wanting to flex technology and shake things up. I believe my greatest contribution is not being afraid to embrace an idea (regardless if it is mine or not) and try to have it become reality with a healthy dose of pragmatism, realism and financial sensibility. They say people don’t have ideas but ideas have people. In some small way I like to think I’ve been able to get people in the same room for the first time to set ambitious goals and think about solving problems or improving things in vastly different ways.
W: Describe a situation from your career, when something outside the 'normal' took place.
TD: The ‘Munich Event’ which was the kick-off for our digital transformation was arguably one of the most – if not most – important moments. It did exactly what Wärtsilä needed the most, an inclusive and inspiring environment gathering so many different people from all parts of Wärtsilä. The deal our CEO, Jaakko Eskola, made with all of Wärtsilä’s employees on that day was not only career defining for myself but I’d argue game-changing for Wärtsilä also. Everyone was now an ambassador, a digital champion, to push the transformation which was not just a top-down, roadmap defined restructuring but a movement that involved everyone to think digital, make meaningful changes and bring us all closer as one Wärtsilä.
W: Tell us about a particularly memorable challenge you solved at work, and how your experience helped you solve it.
TD: The challenges I deal with typically concern solving risk scenarios, cyber or financial, for Wärtsilä and our customers. Every single one of them has been a memorable moment knowing we have been able to steer well clear of the proverbial iceberg, gain valuable experience and share that with our customers increasing their resilience in return.
W: In what way, would you say, has the company innovated to stay ahead of the times?
TD: We have a very large product and service portfolio as well as installed base – the amount of data we have as a result can be overwhelming. Making big data into smaller usable data is something we are being highly innovative in. Looking at products and solutions our latest hybrid power module is truly cutting edge stuff.
W: Where do you see Wärtsilä heading over the next 15 years? And how do you see yourself growing with it?
TD: Wärtsilä will continue and even increasingly be a trend-setting thought leader in the marine and energy space. We have just started with our vision to enable sustainable societies with smart technology!
W: How would you describe your role in one sentence?
TD: An Innovator, coming up with new solutions.
W: Thank you Thomas, we wish you all the best in your career and in keeping the passion for building the future of Wärtsilä.