In 1997, just after graduation, Anna Vakirtzi started working for a local agent of Wärtsilä Shaft Line Solutions (formerly Seals & Bearings) – at that time John Crane Lips. John Crane Lips was acquired by Wärtsilä in 2002, which brought Anna into Wärtsilä and she has been part of the Company ever since. In 2020 it was decided that a sales and customer support team covering the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea regions would be formed and, as part of a business re-organisation, Anna would be the lead on this.
The balance of the team required, determined the structure of two Sales Managers, two Sales Support Engineers, and two Parts Coordinators, as well as a Field Service Coordinator. Anna was a key decision-maker throughout the recruitment process in determining the team selection. “Following interviews, it was clear to me who would be the best team to support the customers in our region. Maria Papamichail being one of them,” recalls Anna. Maria accepted the challenge to work alongside Anna and manage the rest of the team. Maria joined Wärtsilä back in 2005 as an Account Manager, responsible for the public sector and for major shipping customers. Since July 2020 when the new setup was implemented, Maria is now responsible for communicating the benefits of our solutions to drive sales and serve customers alongside Anna.
From the left: Maria Papamichail Anna Vakirtzi, Regional Sales Managers for Greece and Cyprus.
Sometimes things just fall into place. When it came to building the rest of the team, Anna and Maria wanted a varied skill set. Existing colleagues and other candidates from outside the business were interviewed and pulled together. In July 2020 the Shaft Line Solutions sales and customer support team for Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea, consisting of seven women was born.
An all-female team can be daunting to some and in conversation with Maria, she states, “Some years ago if you asked me, I would say I communicated better with men, but I now think it’s the person, not the gender.”
With Shaft Line Solutions (SLS) being a very dynamic business line within Wärtsilä, this newly formed team could have faced some challenges. Despite the different ages, interests and personalities, the ladies quickly found common ground, their collaboration is the key to their outstanding team success. They have a good balance between the characters in the group - Maria adds “We have more agreements than disagreements and have become a united team in a short space of time.”
The team has a huge responsibility with, Anna, Maria, and Zoi Psomopoulou being responsible for Greece and Cyprus and the rest of the team covering a further 9 countries across Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea regions, with Greece, Turkey and Cyprus being the main service areas. With various roles, the team willingly takes on long hours to get the job done. “I believe that doing this job you can never get bored. Every day I am handling many different cases and there is always something new to know.” – Sofia Lampropoulou.
“On several occasions, the team provided support after office hours and during the weekend. In addition, their connections and the know-how of the Wärtsilä network is unique.” – Technomar Shipping Inc.
Sales support engineer Konstantina Tika has worked for Wärtsilä for 7 years and is now responsible for troubleshooting customer queries and supporting them through the services and the parts needed. Alongside Konstantina is Konstantina Karaniki who sits in the same role, but joined Wärtsilä back in 2019 – just before the changes to the team were made. Their constant contact with the customers is vital to the team. Konstantina Titka adds, “The most enjoyable thing about my job is the brainstorming and the efforts to find a solution in any case, in order to support our customers.”
Shaft Line Solutions Sales and Customer Support team for Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea regions, from the left: Konstantina Titka, Maria Papamichail, Konstantina Karaniki, Zoi Psomopoulou (in front), Anna Vakirtzi, Sofia Lampropoulou, Stavroula Siafaka.
“A happy team can make miracles happen”
While these incredible ladies focus on what they enjoy most within their individual roles, they believe that communication and relationships between both customer and colleagues are the most important aspect – to build trust and to have good working relationships. “A happy team can make miracles happen.” – Anna Vakirtzi.
Having grown up in a family that taught her that only discipline, faith to the target, and team spirit can keep you ‘alive’, Maria mentions that the main concern for the team is to make sure they all try to serve the customers within the Wartsila framework, whist in parallel their colleagues. This will create a vision - that vision is to take both the company and the team to a higher level.
“LADIES, YOU KNOW HOW”
Since the team was formed back in 2020, they have been faced with the difficulty of COVID19, but have never-the-less stayed committed to their customers. One comment from a long-term customer was, “During our several years of good cooperation between our companies, we want to say clearly “LADIES, YOU KNOW HOW”, you have always been very professional and during hard times, you have been there to support and find solutions to all matters.” - TMS Bulkers Ltd/ TMS Dry Ltd.
One of the teams’ greatest achievements started back in February 2021. Within four days from receipt of an inquiry, the team submitted an initial offer to the customer. On the 10th of February, after full and lengthy discussions with the customer, a successful agreement was reached and an order was placed with Wärtsilä SLS.
Once the team received the order, they had to deliver this and fast. Drydock for the customer was scheduled for the 1st of March 2021, which meant less than a month to deliver the parts. Parts coordinators, Sofia Lampropoulou and Stavroula Siafka were continuously communicating with both our factory in Japan and the customer to ensure everything went smoothly. Simultaneous to this, Konstantina Titka and Konstantina Karaniki in the sales support team, with Field Service Coordinator Zoi Psomopoulou, were organising the pre-survey and commissioning of the Wärtsilä Airguard whilst in at drydock.
Even when faced with a significant challenge during drydock, field service, parts coordination, and sales worked together as a team to come up with a solution, present it to the customer and immediately solve the issue. The vessel set sail in March 2021 and its shaft line has been in continuous operation since.
The cooperation between the team and their customers is remarkable and they are known to always go above and beyond. The team deals with 7 to 10 million Euros of orders a year, just between the seven of them. Stavroula Siafaka said, “I am really happy to be a part of this Wärtsilä SLS team. My journey is still in the beginning, I am sure I will enjoy it and look forward to what is to come.”
This team are looking forward to supporting Wärtsilä at the POSIDONIA exhibition (stand 3.102, Hall 3) this year, which takes place in Athens, Greece in June. They will be there to provide visitors and customers with marine shaft line expertise and assistance – so for those traveling to the show, it’s an excellent opportunity to meet this outstanding team face-to-face.
“This team always assists customers in the best way, respecting both Wärtsilä’s position and customer’s needs. Keep up with good work and close communication!” – Euronav.