Valerija Špacapan Friš

Managing Director of DB Schenker d.d. Slovenia

“Intuition, organization, perseverance, consistency at achieving goals, team leadership, strong will and positive attitude proved to be key factors”

As the Managing Director (MD) of DB Schenker Slovenia I am already 2,5 years the only female holding this position in Schenker Europe. I have been successful in the logistics business for 25 years, 20 years I spent in DB Schenker, an industry traditionally led by men.

My career journey started in 1997, I was Head of Customs Clearance Department in the company acquired by DB Schenker. After 5 years, I was promoted to Branch Office Manager in Maribor, which developed from a customs office into a modern logistics terminal under my leadership. I was responsible for the Branch Office at Maribor for 13 years and with the retirement of the previous director, I was nominated for the position of the MD. The decision to accept the new position was not difficult for me, since I have gained extensive knowledge of the company throughout the years. I knew that I am taking over a great team and a successful company. One of the reasons why I was and am confident in myself, my strengths and abilities is because my career has been focused on becoming the MD of the company. My path was supported by my mentor, previous director of the company Mr. Rok Svetek.

I am a person who is a great supporter of lifelong learning. You need to be ahead of time to be successful. I have a Master’s degree in Economics and Business, and I often participate in educational and professional associations. I was active in the strategic council of Higher Vocational College of Traffic and Transport in Maribor and am a member of the Slovenian Logistics Association; and Member of the Board of the German Chamber of Commerce- AHK. I completed the MDP (Management Development Program) program in 2006 in Vienna and ILP (International Leadership Program) in 2009.  Every form of education supplies you with new knowledge and experiences, which are important for making the right business decisions.

With my knowledge, experience, persistence and good results I’m as successful as my male colleagues in this business. Gender is not important if you manage to do the business professionally and with self-confidence. Instead - intuition, organization, perseverance, consistency at achieving goals, team leadership, strong will and positive attitude proved to be key factors. However, the work of course can’t be done well without a great emotional charge and passion for the business.

Two of my previous supervisors made a big impact for the successful development of me as a business woman. I admired both and I appreciate and I am extremely grateful that they recognized the potential in me and supported me in my career development. Above all, they gave me the chance to prove myself and supported and understood me at the time of my motherhood, which I believe I gave back twofold with my engagement and success in achieving company goals. I am a person who is motivated and driven by new challenges and achievements in the business world.

A lot of women face issues/concerns about the alignment of career and motherhood, the solution that worked for me is that you should effectively organize family and professional life every day and arrange “support” network if possible. I believe that where there’s a wish and a strong will, there will always be a way. After the birth of my first son, I decided to find a nanny who could help me out. I’ve considered this decision as an investment in my family and my career at the time. I did the same thing with my second boy and I never regretted this decision. I only took 6 months of maternity leave and was ready to go back to work and my family supported me a great deal at this decision and at that time.  Now I have two successful boys aged 15 and 11, who each excel in their own fields – one in sports and the other in music.

I am a mother of two sons, wife and a business woman, living between Maribor and Ljubljana, but all-in-all, I believe I manage to coordinate between my family and professional life very well. I like the saying “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”. It is important to be flexible, creative, well organized, brave and to change the common belief that logistics business belongs solely to men. The limits exist only in our heads! Family support is of course important, however, my male colleagues also need family support to succeed, so in that regard, there is no big difference. The only difference is that after a long working day, us, women, have another “job” at home – as mothers and housewives as wives and friends. We never seem to find enough time for ourselves.

My biggest learning throughout my career is that business is unpredictable and risky, but there are always new opportunities for developing success, we just need to recognize them and put in the knowledge and positive attitude to make it happen. I wish I had recognized earlier that “the sun always shines after every storm”, if I knew that in the beginning of my career I would not have cared so much about unimportant things and situations that used to take some of my focus and time in the past. With a positive attitude, hard work and persistence, everything can be solved and developed and success is in reach of your hands.

Women are ambitious and if they get an opportunity they will take advantage of that in the fullest, but first they have to decide on what they want to do and search for opportunities to prove themselves. I would like to advice all the women out there that the keys for achieving success are courage, determination, persistence, passion, team leadership and optimism. Some people succeed because it is their destiny, others succeed because they believe and go for it!