From apprentice to VP Project Manager

Silje Ulvestad has had quite a journey since joining VARD back in 2010. With a background that blends technical expertise, leadership, and a constant pursuit of knowledge, Silje's journey reflects both the challenges and rewards of a career in the maritime industry.

30. January 2024

Silje Ulvestad

Starting as an apprentice

Silje's journey in VARD began as an apprentice in the Machinery department at Vard Brattvaag in 2010, where after two years she got her certificate as an industrial mechanic. Rising rapidly, she became a Supervisor at the age of 19, leading a team of experienced professionals.

Seeking guidance and asking questions

- As I’m sure you can imagine it was a bit strange for a 19-year-old girl to all of a sudden have 15 older and much more experienced men working for her, but fortunately I had a team that supported and encouraged me in navigating my new position and responsibilities, Silje says emphasizing the importance of seeking guidance and learning from those with more experience, a principle that has shaped her leadership style.

- I’ve also always been very aware to ask those who know, rather than assuming I’m the expert in everything, something I think has helped me in many situations, says Silje and adds; - Even though in all my positions I might have been an atypical candidate in terms of age, gender and experience, I have always been respected and included on an equal basis with others.

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Her desire to learn led her back to school, earning a degree in Mechanical Engineering and later a bachelor’s degree in marketing and management. Silje's return to VARD as Department Manager for the Piping & Machinery department marked the beginning of her managerial roles. - This was an exciting opportunity to get to know a lot of new, highly skilled colleagues and a new discipline. As well as getting the experience of having personnel responsibility as part of my job, Silje says.

Embracing Opportunities

Silje is not someone who says no to a challenge. So, when there was need for a Project Planner and Silje was asked to take on the responsibility in parallel with her job as a Department Manager, she said yes.

As if this wasn’t enough, she also decided to start a part-time master’s degree that same year, which she finished in 2023.

Willingness to embrace challenges is evident in her diverse roles. - I’m naturally very curious, and I love to know everything and understand how things work, leading to a natural transition into a position of Production Coordinator where I could gain even more insight, knowledge, and responsibility. I didn’t stay in that position for more than 7 months before moving on to being an Assistant Project Manager and in 2023 she became Vice President Project Manager.

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Silje's interest in boats started early.

Telling yourself that you can, rather than the opposite, will most likely get you further.

– Silje Ulvestad

- How can you describe a day as a Project Manager in VARD?

This is a difficult question to answer because my workdays are very dynamic, and I don’t think two has ever been the same. Which is also one of the things I like the most about my job, constantly feeling challenged and building new experience, Silje says. As a project manager your job is to keep an overview of the entire project and all the ongoing processes, trying to facilitate for good cooperation across disciplines, entities, and departments. Keeping on track with plans, reporting, deliverables, finances and maintaining the relationship with the client and other stakeholders. - You also support your team as best you can, trying to build an arena where everyone can perform their best. Luckily, we have a team that is ready to take on any challenge, and nothing is impossible, Silje says.

Positive mindset is key

Silje applauds VARD's constructive approach to a global workforce, citing the benefits of diverse perspectives, innovative thinking, and opportunities for competence development. - I think it is important to have a a positive mindset, saying yes when an opportunity arises and last but not least; voicing your ambitions. If you want to go somewhere you have to tell those that are in a position to help guide you on your way there, Silje says and continues: - Also it is important not to limit yourself based on your own perception of your abilities. Often we are much more critical of ourselves than what we are of others, and telling yourself that you can, rather than the opposite, will most likely get you further.

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Silje`s advice for those that are curious of VARD and the maritime industry

Silje's advice is clear: - Don't be afraid to ask questions. Nobody knows everything, and working with complex projects and processes you need to be comfortable with acknowledging the limitations of your own knowledge. There are so many passionate and skilled people working in VARD. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of that, she concludes.