Monika Lemajic: achiever in maritime project management and enthusiast for the Blue MBA

Marine Equipment Products and Services, Maritime Education and Training, People and Places, Person Profiles — By on November 13, 2017 at 5:23 PM

Monika Lemajic

As business improvement project manager for maritime at Thales Australia, Monika Lemajic has an ideal view of business activity in her chosen industry – and a wonderful view from her office window. The yard is on Sydney Harbour, “and we have lovely views of the famous bridge from here.”

For certain weeks of a current two-year commitment, Ms Lemajic is enjoying an impressive outlook on northern climes, as she progresses in the part-time course of the Executive MBA in Shipping & Logistics at Copenhagen Business School.

With a 16,000 km “commute,” Monika Lemajic is the first student from Australasia to enrol in the programme that is known in the industry as the Blue MBA. All participants come to the Blue MBA already having senior positions in their organisations.

Thales in Australia is part of a leading electronics and systems group serving defence, aerospace and space, security and transport markets. Thales Group has a significant international marine presence and is a key player providing systems and support services to 50 navies and commercial marine operators. Its comprehensive offering includes the supply and integration of marine equipment, military systems and support services, such as operations and maintenance of ship repair facilities.

In Australia, Thales has been a long-term investor in maritime capability and is one of the few companies with the depth of expertise and infrastructure to develop and deliver complex maritime projects.

As to her latest academic assignments in Europe, Ms Lemajic said: “Thales has been excellent and is fully supporting my travel for all sessions of the Blue MBA.

“In terms of my own thoughts and feelings on [the long-haul aspect], I committed to the course and prepared myself mentally for the travel, so it really doesn’t faze me at all.”

Important educational success had already been achieved by Ms Lemajic before her entry to the Blue MBA.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in applied science in maritime technology management from the Australian Maritime College – University of Tasmania. She is a member of the Institute of Engineers Australia and of PIANC, the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure.

During her 10 years so far with Thales Australia, her career has had an inspiring trajectory.

She began her training as a drydock naval architect technician, rising to become the first female dockmaster at Garden Island, New South Wales, and Australia’s first female Commonwealth-accredited dockmaster.

She joined the Thales Dock Office at the age of 22 (“with no intention of becoming a dockmaster”) and for the next three years, “I was extremely fortunate to have two amazing mentors. The first mentor was a senior naval architect who tutored me every day until he believed I understood the concept of stability mathematically and in practice.

“Each day I had to pick a ship in port or a ship preparing to dock or leave the berth and my mentor would quiz me on a stability topic. I had to answer within a minute and decide what to do next; sometimes this meant I had to do on-the-spot calculations, with or without calculators.

“At the beginning the days were normally calm and sunny, and I would be standing on the dockside where I could see the ship, but as I started to improve, I had to learn to carry out the task in less favourable conditions – in severe weather or in the middle of winter, in the middle of the night, after a 14-hour day, or in a compartment where I couldn’t see the ship moving.

“When the naval architect was convinced I was ready to ‘fly’ alone, I could give the team (shipwrights, crane crew) clear, concise direction and never needed to change my words.

“This helped me develop the trust that I needed, to show the team that I was capable.”

After those three years, “the dockmaster (my second mentor) sensed I needed a new challenge and asked me if I wanted to learn how to dock ships. I said yes, why not!

“From that point on, the dockmaster sent me out to the yard to learn every single job that was offered in the dock squad. I spent a lot of time with each person in the group to understand their roles, their behaviours and how and why they do things. I was not there to tell, I was just there to listen, ask questions and learn.

“Those two mentors set me up extremely well for the dockmaster position, for when I became the dockmaster, no one questioned my ability or authority (including our customers).”

Ms Lemajic admits that “sometimes customers were a little shocked to see a young female as dockmaster, but they never questioned it. It was just another day for everyone.”

She works on projects that support company strategies including digital transformation and “lean” implementation. Ms Lemajic is on the Thales Australia Lean Roundtable, so once a month travels to different sites to see how “lean” is being put into effect and offer support and advice.

Why did she choose to join the Blue MBA? “Shiprepair is very much a niche sector: it doesn’t really fit into the general streams of shipping or manufacturing but is a key enabler for the maritime industry.

“So, I was drawn to the Blue MBA as a learning environment that offers holistic teaching of the maritime industry, while individually supporting and coaching me through real situations in the shiprepair world. I believe this will allow me to understand how better to provide a value-added service to the maritime industry and deliver excellent outcomes in my chosen sector.”

Tony Grebenshikoff, director of Ship Repair Services at Thales Australia, said: “One of what Thales calls its key strategic pillars is the people pillar. Under this pillar there is strong emphasis on developing our people. Thales needs to constantly adapt to a changing landscape to meet the evolving needs of our industry by offering agile, digital and competitive products. Thales believes that through the development of our people we can support this.”

Mr Grebenshikoff is a Thales ambassador for trade training campaigns and supports employees in their professional development. “In completing this [Blue MBA] course, Monika will be an asset to not just Thales but the broader shiprepair Industry,” he said. “Thales sees Monika as a capable and competent member of the team who has, over many years, demonstrated a strong commitment to Thales and its values and we are therefore proud to support her in this endeavour.”

Ms Lemajic is a firm believer in keeping mentally and physically healthy, so in her spare time when not studying or being with family, she enjoys sessions at the gym and beach volleyball.

She is a volunteer for the Australian Kookaburra Kids Foundation, which supports children living in families affected by mental illness. The programme provides recreational, educational camps and other activities, “giving kids a break, in a fun, positive and safe environment. When I volunteer at camp I know I am making a positive contribution to the lives of children who don’t often get a chance to just be kids. It is a wonderful opportunity for me to impart my passion for physical and mental health in an area where this is often lacking.”

Meanwhile, in addition to her long jet flights to Denmark, Ms Lemajic is eyeing other destinations. “There is potential for travelling while I am over in Europe studying,” she enthused.

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