Growing up in the desert of southern California is an unlikely starting point to develop a passion for the sea. But, paradoxically, it gave Hope Gorman all the more determination to realize her maritime ambitions and she is now showing the way for more women to work in the industry as Inchcape Shipping Services’ newly promoted Marine Services Manager for Canada, the US West Coast and Hawaii.
“I do not do boredom well,” Hope says, and this restless desire to step outside her comfort zone and pursue new challenges, while taking on more responsibility and helping others to develop in their roles, has taken her into a position of leadership to break through the glass ceiling.
She is revelling in her new role as a regional manager for Inchcape’s port agency offices in Montreal, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Long Beach, and Hawaii since making the transition a few months ago from her previous position as Port Manager, initially in San Francisco for five years and subsequently in Corpus Christi, Texas.
“I was keen to make the next move after reaching my maximum potential as Port Manager and I am really excited at being able to take over from my former mentor in this position,” says Hope, who works remotely from Inchcape’s offices in Houston after moving to the area together with her husband and 18-month-old son last year.
Passion for people
Her job entails streamlining port agency processes across the region and ensuring services are in place for customers, as well as motivating and equipping the regional team to win new business alongside Inchcape’s commercial department to generate more revenue at the respective ports.
“I love being a team leader and being available for my team to help them resolve any issues or challenges they may have by working more closely together, as well as assist them in growing the business by coordinating our efforts and resources,” she says.
This entails constant communication with individual Port Managers that includes regular weekly meetings, as well as biweekly calls with the entire team, to strengthen teamwork and develop operational synergies both to serve existing clients and win new customers.
Hope is certainly well-suited for the role because, as she says, “I am by nature an extrovert who enjoys talking to people and getting to know them to help them develop both professionally and personally.
“Having been mentored myself, I can now give back by mentoring others. My management approach is to develop a positive culture so that I am approachable for my colleagues and available to talk with them about whatever issues they may face, also at a personal level, as I believe this creates a better and more motivational work environment. Life is full of ups and downs so it is important to talk about these. I also never ask anyone to do something if I cannot do it myself.”
From desert dunes to ocean waves
Hope admits she “never imagined” that she would be appointed to the MSM position, though she has always aspired to take a leadership role in the maritime business and earlier dreamed of one day becoming a chief executive.
She was raised as the youngest of three siblings a long way from the sea in the small desert town of Palmdale, north of Los Angeles, but could not stay away from the water and learned to swim at an early age.
Hope also got to see much of the US as her family travelled extensively across the country, twice taking coast-to-coast trips by train and car, camping in different places and hitting the slopes of Colorado for winter skiing vacations where she took up snowboarding, while there have also been several trips to Europe.
As well as being a keen soccer player all her life, she also discovered a love of sailing after joining the Sea Scouts during her school years and this ultimately set her on a course for the shipping industry.
As part of the co-ed youth programme, she and other scouts would make regular excursions to the coast where they took sailing trips during the summer on a 40-foot schooner between LA and Catalina and, literally, learned the nautical ropes.
“We were really keen to learn and competed with the boys on knot-tying skills and fastest sailing times. But I also became hooked on sailing as it is so liberating and calming to be out on the water where it feels like just you and the sea, far away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life on land,” she says.
‘Cruise guru’ for North America
Hope also honed her leadership skills by heading up a youth group in the Sea Scouts where she earned its highest honour, the Quartermaster Award. She was advised by her Captain about the California Maritime Academy that she later attended, eventually graduating with a Bachelor of Science in International Business & Logistics after taking a three-week trip to Vietnam as part of the course to gain maritime experience overseas.
Her first encounter with Inchcape was working as an intern at the company during the summer while in her junior year at college. Before joining Inchcape as a full-time employee six years ago, Hope was engaged in port agency work for the cruise business working out of Hawaii and the US West Coast.
While she has subsequently carried out work for Inchcape on all types of ship from container, bulk and tankers to naval vessels, she has gained a reputation among her colleagues as the resident ‘cruise guru’ for North America due to her specialist expertise in this area.
Consequently, she has often been called upon to lend a helping hand with cruise port calls due to the fact these entail more extensive services for the different departments onboard and extraordinary requirements for passengers. “Cruise work is fun but challenging as the cargo talks back,” she quips.
This meant that she flew out recently to New Orleans where she trained local personnel to handle back-to-back calls for a pair of cruise ships at the US Gulf port.
Now she is often flying in the other direction to physically meet her team on the US West Coast, while she also interacts regularly with other MSMs in North America to share advice and best practice. Infact, she lists among her best experiences Inchcape’s earlier management meetings that have resulted in constructive dialogue to achieve better cooperation and synergies.
Inchcape is working proactively to promote diversity and inclusion in the workforce across its global network spanning 60 countries, and Hope is living proof that its policy of equal opportunities for all is being put into practice.
“I am grateful the company has given me this opportunity and also proud that I have attained this position to hopefully serve as a role model for other females. I hope it can encourage other women to pursue a similar path into leadership in shipping,” she says.