Nautor’s Swan: Sailing towards a fairer future

In this special Women in Yachting interview, we don’t meet just one inspirational woman… we meet four. Peering into the world of sailing yacht construction, Yachting Pages gets to know a group of ambitious young professionals who are looking to forge a career at a shipyard with a global reputation.

Introducing Ivana Milosavljevic, Emma Moisio, Rebecka Ahlvik and Heidi Autio (below), valued technicians at Finnish yard Nautor’s Swan. Specialising in different areas of the new-build process, the quartet utilise their individual skillsets to help bring designs to life.

Ivana, Heidi, Emma and Rebecka inside Nautor's Swan shipyard

In what is still a largely male-dominated field within the yachting sector, Swan is a keen advocate for providing equal and fair opportunities for all – allowing the like of Milosavljevic, Moisio, Ahlvik and Autio to flourish and fly the flag for women who aspire to follow in their footsteps.

These inspirational women guide us through the specific work they undertake in the shipyard and offer top tips on how to break into the industry.

Did you have a particular passion for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects (that traditionally appeal more to male students) when you were younger?

Ivana: Since I was a bit of a nerd, I did actually like all these subjects, so I was interested in STEM, especially chemistry.

Heidi: No, not from what I remember.

Emma: Yes, I went to Optima and studied to become a plumbing fitter. It is almost completely male dominated today, but since I was little I have preferred to build huts with my boy friends than to play with my girl friends.

Rebecka: Yes, science and engineering.

How long have you been in yachting and what is your role?

Ivana: I’m brand new in the team, since February 2021. I work in the assembly interior department. My job is to manage and take care of all the details that make a Swan a Swan.

Heidi: I've been working at Nautor’s Swan for about three years, and I work in the small parts lamination department. I manufacture small and large parts for different sailboats of sprint, prepreg and dry fibres. Since starting at Swan I have got more experience and understanding of manufacturing and a deeper overall picture of the whole process. I graduated as a boat builder in May 2021.

Emma: I've been employed at Nautor’s Swan for a year now, and I'm a plumber on the boats. It’s my first role in yachting.

Rebecka: I have been working almost a year now at Nautor’s Swan and I’m forking in pre-assembly. It’s my first role in the yachting industry; I first started working in the stapling of interior roof linings.

Have you always wanted to be in this role and what path did you take to arrive here?

Ivana: This was something I never thought I’d be doing for work, nor did I think I would to come to Finland. But the field was something I was quite familiar with, since I am a professional artist, art restorer and conservator.

Heidi: I worked in another company before I applied to the yachting industry. I heard that Nautor’s Swan needed reinforcements to their team, and I wanted to challenge myself with a new career path. I decided to apply and now here I am!

Emma: I knew I wanted to be a plumber from quite young but didn't think I would be working with plumbing on boats when I finished school. I applied to Nautor’s Swan, I got a job here and I love it.

Rebecka: Yes, I studied to be a carpenter at vocational upper secondary school Optima.

What does a typical day hold for you?

Ivana: After the short morning brief, we prepare the tools and varnishes. After that our work starts. The most interesting thing about this position is the fact that you never know what you will face in the boat.

Heidi: I mostly work in teams to manufacture parts that can take anywhere from an hour to several weeks to complete. The method used depends entirely on what the customer wants.

Emma: It's hard to describe a typical day as we do different things every day - one day is not the same as the other. But in short, I pull the pipes from all the tanks out the cabins and make our systems work flawlessly.

What are some of the most challenging and/or rewarding aspects of your job?

Ivana: It is interesting because the work where I find the biggest challenges is also the work that is the most exciting to do and gives me the biggest satisfaction when the work is done nicely.

Heidi: When you see a finished boat and you can see what parts you have made… that we all at Nautor’s Swan have somehow been involved in creating a luxury boat feels amazing.

Emma: The most challenging can be space. When many items and systems must fit in the boat and you must find a solution for everything to have enough space, work properly and look nice. It’s also very rewarding at the end when you have been working on a project and get to see that everything works and looks good.

Rebecka: I have still a lot to learn, things you cannot learn at school. It will take a couple of years, but I have skilled colleagues who can show me how things should be done at Nautor’s Swan.

Collage of Ivana, Heidi, Emma and Rebecka working in yard

Were there any obstacles along the path to your current position? Have you broken through any gender barriers, leading the way for other women?

Ivana: I can’t really say I felt like I needed to break some barriers to my position. I would rather say I have been quite pleasantly surprised seeing all these women working in different positions here, especially in the production. That was something I wasn’t accustomed to seeing, considering the country where I came from. In Serbia those boundaries are so clear, even today. Besides all other aspects, I believe the greatest obstacle could still be cultural.

Heidi: You know a lot more than what you think. It's not always easy, but you should not give up too easily. Of course, there is still a difference between women and men in the boating industry, but I strongly believe that both women and men are needed in any industry.

Emma: Yes, working as a plumber when you are a girl can have its challenges. I was working in customer services at another workplace, and I noticed that some men did not want to talk to me or come and ask me something just because I’m a woman. I usually keep my head high and do not let the old-fashioned thinking ruin my day.

What advice would you give to your 15-year-old self?

Ivana: Where would I start? If it’s only one, then the advice I would give to my 15-year-old self above everything else is to set out the priorities in life.

Heidi: Do what makes you feels good. What you intend to study today doesn't have to be what you're going to work with for the rest of your life. Dare to jump into the unknown and see what meets you.

Emma: Don’t stress over unnecessary things and all good will come to you if you work for it.

Rebecka: You are smart and strong. You are enough. Choose your own way.

What advice would you give to the next generation of women in yachting?

Ivana: For the new generation of women, I would say to be confident in embracing the identity God has given us. To grow and nurture the qualities that we already have; not for the purpose of competition with men, but instead to cooperate in making something good for this world.

Heidi: Women can do more than we think. Be strong!

Emma: Keep your head high and believe in yourself that you can, because everybody can if you they want it enough, regardless of gender!

Rebecka: Stand up for yourself, don’t let anybody diminish you!

Nautor’s Swan

Finnish yard Nautor’s Swan is a leading sailing yacht producer based in the small town of Pietarsaari. Founded by Pekka Koskenkyla in 1966, his vision was to start producing high-quality and high-performance sailing yachts for those passionate about cruising and racing. It has established a reputation as a market leader in luxurious, finely-crafted sailing yachts, perfectly combining style, quality and performance.

If you're interested in pursuing a new position on board, search for Crew Agents in the Yachting Pages directory. Alternatively you can enjoy more interviews in our Women in Yachting series.

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