Joint winners focus on mentoring and matching in DEI innovation lab competition

An app to help establish career direction and then provide mentoring, and a platform designed to remove bias from CV selection to give diverse candidates an improved chance of landing jobs, proved the winning ideas in this year’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Innovation Lab, run in partnership by Hafnia, RightShip, Wilhelmsen Ahrenkiel Ship Management, Thome Group, Rio Tinto and Anglo American.

More than 80 teams entered the competition, with seven teams from 20 organisations making it through the first round to join an intense 72-hour ‘hackathon’ involving sessions on developing a minimum viable product, scalability, and pitching. With time zone differences of up to 15 hours and entries from seafarers on-board ship, the teams dealt magnificently with connectivity and bandwidth restrictions.

The top ideas, named Seabuddy and Colibri Maritime X, will see potential recruits from diverse backgrounds starting their maritime voyage by taking a career pop quiz to select from 72 possible maritime oportunities. This is followed by a skills-based mentor-matching process to build skills and experience, with access to funding back-up an additional bonus, to try and encourage growth in the sector.

The winning team was made up of members of a range of different organisations, with Seapeak, Wilhelmsen Ahrenkiel Ship Management, Thome, Image Line, Field-Research Ltd and RightShip represented – along with additional member Nikita Singh, the perfect representative for a DEI project looking at widening employment opportunities.

An IT consultant specialising in systems applications and products (SAP), Nikita, who is married to RightShip Product Manager Man Mohan, explained: “When I saw the DEI competition on my husband’s LinkedIn feed, the theme immediately called out to me. Since having my son and with the knock-on effects of the pandemic, I’ve been struggling to step back into employment, an issue that I know is affecting women the world over.

“The publicity for the competition mentioned the problems with big gaps in recruitment for maritime. It came to me that organisations should be tapping into the ‘wives of’ those who are away at sea, who have ended up staying at home by default, despite wanting to continue their careers.

“I’ve spent three years at home with my son, discussing the issues facing seafarers and talking through solutions with my husband. It set me thinking that there must be a way to tap into the talents of all the ‘partners of’ out there, supporting their spouses with advice. Working on this project gave me a new lease of life, and I’m hopeful that if the proof of concept comes to something it could lead to a new role for me in the world of maritime.”

Nikita’s initial idea was encompassed into Seabuddy entry, which in turn jointly won the contest. Over the coming weeks, the winners will work to create a roadmap for validating their suggestion, developing a proof of concept and seek to prove their hypotheses.

Shanker Pillai, Head of Innovation at Hafnia, concluded: “We received a vast number of submissions from all over the world, from those onshore and at sea. Thank you to everyone who participated and thanks to our partners, without whom this program wouldn’t have been a reality. Now the rubber hits the road as we bring the ideas to life and, hopefully, really make a difference.”

Tarun Mehrotra, Head of Strategic Planning and Partnerships for RightShip, added: “The power of putting people together and crowdsourcing ideas to solve challenges in DEI is evident here, with the wealth of suggestions from the Innovation Lab entrants. At RightShip, we believe not only in company collaboration, but in giving individuals the opportunity to step forward and explore their ideas in a supportive space.”