Sofia Drakou - The Blue MBA

“Houston to Copenhagen? It’s completely worth it”

A shipping exec based in Texas, USA, Sofia Drakou has chosen to study for her Blue MBA at CBS – a distance of over 7,000kms. The course requires her to make the round trip to Europe every 10 weeks, but after just a couple of months Sofia believes that the commitment is already well worth it.

“My background is in vessel operation, having started in the Greek market and working my way up to Senior Operations Manager level in London and Dubai, before taking the General Manager role for DA Desk in the USA.

Relocation

“I was born and raised in the US, although my parents are Greek, so the idea of relocating to Houston to be closer to the customer base, was a good one. But as it turned out, the timing was not so good. After several delays and difficulties due to Covid, I finally made the move in January 2021.

Only the best

“During the time I was in limbo, I went back and forth thinking about courses and MBAs; I signed up for something else and then deferred because I just wasn’t sure. But I think it was gut instinct that told me the Blue MBA at Copenhagen was the one for me. It’s top in our industry, I just hoped they would have me. I gave them a call and chatted to Irene [Rosberg – the course director]. I told her about my circumstances, concerned about whether it would work. And I remember her response: “There are different ways to skin a cat, don’t worry!” We agreed in terms of my career it was the right time and while it might be more expensive for me to travel back and forth to Copenhagen rather than choosing an option in the USA, it would almost certainly be the best experience for me. In hindsight it was a no brainer.”

Talented peers

“I’d done a lot of research, but I didn’t really know what to expect from the course. The talent of the alumni that have passed through speaks volumes and to be honest that’s one of the first things I noticed when I joined in September; the talent, but also the humility, among our own cohort. Irene has done an exceptional job of picking the right characters for the programme. Most of the students are already distinguished professionals – just being able to be among them and experience everything with them is thrilling.”

Making sacrifices

“Travelling to Copenhagen from Houston is no mean feat. Sometimes it takes multiple flights and I have to sacrifice family time and time with friends as well as the financial sacrifice that comes from being self-funded. And on top of that I still have to find the time to juggle work while I’m travelling.

“But I’m doing it knowingly. I plan to try to be in the classroom as much as possible, because to me, that’s what you pay the money for, it’s not just the knowledge, it’s the experience and meeting people and the opportunity to exchange thought processes with them. I know that many of the classes could be virtual and I would save myself money by dialling in, but it just wouldn’t be the same. There’s a feeling in the room when everyone comes together.”

Getting the most out of it

“Right now, I feel it’s time to reinvest in myself and refresh my skills. I still consider myself young, but I have 20+ years of experience behind me. It’s my turn to give back. For me, the MBA is about putting a creative thought process behind those times where I’m sitting at the table with big decision makers. It’s about developing a growth mindset and developing myself personally. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll be looking to move to a different company or to change roles soon. But I want the tools to handle more complex issues, both day to day and strategically. The Blue MBA will strengthen me as a person and as a professional during the next stage of my life.

“I’m a firm believer that you can’t know everything in shipping. It’s such a vast industry. You need to be open to opportunities, to other people and to the lessons that come with experience. Coming out of a period where we had so few meaningful interactions with other people it seems strange to be interacting with so many other professionals, plus professors and other faculty staff. That in itself is proving to be an education. I can already see the opportunities that come will come with this and I’m open to them.”

There’s room for everyone in shipping

“In my cohort on the Blue MBA there are maybe 10 women – a ratio of about 1 to 4, which I guess is probably an improvement on years gone by. That’s not a reflection on CBS, but on the industry as a whole. For many years I have been the only woman at the table, but I can see that more women are getting involved, which can only be a good thing. Shipping needs more dynamic women. Not to act as token females in the senior levels but to rise-up organically despite their gender.

“I have never been hindered because I’m a woman in the maritime industry, there is definitely room for everyone.

“The distance from Houston to Copenhagen may be over 7,000 kms, but it’s worth every one of them. I’ve definitely found the right fit for me and I’m excited to see where it leads.”