Simon Spekman

Service Manager, Benelux

I was born and raised in Zwijndrecht, the location of our Benelux head office and where I’m still working today. After finishing high school, I started studying mechanical engineering, but wasn’t motivated enough at that time, dropping my studies to search for what I felt was the ‘right education’ for me.  

At this point, my parents insisted that either I should get straight back to school or find myself a job. I decided to resume studying, but while figuring out exactly what to study, I took what I imagined would be a temporary job as a safety equipment surveyor for VIKING. Now, years later, and much further along my career path, I’m still with the company!

My first month on the job, as I remember it, was quite fun. The whole world of life-saving equipment was something completely new for me and I had never seen a liferaft inflated. In the beginning, working as a surveyor was physically challenging, but interesting enough to keep me motivated.  

After two years in this role, I felt I needed something more – and my manager saw potential in me, recommending me for a position as a service planner. After a few years, more tasks came my way, creating a very diverse and challenging position that grew to include assisting in customer service planning, doing inspections of service stations in other countries, and acting as interim Service Manager whenever needed.

"It’s not easy to describe a typical working day – in fact, I don’t think I’ve had one for a long time!"

Today, as Service Manager, I lead a team of people, and am responsible for everything that happens in the liferaft service department for the Netherlands and Belgium. That includes making sure our procedures and methods are in line with all the relevant rules and regulations, ensuring equipment and staff are certified by the right authorities and aligned with VIKING’s standards, and ensuring everyone has the tools they need to work as efficiently as possible. I also participate in the management and strategy of the Dutch organization, and facilitate communication between technicians and the global service organization, giving feedback to headquarters on various initiatives.

It’s not easy to describe a typical working day – in fact, I don’t think I’ve had one for a long time! Alongside all the scheduled meetings, new situations continually pop up and demand my attention. But daily tasks tend to involve handling customer issues, assisting service planners with any difficulties, and working with our sales department when input is needed from the service side of the company. I also get to think about ways to make things easier, such as the iPads we use for service tasks, which is something I find very interesting.   

While I have only been stationed in Zwijndrecht, I have visited a lot of other service stations when doing inspections. And being involved in international projects running across VIKING’s global organization makes travelling a common thing, too.  

To be frank, the toughest part of my job is working with people. The more people are involved, the more issues come up. It’s hard work, sometimes, to strike a balance between keeping the service teams happy and motivated while, at the same time, trying to improve efficiency and productivity. But that’s probably no different from any other fast-growing, ambitious company.

I really like the open, enthusiastic, and international character of our company. The fact that peoples’ opinions and feedback are heard and taken into account wherever possible is very motivating. Lately, I have been more involved in larger projects where I can have a real influence in the future of the company. I find that tremendously motivating, too. There’s a very strong social connection amongst colleagues, too, which makes VIKING a very pleasant company to work at.

Throughout my time at VIKING, I’ve had two mentors, in particular, who have helped me a great deal. The previous Service Manager, for example, is still someone I turn to now and then for advice. And our VP for the South West region gave me the confidence that I was up to the challenges that lay ahead. They both had faith in me, putting my young age aside and offering me my current position.

In this company, if people see that you can get the job done and that you have the right mindset, you will get more responsibilities, and in my case, opportunities to take a step up in the organization. One of the moments where I realized my efforts did have an impact was when I was invited to participate in the GMDP (Global Management Development Program).  This is a high-level management training program developed by Copenhagen Business School (CBS) and especially tailored for VIKING as a company. The program puts a lot of focus on strategy and, because we’re a global company, on cultural differences, too.

To work here, you need an open mindset. That’s because VIKING isn’t some kind of strictly structured company with a set hierarchy that tells you exactly what to do. Instead, it’s an open culture consisting of people with their own initiative to improve and to help drive the company forward.