After winning the Italian nomination for the Young Logistics Professionals Award, Federica Cannavacciuolo from Naples, Italy went on to place second on the European level. In this interview she talks about the competition, but also about the gender gap that still exists in logistics and what it is like working in a family business.

First of all, a big congratulations from the entire Atlas team on this huge accomplishment. For those who don’t know, could you briefly explain what the Young Logistics Professionals Award is?

The Young Logistics Professionals Award is a contest organized by FIATA with the help of TT Club, an international logistics and transport insurance company. The aim of the competition is to determine who will be the Global Young Freight Forwarder of the year. Even though the age limit is 32, it is obvious that I needed to deal with a lot of other good freight forwarders.

The winner receives multiple weeks of training in one of the TT Club’s headquarters such as Hong Kong or London, which is a really unique opportunity. The scores are determined by a judging panel (one delegate for each country), who will nominate the final winner from the four FIATA regions: Americas, Africa, Asia-Pacific and Europe.

The first round takes place on a national level. After that, the winners from each country compete against each other on a regional level. In my case, I was first nominated to participate for Italy and then won second place in the European competition. I was told the difference with the winner was only one point, so it was very close (laughs).

What were some of the specific assignments you had to complete during the competition?

On a national level, most of the questions were related to practical logistics procedures such as filling out a custom entry, a letter of credit and answering several general questions about my job. Of course, everything needed to be done in English.

For the European competition, we had to write an essay that explained one import and one export case related to your own country. Italy is a producing country but we also handle a lot of materials, so we both do a lot of import and export. My essay was called Moving Lands and Giants. Long story short, it was about a shipment of live plants from Guatemala and the logistics process of moving an old factory to Mexico. These were two huge projects which we handles ourselves and were also very interesting to the judges.

Obviously, you are a very talented and motivated freight forwarder. But do you think there were other factors from your personal experience that helped you in this competition?

Not really, I did not enter the competition with the intention to win. I just wanted to put myself out there to see what my level is compared to others. I think I won simply by doing the same things I do every day. For my job, I occupy multiple positions and do many different tasks at the same time. This has helped me understand the different shades of logistics and processes of the field. I did not have to prepare for the competition because I had been doing it for 7 years already. If you are hungry and want to know everything about something, you learn it step by step.

Logistics is still a male-dominated field. Do you sometimes feel treated differently for being a woman and how do you cope with it?

This is a dangerous question because everyone has a different opinion on the topic. But you are right, it is still a very-male dominated field. I actually just went to an event with 46 men and just 3 women, so I know what you mean (laughs). Furthermore, I am not just a woman but a young woman, which is even worse. Of course, the situation is different in every country. But even in countries that are more ahead, the gender gap is still very real. Personally, I try not to think too much about it. When you put a label on something, you are already classifying it as something different, while it should be equal. The only way I cope with it is by not making a big deal about it. Everywhere I go, I just do what I need to do.

What would be your best advice to young women aspiring a career in logistics?
You should be ready to give all of yourself, because you will be busy 24/7. You don’t have to care about others’ opinions, just about what you want to do in life. Sometimes it’s a difficult balance, but if you really want something, you can do it. You don’t need a specific education, just a lot of patience and motivation.

Of course, you came into contact with freight forwarding from an early age through your father, who is the owner of the company. Was it always your plan to follow in his footsteps or did you make that decision at a later age? If so, what triggered it?

Actually, we are already the fourth generation. My company was founded by my great grandfather so the company has undergone a lot of difficult processes and changes through the years. For example, our company was already involved with the construction of the Suez canal zo obviously, a lot of things have changed since then.

As a child, the only thing I knew about my father’s job is that he was never home, so it wasn’t a nice prospect to start working in logistics myself. He also never forced us in a certain direction, we were always able to choose ourselves. However, I am of the opinion that you cannot say no to something if you don’t try. So in the end, I gave logistics a go and fell in love with it.

What is it like working with your family?

It can be tricky, especially at the beginning. Of course, I already had an existing relationship with my father and brother so we needed to figure out the business side of things first. For example, we decided to split our competencies. I am in charge of the UK and Northwestern Europe while my brother is in charge of the US and Canada. Not because we do not get along, but to limit the amount of things that we are able to disagree on (laughs). It’s better this way.

Thank you, Federica!