Norzalinda Mohamed serves as Northport (Malaysia) Bhd’s Head of Container Services. After being awarded as the ‘Tokoh Wanita Pekerja’ by the Ministry of Human Resources in 2005 and being the first and only woman managing terminal operations in the port industry in this region to date, Norzalinda has proven that women can thrive in what many perceive to be a male-dominated industry.

Norzalinda’s career had a very early start, as it was her father who exposed her to the hustle and bustle of the ports industry when she was just a child. When her father was the Director of Operations for Port Klang Authority in the 1970’s, she would happily tag along every week while the port was being constructed. When it came for her to make a career choice, her own father was concerned if she would succeed in such a tough industry. However, his doubts were quickly vanished after his own daughter worked her way up to become the Head of Container Services at Northport (Malaysia) Bhd (Northport).

As the Head of Container Services, walking a day in her shoes is no easy feat. She admits that the role is not as easy as she thought it would be, as terminal operations operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, throughout the entire year. When running the 3.3 kilometer container terminal, she juggles the planning and traffic control for the vessels who enter and exit the terminal, the availability and amount of space needed to park containers, the crane size and length to lift the containers into the terminal, as well as the on-ground transportation services required. As if that does not sound taxing enough, she has to manage approximately 1,200 employees working at the port.

However, the difficult nature of her role did not demoralise her. She chooses not to succumb to adversity, and this attitude has resulted in several outstanding achievements under her belt. For instance, she managed to increase productivity from 25 (crane) moves per hour when she first joined Northport to 32 moves per hour in January 2015. Unfortunately, the system crashed in late April. She had to rise to the challenge of converting all systematic operations to manual operations, making fast decisions, and leading all on-ground staff to increase the productivity again. Later on, she succeeded in bringing productivity to 30 moves per hour consistently – exceeding everyone’s expectations and is now striving for the terminal productivity to do nothing less than 35 moves per hour.

Everyone had very low expectations of her due to her gender in the male-dominated industry. However, she believes that being a woman made her even better at performing this role. She believes that women can be better planners and more supportive managers. When a decision must be made, she makes a point to consult her team and reach a consensus first, rather than imposing a decision from top down. She managed to strike the difficult balance of having empathy when working with people from all walks of life with being strong and not being ruled by mere emotions.

None of her achievements would have been possible without her support system. She had a lot of support from her parents, her husband who was very understanding of the responsibilities she undertakes and her children. Most importantly, she is grateful for the outstanding members of the Northport family, whose commitment to Northport’s collective goals and teamwork has been her backbone when on the job. She hopes to keep the team stronger and together with the constant support from the Management.

Norzalinda has pushed the boundaries of the entire port industry in Malaysia. She has gone the extra mile to learn as much as she can to earn the trust of her peers and subordinates. Women should not shy away from striving for top positions in male-dominated industries, as women have their own set of strengths to add to the table. Obstacles should only propel us forward, as Norzalinda has proven to all of us.

Norzalinda Mohamed

Norzalinda Mohamed who first joined Northport (Malaysia) Bhd in 2002 was awarded ‘Tokoh Wanita Pekerja’ by the Ministry of Human Resources in 2005 and is still going strong as Head of Container Services at Northport in a male-dominated industry.

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