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Articles Inspirational Women in Yachting: Jelena Vezia

To celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, Ocean Independence are speaking to one of our own inspirational women in yachting.

To celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, Ocean Independence are speaking to one of our own inspirational women in yachting.

Kazakhstan-born Jelena Vezia is the company’s only female sales broker and one of only a handful in the entire yachting industry, where female brokers usually specialise in charter. She tells us about the path that led her to where she is today, the challenges that she faces and what motivates her in an section of the industry dominated by male brokers.

OI: What is your history in yachting and what made you decide to pursue a career as a broker?

I started as a hostess working in parallel with my studies at the Monaco Yacht Show in 2010 for one of the leading brokerage houses (our direct competition today). As a hostess I was accompanying brokers during yacht viewings, working at the stand preparing marketing materials and helping with translations where needed. At that time, the head of charter department told me that I have all the right credentials to make a successful charter broker and provided me with a glowing reference letter. This is how my career in the yachting industry started. Nearly 10 years later here I am, bringing my own clients on board during MYS – a huge achievement for me and a sign of destiny, I think. I was not planning to pursue a career in yachting at any point of my life, having successfully graduated with a master’s degree in the Economic International Relations and targeting a position in one of the main European Institutions.

OI: What made you decide to pursue a career in yacht sales and not just charter?

My first position at Sunseeker Monaco was Junior Sales Broker in charge of CIS market, so I have been trained to sell boats from the beginning. During my first job interview my boss, Nigel Bristow, said to me, “It would have been more appropriate to offer you a charter broker’s role, but we don’t have a dedicated charter department here in Monaco, so let’s try to sell.” And we did sell. I still remember him making a drawing to explain the difference between shaft drive and stern drive propulsion systems to me. That was the beginning of the learning curve which was and still remains very challenging – in this business, you never stop learning.

My first real experience in the industry as a broker was at Cannes Boat Show 2012. That year, as one of the main yacht manufacturers, Sunseeker had at least a dozen models on display, one of the biggest stands, hundreds of clients, and a lot (I mean really A LOT) of information to remember – not an easy task for a beginner. Believe me, I was terrified, but the result was brilliant and some of the prospects who I met at that show are among my best clients today.

OI: What challenges have you faced as a female sales broker?

The yachting industry is male-dominated, and it is not easy to gain the trust of clients and peers. I wouldn’t ever call myself a feminist, but one thing is certain – to be recognised in this industry you have to know your subject at least as well as male yacht brokers do, if not better. You don’t have a right to make any mistakes, especially at the beginning. If you do something wrong, people are quick to blame the fact that you are a woman. It gets easier once you build a reputation.

OI: Are there advantages to being one of the few female sales brokers?

As we are only a few female brokers, clients do really remember you well and don’t get confused when you do your traditional follow up. Also, you do feel unique I have to admit, especially at the yacht seminars and events where there is a male to female ratio of 90:10.

OI: What motivates you as a sales broker?

There is a huge amount of satisfaction once a deal is closed. Every deal is complicated and challenging in a different way, but also time and energy-consuming and can be clearly considered as a small personal victory each time.

OI: Do you see more women becoming sales brokers in the future? Or have you seen a trend of more women starting to become sales brokers?

I know a few female yacht brokers, who are highly qualified, knowledgeable and successful and it is really enjoyable when we get a chance to cooperate. It’s difficult to talk about a trend as there is no real school where they teach you how to become a yacht broker. If one day a university comes up with a degree in Yachting, then we will be able to analyse the figures and try to evaluate the overall success level of graduates including female students. There is a master’s in Luxury Management at the IUM, but it is not completely dedicated to yachting, so hard to get any reliable figures from it.

Will more women become sales brokers in the future? Probably yes if/when men allow their assistants to climb up the career ladder. The reality is, all girls start in the yachting industry as assistants and how many of them do manage to become brokers? I can give you the answer – only a handful. I was extremely lucky as my first boss was willing to teach me everything and let me grow straight away and I am endlessly thankful to him for this unique opportunity. So, to become a female yacht broker you must be not only intelligent, personable and communicative, but also lucky.

When speaking to Jelena, one can’t help but feel that there is more to her success than just luck. Fluent in five languages, she sold her first yacht six years ago at the age of 25 after only nine months in the industry. Her successful business approach, can-do attitude and attention to detail represent her core expertise as a yacht broker.

In addition to her success as a broker, Jelena is mother to a four-year old son, proving that a woman really can do it all. She lives in Monaco, where she works as a sales and charter broker for Ocean Independence.

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