FOR Ms Rafidah Rahumathullah, her on-the-job training at Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) was an invaluable experience.

She says: "When I started out as a management trainee, I was given first-hand exposure to vessel and terminal operations.

"I picked up knowledge of an extensive range of vessel operations and learnt how clever container stowage planning and efficient operations can help improve business productivity. All this remains close to my heart."

In her current role as a terminal operations specialist at the local shipping company's Terminals Business Unit, the 26-year-old provides analytical support for its global performance.

That data, in turn, will impact important decisions in areas such as operations, budget and contract reviews.

Although the industry she joined as an intern is regarded as a male-dominated one, she is unfazed by this, claiming that the perception has motivated her to work even harder to prove herself.

She says: "I always remind myself to stay focused on the tasks and learn as much as I can. At the end of the day, overcoming gender differences boils down to showing that one has the skills and abilities to excel in one's job."

She describes her decision to work at NOL as a "natural" one, adding: "I was fascinated by how the company and industry help support international trade.

"I found the dynamics of end-to-end cargo flow across nations and trade routes, and the strategies used to ensure cargo gets transported along an optimal vessel network very exciting. The more exposure I gained, the more my interest in the business grew."

Her passion for her work has pushed her to strive for excellence.

When she was stationed in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates as a customer service representative, she worked hard to improve process flows so that customers would consistently receive quality service. For her efforts, she was presented with a Job Well Done award from the local office.

Far from resting on her laurels, Ms Rafidah is as enthusiastic about deepening her knowledge of the industry as when she started out.

She says: "This industry is complex and dynamic, so one must be able to act quickly on an issue.

"I'm goal-oriented, so I think it has come in handy in my job. I discovered that asking questions was a useful way to learn, and it also helped me clarify what was required to be done."

Currently juggling work and studies to be a chartered financial analyst, she hopes to move up to a senior management role at NOL one day. The company has a strong international presence through its operating brands like APL and APL Logistics.

"I believe that the exposure I gain from working in a global company, the knowledge I gather from my interactions with colleagues from the world over and the company's talent development opportunities will all help me achieve my long-term career goal," says Ms Rafidah.

For now, she plans to do her best to excel in her present role. She says: "I enjoy what I'm doing at NOL because I'm interested in it. But I also think that it is important to be positive and open-minded in order to enjoy one's career.

"Another thing about NOL that I like is its diverse mix of employees. All of them have different backgrounds and job functions - be it sales, vessel networks or even customer service - so there's a lot to learn about the business and the role it plays in international trade every day."