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Quick 5 with Zandra Sissing AMM

This week Ruchi Ladkani sits with Zandra Sissing – Operations Manager, Emirates Palace Marina. Bearing extensive experience in marina & yacht charter operations, both in the Middle East and overseas, Zandra Sissing is an infectiously positive operator in UAE’s evolving marine landscape. Always leading with kindness, her genuine compassion, incredible knowledge & uncompromising professionalism, in stakeholder engagement across all levels, render her style impressive and inspiring.

Let’s navigate her story ….

1) What Rocks my boat keeps me afloat?

Hands down, customer satisfaction. To me, nothing is more fulfilling than seeing my clients and berth holders happy. Boating should be a relaxing experience. When I see our members with their families smiling and celebrating all that this lifestyle has to offer, ultimately that’s what rocks my boat. I thrive in winning over difficult situations by applying alternative thinking and overcoming challenges.

I also take great pride in the teams I’ve led thus far, where everyone has their individual strength and incredible potential. I believe in enabling every individual of my team, to shine in their unique way and support them in building their confidence to achieve their full success; especially in sensitive situations, where safety is primary. This, to me, is paramount across all marina operations where we continually strive to balance the objectives of quality hospitality with safety.

On a personal note, my husband is a strong and major source for me in ‘staying afloat’. He is my anchor that I am privileged to have. I take great pride in my role as his wife and we have a phenomenal partnership that keeps me going. We have great adventures together, especially navigating the cultural landscape of Abu Dhabi which is fantastic for its diversity of experiences from outdoor excursions to other family friendly activities. It’s a relationship that I value incredibly and no matter how tired I am, going home to him calms any storm I see.

2) A significant mentor in my journey so far…..

When I was working in a Marina in one of my past lives, I met with a wonderful Harbour Master who made a deep impact on my growth and journey outside my comfort zone. He’s done some volunteering work in the UAE as well. From the day we met, he was always guiding my development. I’m still very fortunate to be connected with him and we have exchanges on various global industry related matters. He is someone who coached me to develop my career outside my home country and was always a voice of encouragement who motivated me to give it a shot.

A humble soul who is extremely generous with his guidance, mentorship and just wants to see the upcoming generation grow and thrive in their best skin! As a Harbour Master, he had a unique skill set of balancing commercial priorities alongside leisure experiences, which I saw great value in and learnt a lot from. He’s all about lifting people up and every interaction with him, came from a genuine place of personal interest in my growth. His encouragement to charter new territories, was what facilitated my leap into new horizons.

3) My favourite marine destination is…

At the current moment, and I did not realise until I moved here, it has to be Abu Dhabi! What a wonderful marine destination it is. Until I arrived here, I would’ve told you my favourite marine destination needs the usual ingredients of turquoise waters, little islands, consistent breeze, all that we would associate with the Seychelles & Maldives…..Abu Dhabi is all this and more.

As I continue to unravel the capital, I appreciate its beautiful sailing wind, lots of sheltered protected water, abundant marine life, several little islands and the mangroves; all fairly safe and clean; I would go with Abu Dhabi as my current favourite marine destination. We have so much to explore here, the latest addition of Jubail Island, special trips like moonlight kayaking from Emirates Palace Marina, getting to iconic places by water like the Louvre, the new Al Qana marina, Yas Island etc – Abu Dhabi offers some pretty diverse island experiences discovered through its waters. There’s so much to see and my file of anchorages is only growing! It’s also very accessible and doesn’t take a lot of time. Within 3 hours you can have a refreshing break on an island or celebrate the unique canals and mangroves. In many other parts of the world, it takes a lot of time and effort to reach such unique spots.

I also think Abu Dhabi’s cruising potential is very untapped and there’s a genuine opportunity to build on this and enhance the Super Yacht tourism currency of this distinctive, special yet accessible destination.

4) Same storm, different boat….key learnings from Covid era

Adaptability and flexibility were my key takeaways from that passage. The impact of the pandemic was quick and at phenomenal speed which dictated a high level of flexibility. It has stretched people a lot and where, if you could adapt and change, you could possibly get through this.

Ultimate lesson was moving away from the strap – ‘that’s the way we always done it’. Most marinas had different responses to the challenges brought by Covid, and whilst on the other hand it was great to see marine business on the rise, it had to be enhanced by adaptable attitudes. Awareness of doing things differently and being prepared for a variety of situations, has made the tenets of creativity & innovation core functionalities for me and not just ‘nice to have’.

I’m also very grateful to have been in the UAE during this challenge as the country responded with agility and efficiency in managing the balance of business and residents’ safety.

Empathy and human factor in leadership, also needs more recognition. As management, it’s our responsibility acknowledging the differences in people’s experience and overall situation governing them in dealing with this common storm. You need to expand your thinking and look at things from a wider lens of humanity. I also appreciate and recognise the efficiencies and rise in productivity, catalysed by remote working solutions which will continue to complement (hopefully not replace) future business engagements.

Ruchi Ladkani (MBA) is the Sales Manager of the Abu Dhabi International Boat Show (ADIBS) for the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company. Ruchi has been able to help make the Abu Dhabi International Boat Show (ADIBS), launched in October 2018 a well-respected leading international marine event.

Prior to her move to the UAE, Ruchi was a familiar face around the Sydney International Boat Show, having been a much respected and valued colleague working with the show’s venue.

Ruchi is a global and strategic commercial operator, focused on building platforms for consistent and sustainable business prospects. In addition to portfolio development, Ruchi is an astute negotiator with a persevering ambition that translates into successful business outcomes and consolidated market position.

You can connect with Ruchi via LinkedIn here