Sonia Ferreira, Global Key Client Director, A.P. Moller - Maersk

Sonia Ferreira started her business journey with a strong background in Economics. Her early career led her to Chambers of Commerce in two very different parts of the world: New Zealand and Portugal. From the beginning, she was interested in international trade, fascinated by the potential of cultural diversity and the way business connections could bridge global divides.

After spending several years in these roles and traveling extensively across the Asia Pacific and Europe, Sonia discovered the fascinating world of logistics. “It was almost like seeing an invisible world for the first time,” she recalls. The realization of how products journey across the globe to reach store shelves intrigued her, sparking a passion that has fueled her career in the logistics industry for the past 20 years.

Her early career in the Asia Pacific region proved invaluable. “Working with a variety of countries helped me understand the importance of cultural awareness very early on,” Sonia explains. This experience ignited a curiosity and open-mindedness that has remained a constant throughout her career, as her work has taken her to over 40 countries.

Another pivotal moment came when Sonia began working with startups on a project. This experience underscored the significance of innovation in everyday work, regardless of one’s role or company. “It sparked a drive for experimentation, to constantly be open to learning from others and challenging oneself to look for new perspectives,” she says.

Most recently, Sonia has been managing a global team, which has taught her valuable lessons in leadership. She emphasizes the importance of empowering her team and developing a decentralized leadership approach. “Allowing them to grow in their roles and take on additional responsibility positively impacts their current and future roles,” she notes.

Through her diverse experiences, Sonia Ferreira has developed a unique perspective on international trade, cultural diversity, and innovative leadership, making her a key figure in the global logistics industry.

Navigating Through Maersk

Sonia’s first role at Maersk Group was in Supply Chain Management operations, where she managed suppliers for global clients. This experience laid a crucial foundation for her career. “It’s extremely important to understand how the business works in detail—the processes, the systems we operate, and what is possible or not—before we can build new solutions,” she says. This role also helped her grasp the pain points of customers and how the industry operates across a complex network involving customs authorities, brokers, trucking companies, carriers, and various service providers. She describes it as “an extremely complex ecosystem, where you need to manage uncertainty and deal with disruptions daily.”

A few years later, Sonia transitioned to a Commercial role, initially at a national level and subsequently at Regional and Global levels. Her work spanned multiple industries, including Retail, Lifestyle/Fashion, FMCG, Automotive, and Chemical. This breadth of experience gave her deep insights into the diverse needs of supply chains across different sectors. “Some industries heavily favor speed, like retail or fashion, while others focus on consistency or resilience, like automotive or chemical,” she explains. This understanding helped her identify key supply chain drivers and how they relate to the final market and end consumers.

After several years in Commercial roles, Sonia became a Customer Solutions Manager, where she developed new solutions for clients. These ranged from establishing a new warehouse location in Vietnam to creating a service that could save three days of lead time. “The aim was to create tailored solutions based on customers’ needs, and it was very rewarding to create innovative solutions across different geographies and industries,” she recalls. This role significantly expanded her experience with innovation, which would later become a central theme in her career, both within and outside Maersk.

Eventually, Sonia decided to dedicate herself to innovation full-time and joined Maersk Growth, the company’s venture arm, based at their headquarters in Copenhagen. Here, she worked with startups and facilitated collaboration between external innovation partners and internal product teams. “It was an amazing experience to be part of strategic projects that could determine what the future of the industry could be,” she says.

When the opportunity arose to return to the Commercial side of the business as a Global Key Client Director, Sonia felt it was the perfect chance to apply her knowledge of innovation to develop new solutions for one of Maersk’s top clients. “I’ve learned a lot from the experience, especially the impact of complexities in geopolitical situations and economic unrest on our clients and the ripple effect small disruptions have across the network,” she notes.

Overcoming Challenges and Fostering Innovation

One of the first challenges Sonia faced in her career was introducing new ideas and dealing with resistance to change. “People may not always understand your vision or see the same possibilities you do, so you need to guide them on that journey and take them along with you,” she explains. To foster a culture of innovation within her team, she emphasizes the importance of leveraging individual strengths and skill sets, maintaining an open mind, practicing constant learning, and creating a safe space for experimenting with new ideas.

Another significant challenge for Sonia was how to deal with failure, whether in a new project or while developing a new solution. She recognizes that this is a crucial part of experimentation. “It’s normal to learn through trial and error as you develop new ideas and solutions,” she notes. By understanding this and supporting a culture of co-creation across the organization, she is supporting a collaborative experimentation culture in the projects she is involved in.

Lastly, Sonia highlights the challenge of dealing with others’ expectations. She believes that everyone has an identity and internal drivers that make them unique, and that individuality is crucial. “Diversity of thought is one of the most important characteristics of high-performing teams,” she asserts. Staying true to oneself is a vital lesson she has learned and one she frequently shares.

Through these experiences, Sonia Ferreira has navigated the complexities of change management, embraced the learning opportunities presented by failure, and upheld the importance of individuality and diversity in her leadership approach. Her insights offer valuable lessons for anyone looking to drive innovation and build resilient, high-performing teams.

Distributed Co-Creator Leadership

Sonia describes her leadership style as “distributed co-creator leadership.” This approach leverages the leadership capabilities of individuals within an open, collaborative, and decentralized environment. By co-creating a shared culture of innovation and growth, she helps her team navigate uncertainty and change effectively.

The cornerstone of Sonia’s leadership philosophy is purpose. “I believe there should be meaning in everything we do, and it should be guided by the change we want to bring to the world,” she emphasizes. Her other core values include empathy, openness to change, accountability, and authenticity.

Sonia credits her development as a leader to the influence of strong role models who inspired her to think differently and develop her own vision. These role models include managers and peers, as well as a variety of strong female leaders from different industries who have championed equality and diversity. “They have empowered me to lead my career towards what I am most passionate about,” she says.

Through her distributed co-creator leadership style, Sonia Ferreira fosters an environment where innovation thrives, purpose drives action, and diverse perspectives are valued, making her an emergent transformative figure in the logistics industry.

Innovating in the Logistics and Transport Industry

Innovation in the logistics and transport industry, according to Sonia, is driven by curiosity and the ability to view existing solutions or situations from a different perspective, practicing divergent thinking. “The logistics and transportation industry is extremely complex and fragmented,” she notes. Therefore, innovation requires openness to collaboration, as many current problems can only be solved through collective change.

Technology plays a crucial role in this sector. “What cannot be measured cannot be improved,” Sonia emphasizes. Digital tools are being developed that will significantly impact the industry by providing measurable data to drive improvements. Connectivity is another key driver. By connecting various supply chains—from raw material providers to producers, brand owners, distributors, wholesalers, and final consumers—inefficiencies can be reduced, improving resource utilization and minimizing waste.

One of the most exciting trends in logistics is the increasing use of technology. This includes big data analytics, IoT, digital twins, automation in warehouses or vehicles, and predictive planning. “Data plays a key role in transforming the logistics space,” Sonia explains. Another notable trend is the shift in business models from activity-based to outcome-based models. Supply chains are designed and updated based on companies’ key drivers, creating elastic logistics—flexible and agile systems that can adjust according to market demand fluctuations.

Sustainability is also a critical and urgent trend. Green logistics focuses on minimizing environmental impact throughout the supply chain by reducing waste, energy consumption, and emissions, and creating more circular models.

To stay informed and maintain a diverse perspective, Sonia regularly follows leading sources on innovation, technology, and sustainability. She combines this with insights from community-based platforms and experts from various fields and industries. “I also attend events linked to the innovation ecosystem, so it is key to build a wide and knowledgeable network,” she adds.

The Ubiquity of Logistics

Logistics is integral to our daily lives, influencing everything from the coffee we drink in the morning to the clothes we buy, the homes we live in, the vehicles we use, and the technology we rely on. “Most products have multiple supply chains associated with them, including raw materials, production, distribution, and increasingly, returns,” explains Sonia. These supply chains are in constant motion around the world.

Recent disruptions have highlighted how deeply interconnected global supply chains are. “When there’s an increase in demand for one product, it can create a shortage in another because they use the same raw materials,” she notes. Events like the Suez Canal blockage have worldwide impacts, causing container equipment imbalances and capacity constraints even on unrelated routes.

Efficiency is a key driver in logistics, helping to reduce waste, overproduction, and excess stock. However, Sonia emphasizes that sustainability must also be a priority, necessitating the establishment of new solutions and business models. “Most logistics flows are still linear, moving from point A to B to C,” she observes. There is a pressing need to develop circular logistics models through collaboration and co-creation among logistics players, clients, and institutions. “This is the vision I would be proud to be part of,” she adds.

Mentorship and Making an Impact

Sonia has gained invaluable insights from her mentorship experiences with university students, early-stage startups, and mature companies. “What they all have in common is the passion to create something new, the drive to make a difference, and the urgency for change,” she notes. These attributes serve as daily learnings for her work and life.

Sonia seeks projects where she can create a meaningful impact. “It is extremely important to use our skillset and knowledge to give back to the community and help others learn from our experience,” she emphasizes. Over the years, she has supported projects from leading institutions such as MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund, London School of Economics Generate, and SDA Bocconi for Innovation. Through these engagements, she has connected with brilliant young entrepreneurs who are developing the next generation of solutions and products that will shape the way we live, work, and interact.

She is particularly proud of her work with the European Innovation Council (EIC). As a coach for the European Social Innovation Competition and a mentor for the EIC Scaling Club, Sonia has supported leading scaleups in Europe within the scope of Smart Mobility. “It is a pleasure to be part of this community, where investors, corporate innovators, and other industry stakeholders work together to support high-potential deep tech companies focusing on major global challenges,” she says.

In her role as a mentor and coach for aspiring leaders, Sonia identifies several essential qualities for future leaders to develop. “The first quality is curiosity. Only a curious mind can be constantly open to learning and improving while being attentive to the world around,” she explains. The second quality is empathy, as understanding others’ perspectives and ways of thinking is crucial. She also highlights the importance of courage to make tough decisions or disagree with the majority and humility to comfortably ask for help. Lastly, she emphasizes purpose, noting that “leading towards the greater good is an extremely powerful driver for change.”

A Vision for the Future

Sonia is a continuous learner, always focused on personal and professional development. In the short term, she aims to continue driving innovation, adding value to clients, and addressing some of the industry’s biggest challenges. Simultaneously, she remains dedicated to supporting impactful projects and institutions. “In the long term, I want to increase my contribution to transnational and global strategic projects that bring together corporates, academic institutions, NGOs, and governments to make this world a better place,” she says.

Her advice to young professionals aspiring to leadership roles in the logistics and transport industry is clear: “Be bold, be creative, pay attention to detail, but most of all, be yourself. We need a wide diversity of profiles to solve the challenges that lie ahead.” She encourages them to learn from others, ask for help, and stay informed about market trends, even those not directly related to logistics or transportation. “If it is impacting the consumer, it will eventually have an impact on the supply chain network,” she explains.

Through her commitment to continuous learning and innovation, Sonia Ferreira embodies the qualities of a forward-thinking leader dedicated to making a lasting impact on the industry and the world.

For More Info:

Content Disclaimer

Related Articles