This week in Host’s “Women in Maritime” series, we’re featuring Operations Manager Erika Cueto, who works in Port Everglades, FL.

Erika and her family moved from Peru to the U.S. when she was 12 years old. After graduating college,  she returned to Peru and got her start in the maritime industry working as a ship agent and sales manager. “It’s very challenging to be new to this industry,” she admits. “There’s no way to understand the job before you’re actually out here doing it. You can’t learn this in a classroom.”

After seven years at the agency, she returned to the U.S. in 2014 and began working at Host. “Host has been in business for almost 100 years, so there are a lot of opportunities to learn from talented team members,” she explains. “My favorite thing about working here is the company’s focus on education and ongoing training. It’s the gift of confidence, really, and that’s very important in this work.”

Erika began her career at Host as Terminal Administration Manager in South Florida, helping the company put its first container operation together. Eight months later, she joined the commercial team, traveling the world to tell potential customers about Host. “I enjoyed telling people about our strategy, our history, and our commitment to making a difference,” she says. “But more importantly, I liked creating relationships. I take a lot of pride in that.”

Erika still puts a strong focus on relationships in her current role as Operations Manager, overseeing Host’s agency operations in South Florida. She says the most important things required to do her job are a good attitude and a passion for learning new things. For the first year in this position, Erika says she boarded ships at all hours of the day and night to learn everything she could about the unique characteristics of the ports her team serves. “The team here is incredible. They make my job easy,” she says. “But the knowledge to lead can only come from experience.”

Her advice to women considering a career in maritime: “Just do it. You’ll often hear that you have to have a thick skin to work in this industry, and that’s true, but a friendly personality goes a long way too. Don’t underestimate the value of a positive attitude.”

Erika’s wife, Paolo, also works in the industry as a logistics coordinator. “She gets it,” Erika says. “She understands the crazy hours and the traveling, because she sees it in her job, too. But she also understands how rewarding it feels to play a role in the world’s economy and to learn more about it every day. It’s really something special.”