Forwarder Heroes – Sarah Gerken, BTG Internationale

Published
January 15, 2024

Our Forwarder Heroes series explores talented freight forwarders in the cargo.one community, zooming in on their ideas, experiences, and advice. This month, we chat to Sarah Gerken, Head of Airfreight Germany for BTG Internationale.

Q. What aspect of your job do you love most or find most rewarding?

I just love the energy of this industry. Freight forwarding is a passion for me, for sure. Every single day is different, and I can do so many things with freight forwarding that perhaps I would never get the chance to elsewhere. 

As a company, we have shipped Formula One cars, we’ve had several full freighters, I think there were five actually, shipping automotive goods to China for production, and of course, many other interesting and rewarding items such as medical items. I really love what I do. 

On any given day, I work with so many different people, countries and transport modes! It’s not just about the airfreight part either; it is also the road transport part taking the goods to and from the airport, the customs formalities, sales and customer service, and, of course, all the different speeds of service you can choose. You never get bored. 

Q. What are the most important skills needed to succeed in freight forwarding?

Being flexible – things change, opportunities, routes, etc, all change a lot of the time, so we need to be as adaptable as the market. At the end of the day, we are here to find the best solution for our customers, which means being flexible. 

I would also say you need a really good network around you, too; this makes being flexible so much easier. Partners, airlines, truckers, etc, each one is super important, you need to be able to call on the right people as and when you need them. To be honest, the shift to finding flights and partners online is a huge bonus. cargo.one saves us so much time; so, using the right tools is also important to succeed.

Q. If you could advise your younger self, what would it be?

Calm down (laughs). It took years of experience, trial and error, and failures to learn how to stay calm whenever problems or challenges occurred. There are solutions for every problem, even when you think it’s impossible – with the right network, everything is possible.

Q. What's your favorite object on your desk?

Oh, it’s my model airplane, a Lockheed C-130. I received it in the Summer of 2023. We had been invited to celebrate a partner company’s anniversary in Munich. It was a wonderful transport and logistics event with great food and brilliant acts, and they gave us a model airplane as a gift. It was the perfect ending to a really great event and something to remember it by.

Q. How has digital air cargo booking improved your life?

Honestly, if I think back to before digital booking was possible, it makes me shudder. How did we do it? Of course, we did, but it’s just so much easier now. 

It’s still super important to have and maintain those good relationships with airlines and GSAs, as the cargo business is a people business. But for many shipments like general cargo, cargo.one for example, saves us huge amounts of time and allows us to serve our partners and customers quicker than ever before. 

And I love that we are no longer restricted to the working hours of airlines or different time zones; we can now book whenever we want, we can offer several options to our customers and literally book within seconds. It’s really great for us.

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