Employee Spotlight – Zori Kitanova

Zori, WhiteWater’s logistics extraordinaire has been keeping all our in-construction projects around the world going smoothly through the COVID-19 pandemic. With her and her team’s skills, we’ve been able to keep shipping steel, fiberglass, and more to and from plants and project locations over land and ocean. We thought that it would be fun to shine the spotlight on Zori this month, and she also turns out to be an extremely skilled baker as well!

Please tell us a bit about yourself

I was born and raised on the beautiful Black Sea Coast . My family was involved in international trade and logistics, and I spent a fair amount of my time from early childhood until I was a young adult at the Port of Burgas. This is where I started my career as a student apprentice while taking my master’s degree in Economics.

I consider myself a very lucky and fortunate person. Growing up in a communist country at the time, it was a privilege to travel abroad. Both my father and grandfather had work-related opportunities to travel overseas and I always loved the stories they brought home. I believe my curiosity to see the world was seeded in my dreams back then.

I’m very grateful for all the challenges and opportunities that life has given me. I came to Canada with only two bags and enough finances to survive without work for only about three months. I slept on a floor for the first month, then on a camping air mattress for 3 years. Now, I have a great family of my own with two amazing boys that keep my life very busy. And I have a job that makes my life even more fun and interesting—thank you WhiteWater!

It hasn’t always been easy and there have been times when I had to make big sacrifices or take big risks and there have been moments I felt really low, but what has always helped me is my desire to move forward and never give up. Looking back, it was all worth it because every challenge only made me stronger, resilient, and agile.

What do you do at WhiteWater?

I oversee global distribution and customs compliance of WhiteWater equipment supply from vendors to project sites. I have an amazing team of logistics professionals, and together we are giving our best to ensure the smooth delivery of supplies to sites. Global trade is very complex these days and there is usually a lot of dynamics going on behind the scenes – we have different country requirements and regulations, various times zones, language and cultural barriers, sometimes natural disasters or labour constraints at ports, and now COVID-19. The challenges never stop but we are creative and a united team that always supports each other.

What do you love about working at WhiteWater?

To me, WhiteWater is a once in a lifetime opportunity! You get to work with amazing, intelligent, and very creative people while also having the opportunity to learn something new everyday. It is a fun and dynamic environment that suites my personality very well.

What’s your favourite WhiteWater product?

AquaLucent water slides – I’m constantly trilled by the variety of colours and patterns. This is also my kids’ favourites!

What’s on your bucket list?

Prior to the start of the COVID pandemic, I had a plan to do the West Coast Trail with a friend of mine. Over the last few years, I have been feeling the need to get closer to nature with the intent to clear my mind. I enjoy keeping active and am usually excited to take on physical challenges, therefore the West Coast Trail would have been the perfect opportunity.

With the way things are with the pandemic now, I am really looking forward to taking a family trip to Europe to visit family in Germany and Bulgaria.

Do you have a hidden talent? Tell us about it!

I love making fancy themed cakes for my kids’ or friends’ birthday parties. I discovered my creative baking abilities by taking on a challenge from my older boy when he was about to turn 4: it started with a request for a Spiderman cake, then it was Batman, Star Wars Galaxy, Thomas the Train, Paw Patrol, Ninjago, and The Hulk…

Recently, I mastered the art of baking bread, and I absolutely enjoy the science behind that. I think we haven’t bought bread for about 6 months now!

What are some of the creative solutions that you and your team have come up with to overcome challenges?

Last year, we implemented an essCert solution for Certificate of Origin authentication, with the intent to save on time and cost. This has proven to be very useful, especially now. We also utilized electronic signatures and stamps on our documents, while working with our bank on accepting certain communications via e-mail instead of the accepted norm, which is via fax with an ink signed notation. However, there is still a lot to be done in terms of automation and digitalization, which is addressed more in the next answer.

Are there any lessons that have been learned due to the lockdown and closed borders on how to streamline shipping and make things more efficient?

If I can put it in once sentence, I would say—critical thinking, positive attitude, and working together is what will get us through crisis!

As we have seen, the COVID-19 pandemic has now spread to every country around the world. While borders remain open to trade with a higher priority given to essential services, this has caused major economic and social disruptions with far reaching impacts on global supply chains. This has proven to be a big moment in history and an expensive learning curve for everyone, as no single country or industry was effectively prepared to handle the impact of this pandemic on the entire supply chain.

Su Ann Quah