Dominator Yachts’ Angela Pernsteiner has achieved much in her time as the shipyard’s CEO, taking the Ilumen project from concept sketch in 2014, to successful launch in only three years. We catch up with the Harvard graduate to see what defines her as a leader.


What is the best part of being a superyacht builder?

For me, the most rewarding aspect of being a superyacht builder is being able to work with such a diverse range of individuals, from the owners, down to the skilled craftsmen in the shipyard, to create a yacht from what was just a concept several years earlier.

Seeing the end result must be very rewarding?

It’s an amazing feeling, knowing that our team designed and created this beautiful, but very complex, vessel. Every time one of our bespoke Dominators touches the water, I feel overwhelmed. It shows just what our team has achieved after many long days and nights that are filled with energy-consuming negotiations, worry and, honestly, putting all our blood, sweat and tears into the project.

Equally as rewarding for the owners?

Yes, it’s quite an amazing feeling seeing the owners on board their dreams for the first time. That sense of pride and achievement makes us – myself and my whole team – feel that the long, difficult process was worth it.

It’s a great achievement for yourself, too?

I enjoy proving that women can exert equal influence, authority, knowledge, mental stamina and physical strength as the leader of a successful shipyard. We’re in a male-dominated industry, and I’ve found that it’s important for female leaders to set a statement by speaking our minds and rejecting unfair terms or conditions in daily business practices.

What defines you as a leader?

Achieving gender-equality in the industry, along with building the world’s most beautiful bespoke superyachts, are my parallel goals and the driving force of my daily work life. They define who I am as a leader.  I’ve found that success is ultimately not dependent on gender or age, but one’s ability and determination to inspire and motivate others. That is key to leadership for any woman or man in any industry.

Can you tell us about your favourite project?

At Dominator, every project is unique. But there have been some very special projects. After a long and intensive development phase for engineering and design, we launched the Ilumen range in 2017. The first Ilumen not only revolutionised our brand, but it pushed the entire industry forward.

It’s proving to be a popular range?

Yes, last summer, another two Ilumen models touched the water for the first time. It was truly gratifying to finally show the yachting world how we can build bespoke yachts, incorporating every detail that the owner wants in their dream yacht. In fact, from the moment we start designing a boat for an owner, we take the approach that every project is unique and will involve a variety of tastes, features and preferences.

Creating bespoke superyachts must be a 24/7 operation?

It’s a challenge at times, to say the least, but it’s just what I love about every project. There is nothing standard. Every boat is unique. What really drives us is to find innovative solutions to challenges and introduce ground-breaking concepts. Our goal, above all, is client satisfaction.

What has been your most interesting build?

If I had to choose one yacht, I think the construction of 28M Ilumen CADET V was a truly remarkable experience. The Owner is an admirer of art, which is the reason why he chose to have different centerpieces in various areas on board. For instance, there is the piece by Lorenzo Quinn in the salon, and two mesmerizing artworks of Stefano Curto that include thousands of Swarovski crystals. The collaboration with Stefano Curto in the shipyard was a very special experience for everyone involved. Further, through the great contributions of the Owner, his family and his crew in all areas of the design, we created not only a completely different layout, but also made on board living much better, thanks to the yacht’s improved insulation and shaft propulsion.

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What really drives us is to find innovative solutions to challenges and introduce ground-breaking concepts. Our goal, above all, is client satisfaction.

Would you say that the superyacht industry is male dominated?

Indeed, the decision makers are almost always men, whether it’s the clients, their lawyers, the advisors, the brokers, the technicians, the captains or the suppliers. We build yachts for the most demanding UHNWI, and during construction as well as in tough negotiations with suppliers I deal with what I would describe as mostly male-oriented traits.

Has is been a challenge?

Yes, being in a male-dominated industry was a challenge in the beginning. My age and gender were not taken seriously or initially respected in this industry. But I have found that continuous skills development, increasing technical knowledge and furthering my education in materials and construction processes has helped gain that respect. On top of everything, I feel that two to three times more effort was required to gain the same respect and be treated with the same professional courtesies as men.

The experience made you tougher?

Through these challenges you grow. For instance, I’m now able to outperform many male sales brokers in technical arguments. That is a huge advantage in this industry. I’ve also learned that a little courage goes a long way and that in order to gain acceptance and to get things through, you have to be persistent and sometimes aggressive.

You’ve inspired other females?

I try to lead by example for other women in the industry – either those working with me, or outside the company – to encourage them to be persistent and determined in everything they do. Women need to learn to take risks and not be afraid of failures. This is the most common obstacle that we impose on ourselves and why men always seem confident, even with a lack of knowledge behind that confidence. This industry can often be filled with sharks who teach me new lessons every day. It’s often difficult and stressful, but I’m also thankful for this harsh training since I’m able to improve the skills needed to thrive in this industry. It can be a tough industry for women, but if you persist and adapt, you can grow and thrive as a businesswoman and person.