Should you stay in touch with your former work colleagues? In Helen Graham’s experience, the answer is unequivocally yes. If it wasn’t for one of her former supervisors, she may have never ended up enjoying a career in international trade.
“I was working as a Marketing Coordinator for the Canadian federal government when a former boss became the head of the international business department for the Nova Scotia government. He didn’t have any specific trade staff in my area, and asked if I would be interested in working with his staff to make sure Cape Breton Island companies were aware of all the trade opportunities.”
“I learned a lot from my mentor and his staff, and I developed a very close working relationship with the province. From that point on, I was hooked on international business and I became the go to person for international trade in Cape Breton.”
Helen continued to work there for eight years, from 1997-2005. During this time, she went back to school and earned her MBA, with a specialization in marketing.
Guiding a new generation of trade professionals in the classroom
After leaving her position with the Nova Scotia government in Cape Breton, Helen began teaching at Nova Scotia Community College, one of FITT’s educational partners. She continues to teach there today, and is also a professor at Cape Breton University’s MBA program.
“Getting students to take FITTskills courses and see international business as a viable career is very rewarding. I have helped a number of students get international business jobs.”
In 2007, she also gained her CITP®|FIBP® designation, and views it as a crucial addition to her qualifications, affirming her experience and knowledge in international trade.
It’s a professional designation that helps me to stand out, and I was very happy to earn it. As an instructor who teaches international business courses, having the CITP®|FIBP® designation has helped me validate my education and practice.
Throughout her teaching, Helen has found that examples and stories from her own career have been a helpful way to bring ideas to life in a real-world context, in both positive and negative situations.
“There are so many stories…mostly good. There are a few that I use to illustrate to my students for the ‘never do this’ category as well. International business practices have always been of great interest to me. Having the opportunity to attend trade shows/missions in many countries, it is amazing the new things you learn.”
“What is perfectly acceptable in one country may be considered very inappropriate in others. For example, I was attending a building products trade show in Germany a number of years ago and one of the German companies did a display of painting a brick design on a naked lady. ”
To illustrate a more positive example, at the same show, one of my companies met some potential customers at a party hosted by CMHC. Three years later, the company called me and said they got an order from someone they met at the party, even though they had not even kept in contact since then.”
Given the important role that international business travel plays in the careers of many professionals, she has also orchestrated annual international trips for her students as learning experiences.
“Every trip is a learning opportunity, especially with students. They often tell me that our international trip was the highlight of their business administration diploma studies.”
“I recently took a group of students to China and our Chinese tour coordinator hosted a dinner for us. We were all looking forward to trying the Peking duck until our tour guide on the bus gave us every detail about how the duck was prepared, including, unfortunately, force feeding. This really killed our appetite.”
Working with businesses to find the information they need to make the right decisions
Since 2008, Helen has also owned and operated her own consulting company, Graham Global Management Services. Specializing in research, her goal is to help clients understand the challenges and opportunities of engaging in international markets, assess their various market and project options, and make the best decision for their needs and long-term vision.
As implied by her company motto “If it is out there, we can find it”, Helen stresses the value and importance of staying informed and finding all the information needed to come to the right conclusions.
When I was getting started in international trade, the internet was only just getting started. It may now be easier than ever to find information, but that should only place even greater importance on doing your homework and ensuring you have all the research you need.
After operating her business for almost a decade, she has worked on a wide variety of projects. These have ranged from researching new markets and developing business profiles for companies to acquiring feedback from businesses and special interest groups on community-based projects.
“I have worked on so many different and interesting projects that it is hard to pick one thing that stands out above the others. Whatever I’m working on, I know that international business means constantly researching, whether it be for a new country or a new product. There is always something new to learn.”
As she continues to learn and pass along her knowledge to students and business professionals alike, Helen plays an important role in building the capacity for trade.
Learn more about the CITP®|FIBP® designation
INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS CERTIFICATION—CITP®|FIBP®
Advance your career and build your professional credibility in the field of global business by earning the Certified International Trade Professional (CITP) designation.
Why Earn the Certified International Trade Professional (CITP) Designation?
The Certified International Trade Professional (CITP) designation is the world’s leading professional designation for the field of international business. So whether you’re new to global trade or have over a decade of direct experience, you’ll find the CITP designation can help advance your career and build your professional credibility.
The CITP designation sets you apart in the competitive international business industry because it’s proof you possess the competencies global business experts have identified as being essential for a successful career in international trade. It also recognizes your dedication to ethical business practices and ongoing professional development—both of which are desirable traits for today’s global business practitioners.