Even for the most organized and well-planned of people, life can sometimes go in unexpected directions. In Laura Dalby’s case this led to a whole new career path in the exciting world of international trade.
Born and raised in British Columbia, Laura originally earned a Criminology Diploma from Douglas College, and then a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology from Simon Fraser University. The same year she began her program at SFU, she also began working as a Border Services Officer, focusing on border security for what is now known as the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
A few years later, Laura’s friend and co-worker needed a ride (Uber wasn’t yet an option). Little did she know it would lead her to a new career thousands of kilometers away.
“My friend tried to convince me to take the Foreign Service entrance exams so that I could get paid to travel. When I said I’d think about it, my friend professed, ‘Well, I need a ride to the exam, so you might as well write it while you’re there.’”
As you may have now guessed, Laura not only wrote the exam, but passed it. After going through the interview process, she was hired as a Trade Commissioner with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (now Global Affairs Canada) in 2009.
First forays into foreign service
Laura spent the next three years living and working in Ottawa, with a focus on advising companies interested in doing business in Central America and Cuba, and helping to connect them with local partners, clients and customers. She wanted to gain more practical knowledge, so she earned a bilingual Master of Arts in Political Science from the University of Ottawa, and took courses through the Canada Foreign Service Institute.
In 2012, she moved to Havana, Cuba, and was stationed in the Canadian embassy there as a Trade Commissioner for two years. From there she moved on to Canada’s embassy in Guatemala City, Guatemala, where she is the Senior Trade Commissioner responsible for Canada’s commercial and economic relations with both Guatemala and Belize.
Laura (far right) participating in interview on Open Your Eyes (morning TV show in Belize) to promote Canada150, together with Ambassador Deborah Chatsis and Political Counsellor Karolina Guay.
Laura is trilingual, speaking English, French and Spanish, and has now travelled to over 60 countries around the world, including all seven continents. She emphasises that building relationships everywhere you go is crucial to success in international trade, and for people in any number of other careers.
“Both life and work are about people, whether in your home, your office or with your international connections. It may sound cliché, but if you invest your time in relationships, that is indeed the number one key to a successful life and business,” Laura says.
Applying newly learned ideas to help her clients
In 2013, while working in Cuba, Laura decided to continue her professional development by taking the FITTskills online training courses. She completed her final course, earning the FITT Diploma in International Trade in 2017.
The FITT courses offered the pragmatic training that I was looking for. The great thing about the FITT program is that I was able to work on it in multiple countries and apply my knowledge while I studied. I think they are a key tool for anyone involved in international trade, and they will have practical use in my daily work and my career progression.
Laura wasn’t the only one excited to see her complete her final course.
“My spouse was most excited that I finished my FITT training because I promised that I wouldn’t take any more courses… but two days later I started studying for another endeavor.”
Laura applied for her Certified International Trade Professional (CITP®|FIBP®) certification, and earned it in July 2017. She now feels more prepared to take on any number of situations in her everyday work.
“I particularly enjoyed Global Value Chain, since it added the greatest value in my daily work. For instance, being able to politely inform a company that their customs broker did not obtain the proper export paperwork before the goods left Canada was a fast way to: (1) help the company and remind all parties about the importance of qualified contacts and service providers; (2) save the Canadian government time through fast advice; and (3) not bother the host government or other interlocutors trying to figure out what happened.”
Between the variety and the volunteer work, boredom isn’t an option
Having now worked for GAC for over eight years, Laura remains as passionate about her work as ever, in part because no two days are ever quite the same.
“One of the best parts about working as a trade commissioner is the sheer variety of work. In one day, I can be touring a local operation that makes recyclable plastics, visiting museums or universities to assist with cultural and educational linkages, speaking at events about Canadian commercial capabilities, or even getting my hands dirty to review the Canadian seed potatoes growing internationally.”
As these examples make clear, Laura is by no means limited to a desk or office, and is often busy in her community, both professionally and personally. This has led her to take important roles in several major projects, which serve as a great source of pride and satisfaction for her.
Laura (right) volunteering with members of the Embassy of Canada to Guatemala and the World Food Program in Guatemala’s Dry Corridor.
“Taking part in volunteer work and community projects continues to be as important for me abroad as it was in Canada, where I volunteered for Grands Frères Grandes Sours de l’Outaouais.”
“In Guatemala, I’ve been able to see some amazing corporate social responsibility projects. This is a theme that I feel strongly about and have been able to participate in directly through projects and volunteer opportunities. For example, under the guidance of the Ambassador, the Embassy of Canada to Guatemala participates in volunteer activities every year, including company initiatives, such as the TELUS International Days of Giving or the Canada-Guatemala Chamber of Commerce events.”
As she helps Canadian companies export their products and services to Guatemala and Belize and participates in volunteer projects around her, Laura’s work is not only producing results today, but also setting the stage for growth for many years to come.
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.