During my university days, I read Thomas L. Friedman’s 2005 bestselling book The World Is Flat. The book discussed globalization and how the world can now be viewed as an equal playing-field in terms of commerce.
As an economics major I was being introduced to viewing the world from a macro point of view, so all of this began my passion for global business.
After I graduated from university, the global economy was in a significant downturn, and filled with economic uncertainty.
Given the climate of the job market, I decided to educate myself further in order to be able offer even more to an organization.
This is when I found FITT and the CITP®|FIBP® designation.
Taking a business education to the next level with international trade training
I took the FITT-accredited program at Mohawk College, and was immediately surrounded by people of European, Asian and South American decent. I thought back to what Thomas L. Friedman said in his book; the world truly is flat.
I soon learned different ways of doing business in countries around the world from my classmates and professors.
For example, have you ever received a business card from a Chinese business person? You’d better make sure you know how to accept it. In China, there are also certain colours that are not to be given as a gift. Black, for instance, is often associated with death. Also, many European and Asian suppliers and customers prefer establishing personal relationships before committing to long-term business. In contrast, North Americans can establish relationships and do business without even meeting in person!
The FITT-accredited program taught me everything from international marketing to global supply chain logistics. As someone who lacked physical experience in the global workforce, the program’s global business education equipped me with the tools I needed in order to succeed.
After graduating from the program, I was ready to apply my skills to a career, and I was fortunate enough to get hired by a medium-sized, publicly traded, international company located close to home.
The beginnings of a global career with an international company
Opta Minerals Inc. operates in four continents, selling loose abrasives and steel products and services.
I was able to recall and use many of the skills I had learned through my university career and particularly from my FITT-accredited training immediately after starting my career.
Incoterms, marketing strategies, terms of trade and research techniques became part of my daily routine. Pricing strategies for internal use and for customers can become confusing when dealing with different currencies, weight factors and freight costs, but developing this skill to think globally is something I use as an advantage to help others.
As a Market Research Analyst, it’s my job to assess the company’s current and future position, as well as the feasibility of new products. A large portion of my job involves understanding the trends and movements of our global competitors. This enables us to create proactive and, if required, reactive strategies.
A day in the life of an international Market Research Analyst
A day in my office consists of phone calls and emails to Asia and Europe in the morning and conversations with staff on the U.S. West Coast in the mid and late afternoon.
Stretching from one side of the globe to the other, I can almost feel the world spinning at my desk!
Working for a global enterprise has also enabled me to travel within and outside of Canada, attending trade shows and conferences. This has been extremely important for my communication and networking skills.
One experience that stands out for me was exhibiting at a trade show in Salt Lake City, UT. I was required to run the booth by myself and interact with every visitor as both of our sales reps’ flights were delayed until the next day due to inclement weather. This was a great learning experience because it forced me to chat with and get to know our potential customers in that market.
I’ve had many great accomplishments during my tenure at Opta Minerals. Within the last few months I fully integrated and launched a new product offering to our customers in Ontario. Almost everyone has baking soda in their fridge. But did you know that it can also be used as an abrasive -material? Well, I didn’t a few months ago. Together with my colleagues from the product and sales team, I found the new and desirable product we’d been searching for for quite some time.
From contract negotiations to marketing, I was responsible for the full product life-cycle of this new product. This required several face-to-face meetings with the supplier, going out to the market and finding interest, and determining what positive impact this would have on the company’s bottom line.
We understood where our competitors stood on pricing, and made every reasonable effort to use this to our advantage. We successfully sold and met the quantity expectations of the supplier within a three month span, and we continue to sell this product with great success.
For those pursuing a career in global business, I’d recommend that when you’re taking the road untraveled, you ask advice from those who have walked it before you.
You’ll be amazed to see what you can learn from a simple conversation with anyone who has international experience: on a plane, at a trade show or from your colleagues.