Daniel Spencer, Market Advisor – Digital Technologies, Enterprise Ireland
How long have you worked in International Trade & Investment?
I have worked in a various private and public sector international trade and investment consulting roles for more than 7 years.
How did you get into the sector?
Born in Africa to missionary parents, from a young age I have always been interested in different languages and cultures.
I studied my undergraduate degree of International Relations at UNSW, with a major in French. My degree included an international exchange year where I went abroad to study in Paris.
In the last 6 months of my degree I applied for a industry placement competition called The French Internship Program.
This program was run by the French Government and aimed to place 10 Australian graduates with advanced French language skills with the capacity to work professionally into French companies operating local subsidiaries in Australia.
My application and interview for the program were successful and I secured a placement with a private business consultancy in Sydney called Altios International.
Altios International had 18 offices around the world and specialised in providing international business development support to exporting companies. The placement lasted 12 months and included a 6 month secondment to Altios’ head office in France.
On my return to the Sydney office I was promoted into a Senior Management role within the company as the Head of the Outbound Division. In this role I was responsible for overseeing all of the business development and project management for Altios’ Australian and NZ client. Thus launched the first few steps of my career in international trade and investment!
Since then I have had the opportunity to set up my own private business consultancy, to complete a Master of International Business at Sydney University and to work in full time trade advisor positions with the Danish and Irish Governments.
What do you think are the biggest challenges of working in international business?
Time zones. I once had an Irish client ask to schedule a call at 10:30pm on a Friday night. If this request had been to a potential customer, they would have immediately lost the business. Aside from time zones, managing client expectations on the difficulties of exporting internationally can also be quite challenging. For many tech solutions the average sales cycle in Australia can be between 6-9 months before the first deal!
Do you have any funny stories to share from your experience working across different cultures?
I have many funny cultural and language stories…but I will focus on one of my most embarrassing moments!
When I joined the Danish Trade Council I decided that learning Danish would be a great way to provide a higher level of service to my clients.
I started my Danish lessons in my first week of beginning my trade advisor role and after 3 weeks (and 3 hours of Danish lessons) I had the opportunity to meet the Danish Ambassador to Australia for the first time. It was at an evening client event at the Danish Consulate in Sydney that he had travelled up from Canberra to attend.
At the end of the night the Ambassador began moving around the room to say goodbye and thank the esteemed guests. I thought that this would be THE perfect opportunity to impress him with my newly learnt Danish language skills. When he got around the room and stopped in front of me I extended my hand and very confidently and loudly said ‘Vi ses i Nat!’
Surprisingly he went red… the room went quiet… and I thought to myself, oh no… maybe it is too informal to say ‘See you Soon’ to the Danish Ambassador.
Once the Ambassador had left the room one of my Danish colleagues came immediately up to me and explained that what I had said was not ‘See you Soon’ as I had thought but rather ‘See you later tonight!’
So in only my second week with Denmark, I had already accidentally propositioned the Ambassador of Denmark.
Luckily he had a great sense of humour and I sure made a lasting first impression!
It seems that even Presidents sometimes have embarrassing moments with foreign languages! Watch this video to see French President Emmanuel Macron accidentally refer to the Australian Prime Minister’s wife as ‘Delicious’ on his recent visit to Australia…
What do you enjoy the most about your current role?
In my current role as an Advisor with Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Government’s Trade Board, I enjoy the freedom to design and implement exciting strategies to promote my Irish clients. This could be organising an event with a guest speaker, helping my clients to exhibit at a trade show, setting up a one-to-one meeting program or making direct introductions with interested buyers.
In your opinion, how can one best succeed in a career of international business?
Network, network, network! International business is complex and you can’t possibly know all the answers – my advice is to build a strong network of contacts who you can turn to for advice and assistance when needed.
This is why I highly recommend becoming a member of PIT!