Sophie Marshall – Trade Advisor, Trade Commission of Chile in Australia
How long have you worked in International Trade & Investment?
In July 2018, I will have worked as a Trade Advisor for the Trade Commission of Chile – ProChile for two years.
How did you get into the sector?
Returning from university exchange in Colombia, I joined the Latin American – Australia network Somos21 and was made aware of the job opening at ProChile. I majored in Spanish and Latin American studies in my Bachelor of International Studies so I feel that my role is a perfect fit for my language skills, experience and interest in the region
What do you think are the biggest challenges of working in international business?
On a practical level, the time difference. Between Chile and Australia we only have 3 days of cross over during the working week so we have to be very efficient when requesting information, scheduling meetings and keeping to deadlines to overcome that challenge.
Other challenges for representing a country like Chile in Australia is the lack of knowledge that some Australian firms have about what Chilean companies have to offer as a business partner, given our region’s focus on doing business with Asia. But we are always happy to fill them in on what the longest country in the world can bring to their company!
Do you have any funny stories to share from your experience working across different cultures?
There is a constant debate in Australia, or probably in all English speaking countries, about how to pronounce the word ‘Chile’ as a country. In Spanish you pronounce the ‘e’ as ‘eh’ but in English it is pronounced more like the plant, chilli. So I am often switching between (sometimes in the same Spanglish conversation) to make sure no one is confused about whether we are talking about exporting chilli plants or products from Chile!
What do you enjoy the most about your current role?
I enjoy how diverse my role is every day. As my role covers all sectors except for mining equipment, technology and services, in one day I could be doing a report on the dried fruit sector in Australia, next having a skype meeting about footwear importers and then visit an IT expo about new technologies.
I also really like the people-people aspect of my role, and supporting small to medium sized Chilean businesses bring their innovative products and services to the Australian market and succeed in their internationalization. I have had some interesting opportunities to support delegations from sectors such as sustainable food & beverage to participate in Australia’s largest food expo, work with the tourism sector as well as more recently coordinating a visit of beekeepers from Rapa Nui (Easter Island), to learn from the export success of Maori honey producers in New Zealand.
In your opinion, how can one best succeed in a career of international business?
Being able to communicate in the foreign country’s language (in my case, Spanish) has been a key for me to understand the needs of our clients and for an effective working relationship with my local team and HQ in Santiago.
I also believe that listening and being open to all potential leads are key skills for international business, as opportunities can present themselves through one phone call with an importer, or by listening to a panel discussion at an expo. Even just keeping an eye out on what is happening in a city such as Sydney, from new products in supermarkets to cultural events or new infrastructure developments has brought new ideas into our team and helped us support Chilean companies with this on the ground knowledge.
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