Lachlan Bagus, Trade & Investment Project Officer, UK Department for International Trade (DIT)
How long have you worked in International Trade & Investment?
In July 2018, I will have worked in International Trade & Investment for a year. I previously worked in the private sector, within Economic Advisory and Public Policy.
How did you get into the sector?
Born to an Australian mother and Filipino father I have always been privileged to experience two distinct cultures. This really fostered my curiosity into other nations and their relationships across cultural, financial and political lines. Reflecting this, I completed my undergraduate degree in Politics and International Relations and Public Policy, Law & Governance at Macquarie University. This was then complemented with a Double Master’s Degree in International Communication and International Relations.
During my Master’s degree I applied for a Master of International Relations Internship with the UK Department for International Trade (DIT) at the British Consulate-General Sydney. As the successful candidate, the program offered me an opportunity to utilise the knowledge and skills I had gained during my degree(s) as I was involved in the core business of the Department. I was given projects to complete that supported the commercial outcomes of the DIT Australia and New Zealand Network and ultimately enhanced the UK-Australia trade and investment relationship.
After my internship I was fortunate enough to be offered a full-time position with the DIT on a 6-month contract which started my career in international trade and investment. Now I am permanent within the DIT after securing my latest position, and am on my way to continuing my international trade and investment journey!
What do you think are the biggest challenges of working in international business?
I am sure I am not the first to say this, and I am positive I won’t be the last…TIME ZONES. Working with colleagues and clients in a time zone that is 9 hours behind Sydney has been one of the hardest adjustments. When my working day is ending, theirs is just beginning. My key learning – besides always ensuring I have always set the right time zones in Microsoft Outlook for meetings – has been to ensure I communicate well, deliver the right messages, and manage the right timeframes.
I think another major challenge is the differences in business culture. Although the UK and Australia share many similarities across many areas of business, there are a few sections where small differences exist. For example, on some instances when I have conducted meetings with Australian clients it has been laid back, where the use of a profanity (or two) is not uncommon. Alternatively, when meeting with international clients some instances have been more reserved when it came to small-talk, or when opinions and insights were not offered as quickly.
Do you have any funny stories to share from your experience working across different cultures?
Working across different cultures has reinforced to me how Australian English is more than just an accent, and the ‘Aussie’ vernacular can easily leave foreign English speakers perplexed. There have been times when Australian slang have caused some series confusion due to its characteristics of making words as short as possible.
For instance, I am very guilty of using the phrase “this arvo” (this afternoon), which has sometimes lead to confusion when updating clients on meeting times or my whereabouts during the day.
Another example has been when I was talking to a client who was visiting from the UK. The client told me they were “craving chips”. For most Australian’s this would be interpreted as “a packet of chips” or “potato chips”. In my explanation I directed them to several nearby grocery stores and supermarkets, only to see them come back empty handed. Turns out by “chips”, they really meant what Australian’s would call “hot chips” or “fries”.
I have also fallen into many of the “Soccer” versus “Football” terminology debates.
What do you enjoy the most about your current role?
The classic saying of “no day is ever the same” is very true in my role as a Trade and Investment Project Officer at the UK Department for International Trade. From supporting the latest and newest companies emerging from the UK, I am able to work across a variety of sectors such as Education, Consumer Retail, e-Commerce, Food and Drink, and the Creative Industries just to name a few. Whether it be the latest artificial technology designed to assist user experience when online shopping, or the newest designs for environmentally friendly and biodegradable coffee capsules I get to support a myriad of new innovations successfully enter the Australian market and begin their international journey.
In your opinion, how can one best succeed in a career of international business?
Collaboration is the key! Although we try to be experts in everything and build extensive knowledge in so many aspects of international trade and investment, sometimes we just cannot master it all – and there is nothing wrong with that! Collaborating with those around you whether it be colleagues or clients expands the knowledge, insights, and skillsets at your disposal.
We are fortunate enough to work with some of the smartest minds; that are true specialists in their fields, through collaboration and knowledge sharing our learning and development is constantly expanding. Some of the major international trade and investment knowledge obtained in my first year have come from the joint efforts and teamwork with those around me.
We all face different experiences within international business leaving every single person around you an untapped resource to draw from, all it takes is a bit of collaboration…and maybe a touch of networking.
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