Linda is currently the Chair of the IOE&IT's Academic Board.
How long have you been involved with the Institute and why did you join at the time?
In 1989 I left my husband in Germany who was a professional soldier and arrived in Plymouth with my three children, with no friends or family to support me. I got a job as an assistant manager at a photographic company which incidentally led to a lifelong interest in photography
After I had been there for a year, I saw an advert in the paper saying, “Are you a true European? We’ve got a course for you”. My reaction was that, yes, I am a true European having lived in Germany and in Cyprus for several years. It was an advert for an Export Management course with the then-named Institute of Export and it was being run at the local college for further education.
To my surprise I was accepted on the course. I recall that on my first day a Tutor, Fred Barker, stood up in front of the class and started talking about the World Bank. It was a truly seminal moment for me – somebody was talking about something that was really interesting for once. I attended the course for a year, twinning it with courses in IT and Spanish, I learnt such a lot and felt for the first time that I was on the verge of something truly exciting.
Overall, that year ended up changing my life. From there I approached the University of Plymouth. where the IOE&IT course certainly helped to get me accepted onto a Law degree. I gained my 2:1 after focussing my degree on UK, European, Spanish and international Law (spending one year as an Erasmus Student in the Universidad de Barcelona).
While working with a leading exporter based in the South West, I was headhunted by the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce to be their International Trade Director. It was a really exciting time for me, taking a couple of trade missions to Dublin and working with businesses throughout the region. It was at this time that myself and a colleague were the very first to pen the saying ‘Think Local, Act Global’ – which is now widely used around the world.
My next major role was with the Manufactory Advisory Service for whom I worked for 10 years, learning about the merits of Lean Manufacturing and Lean Office, which taught me how you can become more efficient. This alongside my training at the IOE&IT equipped me for my next role with Somerset Chamber as their Export and International Trade manager.
While there I tried really hard to get the IOE&IT more involved in the South West region, because they did not seem to have any presence down here at that time. I rang Lesley Batchelor and told her that we needed to get the IOE&IT known in the regions and volunteered to help to do that.
Following that call I suggested we run a South West World Trade Summit on behalf of the IOE&IT, the first one being held a few years ago in Taunton. I’m very proud to say that this became the basis of the other regional World Trade Summits around the country.
I also set up some regional members meeting on a biweekly basis, where we have a sponsor who comes to talk to members in the region. Most recently I’ve done some work as a tutor and have recently been given the fabulous position of Chairman of the Academic Board.
I now have my own company: International Trade Matters which is a small business member of the IOE&IT. The value it has given me in my professional career has been significant.
What advice would you give to people looking to get more involved with the IOE&IT today?
The IOE&IT is a great institution within the UK. As a membership organisation it brings together those with interests in international trading for networking opportunities, for technical advice and support. Its aim is to raise professionalism in international trade and this is achieved with a comprehensive array of education and training courses.
I would encourage anyone to join as a member. The team at Export House are approachable, the invitations to events are incredible opportunities to meet and share best practice, and make new friends. From personal right through to corporate memberships the opportunities are there to develop your career or your business.
One of the things I value above anything else is the fact that the IOE&IT has a heart, it is a place to go.
What should the IOE&IT be focussing on in the years ahead?
We don’t have so many people learning or speaking foreign languages, so we need to try to take the opportunity to influence education and we need to get international trade into the curricula so that it is seen as a proper profession. Once we have a recognition of the profession of ‘International Trader’, people will then know where to go to get information about what this profession involves. It’s about providing the roots of our future economic growth and security.
We also need to align to the sustainability agenda as well because this is relevant to the young people coming through now. We need to feed sustainability into our messaging and engage with the debates that are going on at the local and international levels. For instance, we discussed sustainability at the International Trade Assembly session we ran at the Bristol World Trade Summit last year and we should encourage more of those interactive sessions.
When I was at the Manufacturing Advisory Services, I had regular workshops like this, where we listened to what businesses and individuals were saying, identifying the key trends. I devised, created and produced a ‘Manufacturing Barometer’ every quarter with a different focus, which was written into a concise report to underpin thought leadership articles. At one point we had 1,000 subscribers and, to my great surprise, David Cameron once referenced it during a speech from Davos!
The lesson is that he bought it up because it had genuine relevance. We can do more on this.
This article first appeared in the Winter 2019 edition of World Trade Matters.