What a career in import and export is really like: Sandra Cooper's story

Thu 9 Sept 2021
Posted by: Tom Lane

The Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) is making £500,000 of funding available to help workers who have been furloughed, made redundant or become unemployed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In recognition of the end of the furlough scheme later this month (September), the IOE&IT has developed the ‘Step into International Trade’ training programme. 

The programme: two steps

The free-of-charge training is in two phases.

First, learners will take an introductory two-day course to learn about the basics of international trade.

After successfully completing the two-day course, if learners decide a career in international trade is right for them, they can move on to take the Certificate in International Trade, Customs and Logistics, a Level 3 Qualification awarded by the institute.

Career path insight: Interview

To give learners a flavour for what a career in international trade looks like, the IOE&IT has spoken with its own team of trade experts to get real insight into this career path.

In the first of our series we speak with Sandra Isabel Cooper, trade and customs consultant at the IOE&IT, about her career. 

Q: How did you start your career in international trade?

Sandra: I did my bachelor’s degree in international business management back in Mexico. Back then it was a brand-new professional qualification and my university, the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, was one of the leading business schools in Latin America in the 1990s.

Q: Why did you decide on this career path?

I initially opted for completing a bachelor’s degree in International Relations, as I am passionate about policy, regulations, diplomacy and international liaisons.

However, I realised I would not have the same sense of achievement as with trading internationally – that is, helping companies with their transfers of goods and services – so I swapped to international business and specialised in international agribusiness. 

‘This is a career that will always have a future, as goods and services will continue to move around the globe’

Q: What career opportunities have arisen since you started working in international trade?

I started as an export administrative executive in 1999 and then other domestic and international sales-related jobs back in Mexico. After moving to the UK, I took on operational roles such as logistics coordinator and then moved into exports business development management, allowing me to help my employer succeed in specific regions of the world such as Latin America.

In 2017 my vocation adviser pushed me to pursue a career as an international trade adviser (ITA) - first at the Northwest Lancashire Chamber of Commerce.

I was then recruited by the Department for International Trade (DIT) in the Northwest of England as an ITA, where I account-managed more than 140 companies in the region wanting to develop their exports around the world. I also became the organisation’s Latin America Business Specialist, leading the Agri-Tech and Automotive sectors.

I am now fortunate to have joined the Institute of Export & International Trade as a trade and customs consultant as part of the TSS (Trader Support Services) team.

Q: Is it a rewarding career path to follow?

It’s extremely rewarding, giving me the satisfaction of contributing to my employer’s success internationally and as a consultant/advisor.

To know I can make a difference assisting many exporters from a wide variety of sectors to grow internationally is the ultimate fulfilment.

Q: What advice would you offer to someone thinking of changing career and moving into international trade?

This is a career that will always have a future, as goods and services will continue to move around the globe. Choose this career and you will be able to learn the ins and outs of these exchanges and get a clear insight on how to make products and services available to consumers, manufacturers and distributors.

The knowledge you gain about industries and markets around the world is invaluable and doors will open to new opportunities regularly. In addition, be prepared to get to know a variety of cultures and people you probably would not have had the opportunity to meet in any other profession.

No one day is the same when you work in international trade.

Applicants for the free-of-charge Step into International Trade programme should be either on furlough, at risk of redundancy or have been recently made redundant. To learn more about the programme and to sign up, please click here.