Interview by Olamide Ogunlowo
Olamide: What drew you to the field of international trade?
Kellie: I worked in the aviation industry doing inventory management -- basically buying and selling maintenance parts for commercial aircraft. I remember having to deal with country of origin, which was a little complicated and frustrating because the parts crossed borders all over the world. I did not understand why origin mattered until I went to law school and attended a presentation on international law and business. I realized I had so many headaches shipping parts because there were so many regulations surrounding imports and exports. It is a very niche part of the law that I learned about in law school and it really struck a chord with me.
Olamide: What is the best trade job you have ever had? Why?
Kellie: I really enjoy my job at Ernst & Young because of the breadth of topics we cover. I really enjoy learning new things and think I would lose interest if I was pigeonholed. I get to work with a variety of companies across industries and figure out and learn something new every day. I really try to encourage people to join the industry because it is so broad, and everyone can find something that they like to do.
Olamide: What was the most complex or fulfilling trade issue you have tackled?
Kellie: I have done some work on trade automation. It’s complex because we are bridging the gap between trade knowledge and technical knowledge. I worked on automating trade transactions, focused on the automation of determining preferential origin (to benefit from free trade agreements). I’ve worked with group of coders for three years on how best to automate a platform to assist the typical trade person do the analysis needed for their jobs. It’s a far cry from my first job in trade where I was doing everything by hand, but that is just not sustainable in a large company!
Olamide: What trends do you anticipate impacting cross-border trade over the next year?
Kellie: I am focused on the transactional side of trade and I really believe that automation is a very big part of the future of trade. I am currently researching the impact of 3D printing on the trade world. If someone can do something digitally, it transfers physical trade to digital trade. What impact would it have on the future of trade if you were able to send the spec to make the tool instead of shipping the tool itself?
Olamide: What do you think the biggest barrier is for women in trade? How can we overcome this?
Kellie: The biggest barrier for women’s advancement is trade is visibility. I identified that as a barrier because that is what I am trying to work towards. There are so many women in trade doing amazing things. There is a group of women called ”The Trade Experettes”, a group of academics and practitioners in trade and their goal is to shine a light on female experts in our field. The group came about after an article was published in a prominent U.S newspaper on USMCA quoting 12 trade experts and none were women. It is really frustrating that they could not find any female trade experts, so the group solved that problem. The group is trying to make gender diversity and racial diversity an option and not an afterthought.
Olamide: Who are some women in trade who inspire(d) you?
Kellie: I started the podcast because I realized that there were so many women in my network that were open to helping me and I wanted to connect the next generation of trade professionals to those women. I want to be the bridge between the advanced career professionals and those early in their careers p. The women before me were so helpful and I know they can make an impact on the younger generation. I admire everyone I have interviewed so far, and they have all been mentors to me in some way.
Olamide: What advice would you give to other women looking to enter the field of international trade?
Kellie: I have a few different words of wisdom to share. First, you need to find an area of trade that interests you and you do that by having a broad scope of experiences. Find the niche where you thrive!
Also, YOU decide your level of involvement. Don’t sideline yourself. If you want to be a part of something, ASK! Don’t self-select!
Finally, be who you needed when you were younger! If I needed help when I was younger, there are probably lots of people out there who currently need support and guidance.
At the end of our interview, I asked Kellie a series of rapid-fire trade questions to hear what comes immediately to mind.