1) Tell us about your job with Quality Assurance International (QAI).
I am currently a Senior Certification Project Manager and International Specialist at QAI, one of the leading organic certification agencies. I manage a small staff responsible for the EU, Canada, Quebec, and IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements) organic standards. I also serve as the certifier representative on our Quebec accreditor’s board of directors.
2) What inspired you to pursue a graduate degree in trade policy?
I was motivated to study because I had been out of college for 10 years, and although I liked working in the restaurant industry, it was a personal development issue for me. I love to learn and feel like I’m on a constant track for improvement.
3) Are there specific knowledge, skill, and language requirements for your position?
My language skills are the reason I was hired, but were not a strict requirement for the position. By speaking French, Spanish, Italian, German in combination with policy experience, I have over time become the international specialist, which was my goal from the day I was hired!
Apart from languages, my job requires analyzing legal requirements against any number of different types of clients and their products. Finally, good customer service is absolutely mandatory. I had a background in fine dining for nearly 20 years, and that experience makes a difference in how I approach clients.
4) What are the highlights of your job?
Whether it’s how pigs are slaughtered, how vegetable oil is refined, or why chickens are molted, I learn something new every day. I am never bored!
5) When you were a student, how did you promote your own professional development? Through internship and practicum experiences?
I had the opportunity to do an internship at the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service (FCS) in Budapest, Hungary. I got accepted to other FCS internships, but I specifically chose one in a city that I loved where I knew that I would have a difficult time communicating. It forced me to adapt to a new culture and to learn a bit of Hungarian.
If you can do an internship - do one. If it’s related to your dream job, fantastic! If it’s mainly about your own personal development and experience, that’s OK too. It will look good on a resume, even if it’s not directly related to what you ultimately do.
6) What were your most valuable classroom experiences at the Institute?
Professor Arrocha's course on Trade Laws and Institutions - really, this is my job at Quality Assurance International. I don’t know what I would have done without this course! Also his course on US-Mexico Relations enhanced the relationship that I have with my husband, who is originally from Mexico. And policy courses taught by Professor Gueldry and Professor Kardam taught me skills and knowledge that I use daily.
7) Does your job offer you the opportunity to travel?
Yes! I travel to Canada about four or five times a year, mostly to Montreal and also Vancouver. I also have the privilege of attending the world’s largest trade show for organics – Biofach Germany – and even met Vandana Shiva there last year.
8) If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?
Being sedentary and sitting in front of a computer monitor. I wish I burnt calories by developing and implementing policy!
9) Even through you already have a job, it's time to envision your dream job. If you could do anything, what would you do?
Difficult question! My dream job is one that pays me to learn foreign languages, travel a little (but not too much), and learn about different cultures. I’ve always been interested in the Foreign Service and the Foreign Commercial Service. I’m also quite interested in policymaking in Africa and organizations such as Human Rights Watch.
10) What advice do you have for students who are searching for jobs in your field?
You should develop interests and skills that you are naturally inclined towards. Once you do, try to attend as many functions, trade shows, and symposiums as you can that are related to your dream field. This will allow you to make contacts that may come in handy later and will help you practice networking. Networking as a concept scared me, but you’ll develop your own style over time. Be yourself, and don’t be pushy.