This month, Biz Latin Hub had the privilege of connecting with the Chairman of the Professionals in International Trade organization, Martin Roa Skramstad. Martin also works as a Partnerships Manager for UNICEF Australia.
Businesses and professionals are finding ways to connect these two exciting regions, and do business in Latin America and Australia’s thriving industries. We speak with Martin about how he sees future people-to-people connectivity and trade between Australia and rapidly-developing Latin American markets.
Tell us about your background in International Trade and the different roles that you currently hold in Australia?
I’m a Norwegian citizen who’s been living and working in Australia for the last 3 years. But I also consider myself a citizen of the world, having lived, studied and worked across 4 different continents. I love being in cross-cultural environments. Coming from a business background with a double Master’s Degree in International Business from EGADE Business School in Mexico and Business Analysis and Performance Management from the Norwegian School of Economics, I’ve found that my education can be well applied globally in different sectors and industries.
I find myself driven by results and purpose more than purely monetary gains, which I think is why I often end up in interesting volunteer roles. This is what lead to my current role as Chairman for Professionals in International Trade. In PIT, I manage a team of 13 engaged trade and investment professionals providing valuable activities and content for almost 800 members.
On the other hand, my path towards UNICEF Australia also started with volunteering for UNICEF back in Norway and I’m now working as a Partnerships Manager, responsible for maintaining and expanding a portfolio of passionate strategic corporate partners who share UNICEF’s vision of giving every child a fair chance to survive and thrive in the world.
What are the core objectives of Professionals in International Trade (PIT), and how is the organization achieving them?
Professionals in International Trade (PIT) was founded to connect and support like-minded individuals who work and share a common interest in international trade and investment, business and foreign affairs.
PIT’s aim is to create opportunities for members to connect on both a social and professional level and to help foster long term relationships built on trust and business collaboration. We’re not restricted to a specific geographical region or industry which makes us quite unique in the Australian market, and a valuable partner for trade professionals and companies working in the sector.
Our current key activity is hosting events for our members to network, learn, and find new business and professional development opportunities.
What is the appetite for engagement of PIT members with Latin America? Have you seen this change over recent years?
There is absolutely a strong appetite for PIT members to learn more about the opportunities of doing business with Latin America, and we’re currently expanding our partnerships with Somos21 and the Australia-Latin America Business Council (ALABC). As part of this work, we’re promoting each other’s events, planning to co-host events discussing the opportunities and challenges of entering the Latin American market and engaging with Latin American companies and people in Australia.
We’re also in the process of setting up a dedicated online forum for professionals in international trade interested in the Australia-Latin America space, together with Somos21 on their new digital platform.
How is PIT further facilitating this engagement between Australian and Latin American professionals?
Our primary means of facilitating further engagement is by bringing people together from each side of the table, to learn from each other and understand where the potential is to collaborate and take their business into another market. As PIT is very much a generalist voice in this area, we rely on specialist partners, such as Somos21 and ALABC, and we bring our network of trade specialists from around the world in touch with their Latin American specialists.
What are some key cultural lessons local professionals have learned when connecting with their Latin American counterparts?
I think Australia and Latin America is a very good mix of partnerships, and people from the two regions tend to get along very well. This is of course an important element to success in business, but it can also make you less attentive and prone to miss signs of danger when differences are misinterpreted, especially if much of the communication is not done face to face.
In my experience Australians are often more direct, which can be seen as confronting and aggressive by their Latin American counterparts. The other way around, the Latin American side might avoid reporting on certain challenges unless asked specifically and it’s important to build clear reporting requirements and expectations, without appearing to assign blame when problems occur.
It is often more important to connect on a personal level in Latin America and it will help you greatly if you spend some extra time getting to know the people you work with beyond what is strictly needed to complete the work, and show that you care about them and their families. The family comes first for many Latin Americans. In Australia, business and personal life is less intertwined, and although it can be beneficial, it’s generally not seen as a drawback if you keep your interactions strictly business-focused.
What is the most rewarding project you have worked on to date in either of these roles?
For UNICEF, the most rewarding project I have had was when I got to spend 6 months with the Education Department in UNICEF Malawi. It was amazing to see UNICEF’s work on the ground and how we, and all those who support us, directly deliver a positive impact for children. The quality and passion of the staff was mind-blowing, and it certainly showed me that the UNICEF office broke all my presumptions of African inefficiency. It is also incredibly reassuring to see that the money we raise is spent well and in safe hands with our colleagues abroad, which is something I saw again when visiting the UNICEF Laos office last year on a field trip.
With PIT, the most rewarding part of my work has been to manage a team of engaged trade professionals, to ensure that the work is valuable enough to do it on a volunteer basis, and to build the organisation to be sustainable long-term and provide on-going value to the trade and investment community in Australia and beyond for many years to come. So far, we’ve had outstanding feedback from our partners and members, which would not have been possible without a team of highly skilled and motivated team members delivering top-quality events.
We support your commercial integration in Australia and Latin America
Biz Latin Hub is proud to promote and support growing connectivity between people and businesses in these two exciting regions. Australia, a consistently high-performing economy, has much to offer the developing Latin American region, and vice versa.
Our team of legal, accounting, employment and industry experts spans 12 countries. With our suite of market entry and back-office services, we help Australian and Latin American businesses integrate into exciting new markets.
In 2019, we received the Australia-Latin America Business Council Award for Business Excellence, demonstrating our commitment to expanding businesses.
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