Glimpse into the World of a Trade Specialist

On Wednesday, February 5th, Iris Kapo came to speak to our members. She graduated from Temple University with a degree in International Business and Information Systems.  Iris is fluent in Spanish, and while at Temple studied abroad in Madrid, Spain.  For the past eight years, Iris has worked for the U.S. Commercial Service as an International Trade Specialist.  By efficiently working with colleagues in U.S. Embassies and Consulates all over the world, she provides unique solutions and strategies to help U.S. manufacturers and service providers grow their international sales thus increasing local employment. 

  • Why exports matter to the economy?
    • Companies that export grow faster, have higher wages, and are more likely to stay in business.
    • By diversifying a businesses’ portfolio, they are less at risk for economic downturns. 
    • 96% of global consumers reside outside the US, so creating positive relationships with global companies and consumers is crucial to the economy. 
    • More than 70% of people outside the U.S. have the economic power to purchase U.S. goods.
  • For people interested in becoming a foreign service officer:
    • In order to become a foreign officer, the process begins with taking a one day assessment after applying. If hired, you are assigned to an embassy overseas and will continue to be every 2-4 years to manage workers in the selected offices. The foreign officers are told where to go depending on the availability and depends on who is where already. Lastly, you have the decision to rank the top 10 locations you’d like to go to. 
    • If you’re a people person, enjoy talking to people, interacting with different cultures, meeting lots of different people, this is the ideal job. You are constantly engaging with different types of people and engage in compassionate communication often. You have to consider the feelings and thoughts of the clients you speak to. By working for the U.S. Commercial Service, Iris has had the opportunity to go abroad to Mexico for a trade initiative, a trade mission to South Africa, she’s also been to Chile and Bolivia for work as well.
    • Trade specialists do things like assessing problem in processes, evaluating client websites, proposing potential solutions
      • Iris answers questions like “How can I find the right partners overseas?”, “What tariffs can I expect when exporting to Poland?”, “Can you help me find an in-country attorney to review my contract?”
  • Productivity Hacks (time management)
    • Student hacks: block out times, take care of yourself by exercising and sleeping early. Try listing out tasks, prioritize the things that are coming up first before others. Iris manages the internship, events, coaches colleagues, and other trade concerns so she really tries to organize her schedule.  
    • At the end of the week on Fridays, it is important to plan what you have to do the following week. This will eliminate distractions and allow you to go into the week less stressed. Another pro-tip is to have your phone away while you do work. Having it away and turning off notifications will make it easier to concentrate on homework. 


Fall 2020 – Spring 2021 is the next cycle for the internship – have to be available for both internship semesters. If interested feel free to reach out to Duke, since he has her contact information.