Ona Coker has been a member of the ITC for 2 years and decided to join in order to gain a better network of professionals within the international trade industry in Kansas City, as well as a better understanding of the events and activities in International Trade happening in Kansas City. Like many in this industry, Mr. Coker has traveled quite a bit, including noteworthy countries such as England, France, China, Nigeria, Mexico, and Canada. Of all these places, his favorite has by far been Shanghai, China. In his words, “The reality of the city far exceeded my expectations. My experience traveling there further bolstered my philosophy that there is so much learning that can be done when you travel, as long as you keep an open mind.”
Currently, Mr. Coker leads the Export Services/Fulfillment team at Dairy Farmers of America in executing global trade operations. His current position is Assistant Director of Export Fulfillment, and he has been with the organization for 5 years in this capacity. He has always had a passion for international business and trade and is motivated by the opportunities to facilitate trade and global business across cultures and countries. After graduating with a degree in International Trade and a minor in French, Mr. Coker worked with Expeditors International of Washington as a broker. During the 7 years that he spent at Expeditors International, Mr. Coker worked concurrently in a consulting capacity with a U.S. based company to help them penetrate the West African market with their product. He helped them to source their product from China at a competitive rate and then worked to import the product into Nigeria where it was distributed locally. Shortly after, he got the opportunity to work as a multinational company under the Koch umbrella, called INVISTA. There, he worked as a Global Customer Service leader and Trade Compliance SME with dotted line responsibilities to teams in Latin America, Asia, and Europe. Through the skills acquired at this organization, he was led to an opportunity with Dairy Farmers of America and his current post. Some of the goals that he has for his career include becoming an influencer and thought leader, as well as a catalyst to bring about change in the global trade industry, specifically within the realm of global digitalization.
Three people (dead or alive) that you would invite to dinner:
Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela, and Sam Walton
The last book you read:
Start with Why by Simon Sinek, and currently reading Good to Great by Jim Collins.
Who inspires you?
My mother has been my biggest inspiration. From an early age, I have seen her take the opportunity to further educate and improve on herself time and time again. This philosophy has been embedded in me from such a young age and became one of my core principles. One must always look for the opportunity to improve one’s self in every facet of one’s life.
What advice would you give someone who wants to get into international business/ international trade?
I would say be open. Never be rigid in your thinking and how you deal with people, especially in the global arena. Understand that most people in the world are different from you. Their cultures are different, and you have to be able to be ‘fluid’ enough to cope when you deal in those circumstances.
Something unique about you that is generally not known?
I love farming. I have engaged in several farm projects to help improve agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa. Mechanized Farming/Sustainable Agriculture done right will have a big impact on Africa.