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Students Learn How to Break Into the International Business Field (GCB Part III)

Thursday, December 19, 2019 10:25 AM | Deleted user

This is Part III of the 2nd Annual Global Career Bridge report and focuses on the best advice from the hiring managers at the three host companies on how to break into the international business field. As a recap, the 3 host companies were Scarbrough International, Design Resources Inc., and DEMDACO. Students met with top executives at each company, and no question was off limits.

The President & COO of The Scarbrough Group of Companies, Adam Hill actually started as an intern and moved up through the ranks to the top position. His advice to students who are about to graduate is “Be yourself in an interview.” An authentic interview gives candidates a better shot at finding a great cultural fit with a company. Another employee at Scarbrough started as the receptionist over a decade ago. Alyson Schroer was promoted from receptionist to various positions and is now the Corporate Operations Manager and a licensed customs broker.

In order to obtain a customs broker’s license, a candidate needs the perseverance of a saint because the pass rate of the exam is only 15%. Most candidates study for 6 months, pay approximately $1300, and sit for the 4-hour exam. At Scarbrough, employees receive reimbursement for the exam cost as well as a raise when they pass the test. In addition to this license, freight forwarder employees should also obtain the Certified Customs Specialist designation and/or the Certified Exports Specialist designation from NCBFFA which is the National Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association. Both designations require at least one year of experience in international trade to be eligible.

Kathy Shanks, Human Resources Director

Kathy Shanks is the Vice President of Human Resources at Scarbrough and has worked there for 21 years. Employees that work at the company for at least 10 years earn their very own reserved parking spot. Another perk is the pet-friendly office. Adam Hill introduced the students to his dog, Ella who follows him around the office on occasion.

Scarbrough offers internships in operations in other areas. These are paid internships for all three semesters (fall, spring, and summer). Qualities they look for in employees are:

  • Customer service focus using a one-stop centralized service model
  • Genuine person who is not hung up on titles
  • Integrity, trustworthy
  • Be able to own a mistake and accept criticism
  • Organized
  • Proactive
  • Aggressive but tactful
  • Positive energy & enthusiasm

Students interested in internships should contact Alyson Schroer via email. (

At Design Resources Inc., students met with Alisha Davis, Human Resources Director who provided them with job descriptions of five entry-level positions for college graduates:

  • Account Services Representative
  • Licensing Administrator
  • Assistant Merchandiser
  • Compliance Coordinator
  • Import/Freight Coordinator

Although internships are not standard at DRI, there are entry-level openings for college graduates that students can apply for when they are close to graduation. Ms. Davis encourages students to ask engaging questions of the interviewer (except questions about promotional opportunities). Ask questions about the company culture to see if the company supports what the student values. Research the company before the interview so that you know something about the general business lines and specific product lines if possible.

Employees at DRI shared their excitement about Corporate Challenge which is an annual Olympic-type sporting event that allows companies throughout Kansas City to interact with each other through a variety of competitive and non-competitive activities. Their philosophy is to promote employee fitness and recreation through such activities as softball, volleyball, swimming, running, darts, horseshoes, and fishing. The 2019 season involved over 240 companies in the Kansas City Metro.

Participating in Corporate Challenge has been a highlight for several employees and contributed to a positive, healthy company culture. “DRI is infused with the most encouraging, energetic, and positive people I have ever met. I couldn’t ask for a more family-friendly environment to share my skills and creativity,” said Toia, an Import Assistant. Anh Sirridge, the Vice President of Global Procurement & Compliance said, “The variety of activities is one of the things I appreciate most about my job.” And finally, Danielle, a Sales Administrator says “I think the #1 reason people love to work at DRI is the culture. When you pair amazing opportunities and incredible talent with a company culture that inspires a positive outlook, you can’t help but whistle while you work.”

Finally, DEMDACO, located in Leawood, Kansas offered great advice that will work for any college student. The Cultural Conversation Leader, Jonathan Jones and the Director of Supply Chain, Christina Stevens explained a very important advantage that college students have called “The Golden Ticket.” This refers to the open door that students have into any company of their choosing for an informational interview. They recommend making a list of the top companies that students are targeting for future employment, and call them to set up an in person visit. Having the status of a student is the Golden Ticket to meet hiring managers, executives, and inside employees who can help you successfully navigate their hiring process and understand the company culture. This open door closes as soon as you graduate, so you must set up these in-person visits while still a student.

Christina Stevens, Director of Supply Chain

DEMDACO offers internships in their supply chain department. Students will work on eliminating waste in the supply chain inventory management system. Interested students should contact Jonathan Jones ( and include a current resume.

All of the host companies recommended using LinkedIn to research companies, connect with insiders at target companies, and find job openings. Since Kansas City is a tier two city, students with 500 personal connections on LinkedIn can actually reach any target company through introductions from their network. Make sure your profile is fully developed and that you are sending connection invitations to all of the professionals that you meet in your informational interviews.

The GCB event took place on October 18, 2019 and drew students from 4 local universities (Park, University of Kansas, University of Missouri, and Benedictine College).

Left to right: Mary Odom, Joseph McKirahan, Gustavo Fernandez Agreda, Connor Riley, Gabriel Truby, Hans Peter, Claire Westra, Alyson Schroer, Sydney van Ophem, Reghan Callahan, Kevin McGraw, Nhan Nguyen, Stefanie Rettenbacher, and Ruiping Ramboldt

ITC would like to thank Design Resources, Inc., Scarbrough International, and DEMDACO for supporting the Global Career Bridge and for investing in the talent pipeline in the Kansas City region. ITC holds the Global Career Bridge every year as a workforce development initiative that connects the region’s trade companies and our academic institutional members. If you would like your company to be considered as a host for the 2020 event, please contact ITC President Alyson Schroer (

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The International Trade Council of Greater Kansas City is a network of international business professionals, educators, and students that actively work with each other and the community to build a stronger support system for international trade in the Kansas City region.

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