In August and September 2019, 16 students from four colleges inaugurated the first annual Follow the Supply Chain Study Abroad program. The students followed products through the supply chain from Washington state to Vietnam and vice versa. One of the products they followed were Brooks running shoes, designed at their headquarters in Seattle and assembled in a factory just north of Ho Chi Minh City. When Jasen Meyers signed up for the 2019 Follow the Supply Chain Study Abroad program he probably didn’t realize it would help lead to a job at one of the companies the program visited. The Study Abroad program may have opened a door to supply chain opportunities, but it was Jasen’s hard work, curiosity and smarts that led him to his new position. The Chain sat down with Jasen (virtually to ensure safe social distancing) to learn more about his experience.
The Chain: How did you find out about the job at Brooks? What was the interview process like?
Jasen: I found out about Brooks from the study abroad trip. We visited their headquarters located in Fremont, got to tour the facility and see how their whole operation worked as far as design, how they manufacture the shoes and of course in Vietnam seeing how they assemble everything together. While I was there, one of the presenters was the manager of trade compliance, and she was going to be going on maternity leave. She said we’re going to need somebody when I go on leave. That was last September. I didn’t think too much of it. We went to Vietnam, came back and I saw the position was open and decided to throw my name into the hat. I was familiar with what the job entailed as far as what trade compliance is and how it applies to supply chains. Why not apply? I got an interview. In the first round I was interviewed by the trade compliance manager and the senior trade compliance analyst. Then interviewed with the logistics team and a third interview connected me with my counterparts in the trade compliance department. They wanted to know how I heard about the position, why did I apply, why did I feel it was a good fit, and what knowledge could I bring to the table to help the department. I told them I learned about it through the Vietnam trip. They talked about trade compliance when our group visited.
The Chain: You mentioned they wanted to know what knowledge you brought. How did you answer that?
Jasen: Of course, the first thing I mentioned was that I was familiar with their manufacturing and actual supply chain and had met some of their employees at their headquarters and in Vietnam. And I mentioned some of the courses I had taken at Highline like an exporting and importing class so I knew about the customs documents that were needed to move merchandize from one place to another. Even though I had no formal experience in trade compliance I was familiar with what’s needed to move things.
The Chain: Did the Study Abroad program help you in preparing for the interview?
Jasen: It gave me an edge. I was already aware of who they were and their processes. It made me a better candidate because I wasn’t coming into it blind, I already had some prior knowledge about what it is they actually do. And I knew their culture. They’re really good on culture as far as work environment. Being able to visit the headquarters I saw how they worked, how everything was set up, how all the teams work together.
The Chain: What are you now doing at Brooks?
Jasen: I’m a trade compliance coordinator. I do a few different tasks. We of course bring in shipments from Vietnam. From the port, the shipments go to our facility in Indiana. From there certain product goes to Canada. So I handle the U.S. and Canada as far as making sure the paperwork is complete and everything that is supposed to be going there is on the customs documents and the different documents needed for products to go from one place to the other—from our foreign trade zone in Indiana to Canada.
I also do a lot of auditing. We might have something come in from Vietnam, I need to make sure that whatever is in that bill of lading matches all the other documents before it, whether from a freight forwarder or vendors. If I find discrepancies I point it out. It’s really a whole lot of auditing.
The Chain: What else have you learned being at Brooks?
Jasen: Everything going on with duty changes. That’s one thing. How duties effect prices internally and who sees that information internally. Being in trade compliance I can see first sale costs—how much we get it for from manufacture. Little nuances like that are interesting.
I also learned what goes into creating a new product. I didn’t realize how far ahead it takes to design a new product. For example, let’s say they want to come out with a new shirt or a new jacket: they have to come to trade compliance and say “hey this is the material we want to use, what is the duty rate on it?” Depending on the materials that effects how that particular material is going to be charged, or how the tariff is going to be applied. That was new to me. I just thought a shirt was a shirt, didn’t matter if it was polyester or another material, or woven together, how the stitching is—it effects how the tariffs are going to be applied. Or is it leather or whatever material, it is all different.
One of my major roles is dealing with Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT). CTPAT was put in place after 9/11. The regulations have been the same since then but 2020 is the first time they are changing the regulations and adding new provisions to make it current. So this is something everybody has to adhere to if doing any international business. It has requirements for people who are freight carriers or manufacturers or ocean carriers or air carriers or freight forwarders. It provides the requirements that they have to abide by in order to do business in the U.S. I had to get the requirements and send them out to all our vendors and all our service providers so everyone abides by them. That’s a major thing I’m working on. A lot of the changes have to do with technology and cybersecurity. We have to make sure all the parties have procedures in place if something was to go wrong and different interventions they have to do. For example, if you have a container coming in there’s a certain inspection that must be done and this is how you do it. A big change has to do with cybersecurity. All the service providers, vendors and manufacturers must have tools and procedures to protect IT systems and against cybersecurity threats. They have to test their infrastructure on a regular basis. They have to share information on cybersecurity threats with business partners so if their system got hacked they’re responsible for letting us know so we can all be aware of the types of threats out there.
The Chain: What advice for students would you give who are looking to get their first job in the industry?
Be curious. I think that’s one of the reasons I was hired because I was really transparent where I was at with my skill level. But even with that I was still curious to learn more. And don’t be afraid. When you do something the first time there’s going to be things that are new so you really don’t know how to do it but other team members are going to provide that knowledge. That was one of the things I asked—could I collaborate, get help on learning how. The team is able to provide that. And vice versa—what are some of the strengths that I bring.
The Chain: What programs or courses in college were most helpful in preparing you for your job duties?
Jasen: The computer/Microsoft office class. That’s an essential part of this role because we do a lot of email correspondence. We correspond a lot with people in Vietnam. We talk to everybody from our freight forwarders to people at the port, to people in Indiana, to people in Canada, everybody we do business with. I probably got 80 emails today. Knowing how to do Microsoft office and Excel, of course. Excel is a really helpful tool. A lot of the spreadsheets we use are companywide. The import and export class definitely gave me prior knowledge. The international business class taught some of the things that I’m working on.
The Chain: Any other thoughts about the Follow the Supply Chain Study Abroad program?
Jasen: It was good to have a visual. It was a lot harder to comprehend what was going on in Vietnam without seeing it. One of the places we visited in Vietnam is now one of the vendors I work with at Brooks. I see that name all the time. Anytime I see it I have an idea of what they’re doing there. I was talking with them a couple weeks ago about something. Seeing things in Vietnam made a huge difference.