CCC Director of Business Development for the Defence Sector Colleen Mapendere shares her thoughts on the keys to Canadian exporters’ success, new opportunities in defence markets, and the joy of solving problems.
In 17 years, Colleen Mapendere has touched nearly every aspect of international trade. She’s developed trade policy and dealt with international trade agreements. She served as Senior Trade Commissioner for Global Affairs Canada while stationed at the Embassy of Canada in Kuwait. She’s helped Canadian exporters access opportunities in markets like Qatar and Thailand. She says the perspective she’s gained has been invaluable.
“When you see how all the parts work together — the frameworks that give [or restrict] market access, the rules and regulations that have to be followed, how companies position themselves in a market and make business development decisions — you get a really clear picture of what exporters need to succeed,” Mapendere says.
She leapt at the chance to put that experience to work at CCC, especially in the defence sector where so many new opportunities are emerging as the global security environment evolves.
“We’ve got companies in Canada doing everything from reinventing armour plating for soldiers’ protection and developing naval command-and-control systems to producing training systems and creating software that helps organizations manage personnel uniforms,” she says. “The sector is diversifying and there’s lots of room for growth.”
Mapendere says one focus for her right now is helping companies that sell primarily into the U.S. Department of Defense diversify their markets. She acknowledges that, globally, defence and security is fiercely competitive and deeply trust-based — and that exporting generally demands a lot of time, money and patience.
“This is why Canadian exporters need a broad toolkit,” she explains. “At CCC, we’re always happy to have a conversation with any company about what they’re trying to do and what’s going to work best for them. Sometimes it will be our government-to-government contracting approach. Sometimes it will be getting financing through EDC or making contacts overseas through the Trade Commissioner Service. We make those referrals and work with our partners because, at the end of the day, we all win when a Canadian company gets the deal done.”
Reflecting on what she enjoys most about her role, Mapendere doesn’t hesitate to say “solving problems” — whether that’s helping a Canadian company come up with the right strategy to reach a potential customer or working to free up a shipment stuck in customs.
“I love working with Canadian exporters,” she says. “I’ve worked with hundreds and there really is a unique Canadian way of doing things: focused on the customer, working with them to solve theirproblems and building relationships. It’s a privilege to be part of that story at CCC, standing side-by-side with great Canadian companies really as ambassadors of Canada to the world.”
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