MIM Alumni Profile: Austin Davisden, Creating Value in Material Sourcing between Taiwan and the U.S.

Name: Austin Davidsen
Company:  Source Material. We represent some Taiwanese manufacturers who supply raw materials (synthetic leather and textiles) to footwear brands.
Company/Job Location: Portland, OR
Job Title: Good question! I’ve been told “Brand Services” but I think it’s also close to “Account Manager”
Duration: 4 months
MIM Graduation Date: 12/2010

How did you find your job?

One of my MIM classmates knew about this position, and he told me about it. He said he thought I’d be a good fit for it – and offered to pass my resume on. One week later, I had the job offer.

Please tell us about the interview process for your position.

I am working as an apprentice of sorts for an independent entrepreneur. He invited me to his studio/showroom one day, and we chatted briefly about his business and my experience. I followed up with an e-mail the next day, and was invited back for a second interview later that week. It was at the second interview when I got my offer.

Is your current job in line with your previous work and professional experience or is this a career change?

It’s a career change for sure. Before MIM, I had been a teacher, and during/after MIM I was involved with a few random projects. This is my first job in the footwear industry, but not my first work experience

How do you think the MIM program helped you get your job?

I came to MIM with a decent understanding of Asia from a cultural perspective. It helped focus that into learning about Asia from a business and economic perspective. I learned communication and project management skills that will serve me for years to come.

What is your job like on a daily basis?

I’m still getting my feet wet, but typical tasks include responding to customer requests over phone and email, and liaising between our Taiwanese partners and our US-side brand customers. A big part of that right now is helping the suppliers in Taiwan understand Nike’s very complex and comprehensive “material sustainability index.” My job is to sift through the mountain of requirements and repackage it in way that produces actionable steps for a non-English-fluent audience. We’re a small operation, so there’s also a fair amount of administrative work as well. I process and ship a handful of items each week (swatch books, textile samples, etc).

Is there any travel associated with your position?

Yes. So far my job involves regular travel throughout the United States, and perhaps one or two trips to Taiwan.  I’m estimating 8-10 weeks on the road in total this year, but it could be more. My boss doesn’t like traveling, and I do, so the plan is for me to take on more of that responsibility.

What do you really love most about your job, position or company?

I really enjoy the client interaction. It’s a lot of fun to have a product that is compelling, has a distinct competitive advantage, and resonates with our customers. It makes the “sales calls” I go on much more relaxed.

What do you hope for your future career plans?  

I’m fortunate that this job is a great introduction to the footwear industry. If I find that I like it, I will be able to launch a career. To that end, I’m interested in learning as much as I can – and perhaps jumping from the supplier side to the brand side, and become a “Developer,” basically a project manager for a range of shoes.

I am also still considering applying to the Foreign Service.

What do you think is your most valuable take-away from the MIM program?

My biggest takeaway is that history, philosophy, and culture cannot be ignored when you are dealing cross-culturally. History shapes and forms cultures over time, and goes a long way to bridging the gaps, reducing the confusion, and encouraging healthy and profitable partnership.

What is your favorite memory of the MIM program?

The Asia trip is a highlight – the totality of it is my favorite memory.

What advice can you provide to current and future MIM students?

Speak up in class – ask questions – share your experience! Seek out all the side projects you can find – fight to be your exit project leader! You need something tangible to talk about on your resumes and in your interviews

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