Friday, April 19, 2024

From Engineer to Entrepreneur: The Evolution of Kim Schofield’s Career

From Engineer to Entrepreneur: The Evolution of Kim Schofield’s Career



What inspired you to pursue a career in engineering and business development, particularly with a focus on economic value add programs? And with over three decades of experience in the Middle East and North Africa region, what are some key insights you’ve gained about doing business in this area?

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Kim Schofield: My initial aspirations were to become a fighter pilot or astronaut, inspired by my father’s pioneering work in the US space program. While I excelled in math and science, I couldn’t pursue my dream career due to height and eyesight requirements leading me towards engineering. Despite my initial reluctance, I persevered, eventually becoming the first female floor support engineer at Volvo Bus Company and later, the first female manufacturing engineer at BMY Combat Systems. Despite facing skepticism, I proved myself in these roles, paving the way for others. One memorable moment was during my interview at Volvo, where I impressed Ron Wilson, a former global general manager for Ford Automotive, despite my lack of experience in manufacturing. Another standout moment was when the HR manager challenged my ability to handle the male-dominated manufacturing environment due to my petite stature, to which I confidently responded that “Lady Dynamite comes in small packages.”

My initial interviews were truly wild experiences! It’s hard to believe some of the situations I found myself in, but looking back, I can’t help but smile at how I managed to navigate them. Starting my own company was definitely a strategic move to avoid those kinds of encounters in the future. Now, as I meet with clients regularly, I bring the same confidence and resilience to each interaction. Every meeting is an opportunity to showcase my skills and expertise, and I’ve learned to turn them into productive conversations that benefit both parties. It’s been quite a journey, but I’ve certainly mastered the art of handling interviews, whether they’re for jobs or clients.

I founded my first company in 1994 despite skepticism due to my gender and focus on the Middle East market. Initially an engineer, I transitioned to operations management for international business development and sales, a role I thoroughly enjoyed. Embrace change and treat everyone with respect; it’s essential in the dynamic business landscape of the region. Despite challenges, including lengthy project timelines and payment delays, opportunities in the UAE offer respect and potential. Success demands perseverance and patience. Weigh introductions carefully; recommendations from trusted sources carry weight in securing deals.

Embrace change and treat everyone with respect; it’s essential in the dynamic business landscape of the region.

Kim Schofield
Can you share some success stories or notable projects from your time at EVAP Investment LLC that demonstrate the impact of economic value add programs?

Kim Schofield: We coined the term “Economic Value Add Program” (EVAP), now widely used internationally, encompassing concepts like offsets, localization, or in-country value. Our company specializes in assisting businesses with EVAP strategies, ensuring they contribute to local economies while expanding their own footprint.

Since 2013, we’ve pioneered discussions with governments and stakeholders, advocating for EVAP to benefit everyone, promoting global supply chain integration and dual-use technologies. Our success lies in structuring projects to maximize economic contributions, create sustainable jobs, and foster innovation, evident in our diverse portfolio of game-changing projects aimed at benefiting the UAE and its workforce.

As Chairperson of AmCham Abu Dhabi, what initiatives have you championed to foster stronger business ties between the United States and the UAE?

Kim Schofield: My involvement with the AMCHAM, Abu Dhabi, formerly known as the American Business Group of Abu Dhabi, or “ABG”, has been deeply fulfilling and impactful. Since my arrival in 2003, I’ve played a significant role within the organization, including a pivotal moment in 2006 during the Dubai Ports World crisis. At the time, as Vice President of the American Business Group, I witnessed the escalating tensions surrounding Dubai Ports’ proposed investments in US ports. In response, I initiated a crucial conversation with a respected colleague, who is, now the UAE Ambassador to the United States. We discussed a plan for the American Business Group to organize a delegation to visit the United States and engage with lawmakers.

This initiative aimed not to reverse the decision but to underscore the vital relationship between the US and the UAE, emphasizing its significance for trade, job creation, and regional stability. Despite the challenges, ABG mobilized a delegation and conducted extensive media interviews, including appearances on CNBC and international platforms. While we didn’t alter the decision, it marked the beginning of heightened dialogue and awareness between the two nations.

In subsequent years, I’ve continued to advocate for trade diplomacy through my involvement with AmCham. Trade diplomacy, in my view, serves as a beacon of unity amidst global uncertainties. For example, we recently hosted a very osuccessful Partnership Summits with several business councils, fostering collaboration and dialogue. Additionally, as the chair of AMCHAM and, the Offsets Committee I actively contribute to shaping policy discussions and initiative.

AmCham’s diverse activities, from signature events to VIP roundtables, underscore our commitment to facilitating meaningful engagement between stakeholders. Through these efforts, we aim to strengthen bilateral ties, promote economic growth, and foster a climate conducive to trade and cooperation. Overall, my journey with AmCham has been characterized by dedication to advancing trade diplomacy, fostering dialogue, and contributing to the prosperity of both the UAE and the United States.

Your tenure as President of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) coincided with significant advancements in UAV technology. How did you navigate regulatory challenges during this time?

Kim Schofield: I joined AUVSI (Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International) when it was still known as AUVS, initially advocating for its presence at international air shows like Paris and Dubai. Recognizing the critical importance of safe airspace integration for unmanned systems, I spearheaded the establishment of an airspace working group, a venture that continues to this day.

Despite skepticism about the commercial potential of unmanned systems, I passionately championed their broader applications, foreseeing their significance beyond defense. This belief led me to delve into projects such as remote ID, ensuring drones’ safe and accountable operation. My journey into AUVSI began unexpectedly, sparked by a chance conversation about ground-based unmanned systems. This serendipitous encounter led to my involvement as a judge in AUVSI’s inaugural unmanned ground vehicle competition, ultimately paving the way for my decade-long tenure on its board of directors.

What role do you believe inspiration plays in driving economic growth and innovation, and how do you incorporate this belief into your work at EVAP Investment LLC?

Kim Schofield: Inspiration is a recurring theme in my discussions, and for good reason—it’s the cornerstone of progress. Without inspiration, there’s no innovation, no entrepreneurship, and no leadership. Consider the challenges in today’s political landscape; inspiration is what drives individuals to lead despite negativity. Whether it’s venturing into space or pursuing any endeavor, inspiration is the catalyst for action, the spark that ignites motivation. It’s the fundamental element driving growth, innovation, and success. We all draw inspiration from different sources, but its importance remains universal. Without it, progress would be stagnant.

Each endeavor must excite me; otherwise, it’s not worth pursuing. Even during challenging times, inspiration fuels my drive to persevere. I strive to embody enthusiasm, fostering a positive atmosphere within my team. Every day, I start with gratitude, acknowledging the blessings in my life, which in itself is a form of inspiration. EVAP, is a testament to the inspirational journey of my career and life. It’s a product of the inspiration that propels me forward.

EVAP, is a testament to the inspirational journey of my career and life. It’s a product of the inspiration that propels me forward.

Kim Schofield

Throughout your career, you’ve been a trailblazer for women in engineering and business. What advice would you give to aspiring female professionals entering male-dominated industries?

Kim Schofield: Here’s some advice that you might find resonant, or perhaps challenging, but it’s how I perceive the world. Firstly, understand that the world will never be entirely fair. Accepting this reality is crucial. Define success on your terms. Success varies from person to person—whether it’s driven by money, happiness, or experiences, it’s essential to pursue what truly fulfills you. Embrace failure as part of the journey. Everyone stumbles at some point; the key is to learn from mistakes and keep moving forward.

Secondly, be mindful of first impressions. Whether entering a male-dominated environment or any setting, recognize that initial judgments are often based on appearance. Present yourself in a way that minimizes unnecessary challenges and maximizes opportunities for connection.

Strive for excellence in everything you do. Settle for nothing less than your best; aim for excellence, not merely adequacy. Moreover, find love in what you do. If your current path doesn’t inspire passion, seek w ays to infuse joy into your work. Life’s too short to settle for dissatisfaction.

Lastly, for those aiming to shatter the glass ceiling, be prepared to break barriers with your own strength. Progress often requires challenging norms and overcoming obstacles, so you want to break the glass ceiling, ladies, be prepared to bring your own hammer.

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