In Conversation with Amanda Coates
The Commercial Manager of Imports for the Port of New Orleans shares her professional journey and the importance of being a mentor
Q: Tell us about yourself. How did you get started on your career path? I grew up where most people vacation, in Pensacola, Florida, have been a Louisiana resident for nearly 20 years, and for the last decade have been a resident of St. Bernard Parish, along with supportive husband and teenage daughter. My husband enables me to continue following every dream I have and keeps me grounded in times of need. With my almost 14-year-old daughter, Amaya, life truly has no boring moments. She is a clone of my assertive personality and brings new perspectives daily that both challenge and inspire me. As the Commercial Manager at the Port of New Orleans, my focus is providing supply chain solutions, finding opportunities that translates to new cargo and using my background in logistics to tie the maritime industry together with economic development for the purpose of attracting distribution centers. My career path really started by chance. While beginning my studies in the medical field, I applied for an administrative role at a shipping company to work between classes during the week. At that moment, it was only meant to be a temporary position until finishing school. Unbeknownst to me, stars were aligning for my journey in the transportation and logistics industry with the world’s number one ocean carrier, Mediterranean Shipping Company, or most well-known as MSC. At the time, health science was a breeze and seemed like a fulfilling career path. After a class mandated animal dissection, I quickly realized the lack of true interest or tolerance. More often than not, I reflected on my choices and began to reevaluate. Simultaneously, I worked my way through several departments that focused on the operational aspects of global trade, transportation and logistics. Over the course of nearly 15 years, I navigated my way through five critical operational departments and one heavily customer focused position, and I eventually landed a role in sales. Three and a half years ago, I eagerly pursued the opportunity to join the commercial team at the Port of New Orleans, which checked all the boxes both personally and professionally. My role at the Port enables me to face new challenges, celebrate both large and small victories, and broaden my horizons in transportation, while deepening roots in my community. Personally, I enjoy being a mentor, making critical connections and networking that accomplish both personal and professional goals.
Q: The Port of New Orleans is a major economic engine in our region. What is a typical day like as Commercial Manager of Imports? There really is no typical day, which is one of the many enjoyable attributes of the Commercial Manager of Imports position. Days can vary from working with a local start-up company trying to import a product, to working with a company like Folgers to optimize their supply chain. In the morning, I might be taking a deep dive into data and analyzing trade flows, and by lunch time, I could be taking an import customer, along with an economic development group, on a port tour to understand what goes on behind the scenes. By the late afternoon, I could be participating in a strategy session for an upcoming customer event, or even sketching out an amateur graphic design to present visual insight into the Port’s capabilities and connections for a LinkedIn post. With the changes the pandemic brought, we are naturally doing less travel and working on innovative ways to engage both existing and potential customers while continuing to grow synergies across the state. It is gratifying to hold such a position that ultimately fulfills many aspects of my personality, collectively with my broad range of talent, while working with a dynamic team of professionals.
Q: You maintain involvement with several economic development organizations in your hometown of St. Bernard Parish, as well at GNO, Inc.’s NextGen council. Why is it important for you to be part of these conversations? Economic development is a critical component that drives sustainable growth in our economy and most importantly improves our quality of life. Aligning and maintaining synergies with state, regional and local economic development organizations supports the Port’s mission to drive economic prosperity throughout our entire three-parish jurisdiction, and supports my personal mission to bring new opportunities that will provide a unique insight to the maritime industry within my own community. Being a part of these organizations, as well as NextGen Council, allows collaboration with local business partners and stakeholders on overcoming challenges, as well as economic opportunities to promote above-average salaried jobs for St. Bernard Parish, the region and the state. Having the unique insight as a St. Bernard resident, as well as a success story in the maritime industry, allows me to be an advocate for both. Connecting businesses across our maritime industry with community members provide a better understanding of the opportunities ahead and the alignment to sustain Louisiana’s logistics industry.
Q: What are some of your proudest accomplishments throughout your career? Looking back over the course of my career, the proudest accomplishment is really being a part of positively influencing someone else’s life. By mentoring younger generations to fulfill their own dreams while they intentionally drive passion and perseverance is a true testimony of the “push from the bottom, pull from the top” approach to anyone’s career path. I pay tribute as often as possible to the many mentors that guided me in my career path and had an impact, which ultimately improved the quality of my own life. Today, I am tremendously honored to be one of the many faces representing the Port of New Orleans. In the long run, it was my dream job, and I am so appreciative to be one of the few people in life that actually wake up every day and love what they do. It’s exceptionally fulfilling and makes Mondays a little easier.
Q: Have there been any obstacles you look back on as particularly challenging, and how did you overcome them? In the past, an obstacle that was challenging for me was letting go of perfectionism. With experience, I have learned that there is only a certain level of perfectionism that is healthy and too much can really discourage creativity and progression.
Q: What is the best piece of advice you could offer to professionals in the Greater New Orleans region right now? Find your passion and follow it fiercely. If you can’t find it, create it. Be a walking billboard everywhere you go, which means representing the best version of yourself while keeping your vision in mind. Lastly, but most importantly, grow your network where you see yourself ahead. Strategically seek mentors and networks that align with your personal and professional objectives. When you reach the moment in your career where you find complacency, return the favor by being a mentor and advocate for others.
Q: Is there any goal or initiative you’re looking forward to in the new year, either personally or professionally? As many others do at the beginning of a new year, I reflect on the year closing and map out the year ahead by setting intentions, creating a vision and working towards those one day at a time. This year is off to an exciting start. I am already seeing 2022 as a year of growth, opportunity and momentum both personally and professionally. Professionally, I look forward to taking every challenge and turning it into an opportunity for success. Personally, I have a renewed sense of enthusiasm, direction and motivation to see what this year has in store as my family and I embark on the beginning of many new chapters ahead. My daughter starts high school at the end of this year, my husband and I both are taking on new responsibilities in our positions, so we are looking forward to smashing our goals, enjoying travel together and making the most of it.