Mia Reyes (MPA '13), Policy Director, National Center for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, APEC
Mia Reyes (MPA ‘13) has always had an interest in positive impact and good public policy that makes our society more equitable and fair. Her career so far has been focused on economic justice, sustainability, and regional economic growth.
While Reyes was pursuing her MPA from the Evans School, she served as an Advisory Board Member with Solid Ground–a nonprofit organization dedicated to combating poverty by working to undo racism and other oppressions.
She also worked as the Communications Manager at Eastside Baby Corner, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive by providing basic necessities for children so that EBC’s partners–schools, social service agencies, food banks, hospitals–can help families become stable, safe, housed, fed, and employed.
Reyes is currently a Policy Director at the National Center for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). APEC is a group of 21 economies located in the dynamic Asia-Pacific region that are dedicated to promoting greater trade and investment globally.
We caught up with Reyes via email about the work she is doing now and how the Evans School prepared her for her continuing professional success.
What would you say is the most energizing aspect of working for the National Center for APEC?
My career focus has always been 'impact.' I want to have the most impact, and the most positive impact, in my work that I can. Working in foreign policy and international trade, I can go to work knowing what I am doing affects more than half of the world's population. That's a tremendous feeling and I find it energizing and inspiring to do the work I do. A very close second to impact though is the ability to work with and around some of the greatest leaders in the world.
How does the mission of APEC inform your day to day work?
The mission of my organization is to provide and ensure private sector input in the APEC process. Since APEC is focused around the idea of trade and regional economic integration, these are things that cannot be done without business–you can't talk trade without business. My day to day work ensures that proposals, policies, and planning that are going on within APEC are taking into account how those trade policies affect businesses and the private sector.
My work and the mission of my organization is a bit of a full circle from my time at Evans, since I did my capstone group project on the role of public-private partnerships (PPPs). I knew at that time I wanted to work within the world of PPPs, and I am doing that exact thing now, and at the highest policy level.
What major trends have you seen regarding international trade?
There are so many misunderstandings of how trade affects, and is so greatly intertwined, in all of our daily lives, from the food we eat, to the clothes we wear, to our jobs and economies. Did you know Washington state is the most trade dependent state in all of the U.S.? We need to do a better job of educating everyday consumers how their world is truly built around international trade, and that's something we should embrace, not run away from.
Trade has become a much more prominent topic in the news lately. We have seen trends towards protectionism and isolation, and a reversal of general ideals we have supported for decades, which is greatly disconcerting. While we have been focusing more on the 'winners' of trade, we need to do a better job talking about those that have become displaced or negatively affected because of it. That is something policymakers are looking at now, and it is a complicated issue which depends on a variety of factors from re-skilling and re-training programs, to our current education system, to the need to teach people not just skills, but how to be continuous and agile learners.
The solution is not to turn away from globalization or international trade. Trade has helped lift millions of people out of poverty over the past few decades, it opens new markets to small businesses that previously would not have had access, and it has promoted peace among trading partners.
Why is working in this field important to you?
International trade is truly one of the cornerstones of today's world. It affects every aspect of our lives, in ways most people wouldn't even know. I love working in a field that has so much impact, on so many people's lives, and knowing that the work I do is in some way contributing to a greater purpose of connecting the world and its citizens.
Do you have a favorite part of your job? If so, what is it, and why?
I am so lucky to be able to travel the world for my job. I have traveled to places I never dreamed I would go to for work, from Papua New Guinea to Australia, and Thailand to Peru. In the four years I have been with the company, I have taken more than 30 trips to over 13 countries. Every time I step on the plane to a different country I feel very lucky to be getting paid to do work I am passionate about and I love, and to be able to travel the world doing it.
You’ve had a very successful career. How did your time at the Evans School set you up for that success?
Evans was a great resource in a variety of ways, but most importantly for my profession the emphasis on a collaborative work environment as well as leadership training have been most beneficial. My work in foreign policy and international trade requires a great amount of collaboration and negotiation with a multitude of different stakeholders and countries, and the team based atmosphere Evans provided really helped prepare me for that. In addition, the leadership and negotiation classes I took throughout my Evans time, specifically those by Dorothy Bullitt, I found exceptionally helpful in my work and life. Leadership and negotiation techniques are truly skills that must be practiced and learned.
If you could give Evans School students one piece of advice, what would it be?
Learn to be a lifelong learner. The days of staying in one company, or even one field, for your entire career are long gone. To be competitive in this global market, you need to continually adapt your skills and knowledge to stay relevant and up to date. Attend trainings, learn new programs that make your job more efficient, and stay up to date with latest technologies and improvements in your field, but even beyond.
Adopt a mindset that you are never done learning and growing.