I95 BUSINESS - In the 1990s Priscilla Royster, like many other women in the maritime industry, had advanced as far as she could … or so she thought. The last two decades of the 20th century was a pivotal time for women in her industry, who until that time mostly served as entry clerks and rarely were appointed to supervisory roles or roles outside of administration, such as sales or marketing. By the dawn of the new century, in the year 2000, Royster experienced an upwards career trajectory when she became a licensed customs broker.
“My boss in the 1990s was female. She set the example for me, moving up in the ranks. The more I learned about day to day operations, the more I loved it. I wanted to learn about the complexities of the maritime industry. She encouraged me to work towards my license,” shares Royster, who today is Vice President of Compliance for John S. Connor, a global logistics company founded in Baltimore in 1917, and a leading provider of customs brokerage, transportation, supply chain and logistics services for global importers and exporters.
The timed six-hour test to earn a customs broker license covered all regulations related to the import and export of goods. Royster passed on the first try. Today, she has more than 40 years of service in the maritime industry, having worked in various port offices along the Gulf and East coasts, and traveling outside the United States, where she gained insights into the customs regulations of other countries.
Her appointment as Vice President of Compliance at John S. Connor was a pinnacle professional moment, but it is the opportunity to share her knowledge and experience with others, and watching colleagues grow, that most inspires and excites Royster.
She is proud of the company-wide educational programs she has developed at John S. Connor, using the educational platform provided by the national industry organization for which she is a member. Participating employees – including all levels of the operational staff – commit to a six-month course, and 50% of participating employees to date have completed the Customs Certified Specialist program offered by the trade organization NCBFAA and recognized by Customs and Border Protection. Some have even continued their education to earn the customs broker license.
“Confidence or lack of it can be seen in body language. I watch our staff stand taller, sit up straighter, walk straighter, as they progress through the program. I can see the lightbulb go off in their heads. It is important that all of our people understand on a larger scale what we do.
“We’re not brain surgeons, but we’re close to it. One error in our work can cause a company to fold.”
Looking ahead to the future, Royster believes the industry is on the cusp of a new era with the introduction of complex electronic systems. She embraces the new technology because it improves the accuracy of her industry’s work – every manual touch of data increases the margin for error by 25% – the new technology ensures data remains pure from beginning to end.
“I love what I do – researching, learning new things and sharing my knowledge and expertise. My colleagues know how much I enjoy learning, gathering new information, and being more than willing to share it. It’s like the bell the hospitals used to ring with each new birth.”