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Taking control | Trudy’s story

Naval Ship Management Australia’s Trade Controls Specialist, Trudy Thorpe was given the chance to jump the fence from Defence to industry, and since then she hasn’t looked back. To her, every day is an opportunity to write a new chapter in her story.

I remember my first day at NSM was a mixture of excitement and nervousness, and a lot of self-doubt. I knew it wouldn’t be easy to make the transition from Defence to industry life, but to my surprise it was almost seamless, largely due to the support of my three Canberra based colleagues and the warm and welcoming Trade Controls team.

Long before NSM I was in the Navy as a stores person for 7 ½ years, deployed on HMAS Tobruk, and then went on to continue to support defence in the Australian Public Service capacity in a variety of roles.

The role I left in Defence was in the International Export Controls and Treaty team (IECT) where I provided guidance and support to all defence areas regarding foreign trade controls such as the International Traffic and Arms Regulations (ITAR). I had limited contact with industry, but the contact I did have made me wonder what it was like on the other side of the fence… so I decided to give it a try.

I was initially interested in working for NSM because of the company’s maritime focus, but I also felt I could really make a difference in the Trade Controls space. I wanted to add value, fill gaps and expand on my own experiences.

Being a smaller company compared to some, I felt that I would have stronger interpersonal connections with my colleagues rather than being a faceless name in a huge organisation.

In my mind I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. If this didn’t work out for me then the experience would simply be another chapter in my life story. But now that I’m here I couldn’t be happier with my decision.

I quickly needed to understand NSM’s business and my role within the supply process, and I’m continually challenged to approach work tasks from a different perspective compared to Defence. There are many industry nuances that I didn’t see while working in Defence which made me realise I have so much more to learn in trade controls that I can only do outside of a Government organisation.

“I’m looking forward to demystifying foreign trade controls through a series of practical measures. I’m really hoping to assure people that it’s not witchcraft!”

I’ve been working in the mystifying world of US export-controlled technology for over four years and get immense satisfaction from the analytical nature of regulatory interpretation and how that applies to practical business operations and delivering workable solutions. Many people look at me in shock when I tell them I love my job as a trade controls specialist, and if I talk about work their eyes tend to glaze over.

Part of my positive experience so far has been meeting some incredibly intelligent and skilled people with diverse life experiences and some amazing stories to tell, and I do think this contributes to an enjoyable workplace. My trade controls team have been patient with me, which I am truly grateful for, as I learn the new language, acronyms, and ways of doing business as well as asking all manner of ‘dumb’ questions.

I can’t wait to continue learning, planning and laughing with this amazing team who continue to support me as I take each step.

Naval Ship Management (NSM) Australia was formed in 2010 as a Joint Venture between Babcock and UGL. In 2022, Babcock acquired the remaining shareholding in NSM. NSM is now fully owned and trades under Babcock.

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