Women Making Waves: Julie Balzano

Julie Balzano

Export Development Director, National Marine Manufacturers Association

Education: Bachelor’s Degree – Marketing – Rutgers University. A few short years after graduating, I joined the U.S. Peace Corps, which is where I became bilingual and bicultural.

Years in the marine industry: 15

Julie Balzano

Julie Balzano

Companies you have worked for in the marine industry and titles you held within those companies: Export Development Director, National Marine Manufacturers Association; Director for Mexico & Marine Industry Sector for Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI) – the economic development organization for the State of Florida.

What first drew you to the marine industry? The financial crisis of 2008! Before focusing on the marine industry specifically, my role at EFI was to help Florida companies export their products and services, regardless of the industry. However, when the crisis hit, I noticed that the recreational boating industry was impacted especially hard. Up until that time, the U.S. market offered more than enough sales opportunities and pursuing international markets wasn’t a priority for most. That all changed, however, once the financial crisis hit. There was little help at the time specifically targeted for the marine industry so I was thrilled to be able to step up to the challenge.

Was it difficult to navigate a career in this industry? Why or why not? It was very difficult at first as I was an outsider and the industry in Florida was generally skeptical of any sort of government assistance.  “I’m here from the government and I’m here to help” didn’t resonate well in the beginning. I learned early to tweak my messaging.

Fortunately, the late and beloved Frank Herhold, executive director of the Marine Industry Association of South Florida, took me under his wing and personally introduced me to key players in the industry. Little by little, I was able to expand my contacts and build solid relationships that helped me to multiply efforts. Many are relationships that remain important to me to this day and ultimately led me to the work that I now do for the NMMA.

What advice do you have for women starting their careers in the marine industry? Find a mentor. Learn another language, learn another culture, and broaden your network to include international contacts, as this truly is a global industry and growing more so every day.

As a mother of two children, I often landed at the airport after a grueling overseas business trip only to rush straight to a soccer practice or a PTA meeting. It wasn’t easy juggling a demanding professional life with lots of travel while raising a family at the same time. I had to work extra hard and be hyper efficient to get it all done.  But, absolutely no regrets.

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