An Interview With LaQuail Scotland: “Those Are Just Wow Moments”

Originally Published in the 2021 School Supply Supplement

Thirteen years ago, LaQuail Scotland joined the ISS School Supply team. In this spotlight, get to know what LaQuail’s work looks like day-to-da, her experience through the pandemic, and what stands out to her from her time with ISS.

Hello LaQuail! Please tell us a bit about yourself and background.

I moved to Colorado when I was an infant, but came back home to Jersey when I was 19 and have been a Jersey girl ever since. Outside of being a wife and a mother, I just love to work out – that’s my me time. So my life consists of working out, working, and being a mom. It’s great.

How did you first come to work at ISS and what were your early impressions?

ISS reached out to me from my resume on Monster, and I briefly looked over the company. I honestly thought it was a temp agency that hired teachers overseas. So I thought, well, why not? Let’s go for the interview.

After my first interview, I went home and actually did thorough research on what ISS
does. I was shocked — I had never heard of any company like this! I was amazed by the work that ISS did, all the services they provided internationally. I thought, “I want to work there. I want to know more about this.” I was called for a second interview and got the job. Thirteen years later, I’m still here. I guess it was just meant to be. My mom says to me all the time, “You were meant to work there. You had no clue what the company did. You had no clue! You thought you were going to work for a temp agency.”

What does your work with ISS School Supply look like?

Our busy season starts around February to March. We start to receive orders from our schools. We review or edit them, filtering through any hazardous materials that we know we can’t ship, getting specs on different table tops and chair colors, etc. Then we send those orders out to the vendors to get them fulfilled. We communicate with the school, letting them know anything that was canceled, more information we may need, anything that may be back-ordered, different things like that. Then we start the shipping process, getting containers and starting to ship to our schools. Once we do our first big shipment to schools, we start to do follow-up. That may be following up on back order items, figuring out what will still be needed, talking to the school. When the school receives their shipment, they let us know of any discrepancies or anything that we can help them get rectified. Sometimes we do another shipment to the school, usually for back-ordered items. And then we start the process all over again! It’s definitely busy, communicating with schools and vendors to get everything just right. We have a very short down-season. During that time, we’re meeting with each other to see what we can do to make the process smoother, what we saw in that year that went well or we could adjust, or just how to continue to give better customer service to our schools.

In your 13 years with ISS School Supply, what has changed or evolved?

When I first started, we had tons and tons of paper. We had paper orders that we had to make multiple copies of, and we had to actually mail our orders to our vendors. We had to get seven copies of the invoices because we had to send stacks — I mean, stacks — of invoices to our freight forwarder to get these shipments cleared. I remember when we had to do overtime in our busy season, we would have to take big plastic totes home because it was that much paper. Now everything is paperless, and it’s so much easier to have the process computerized. Technology is the biggest change in the 13 years, and it’s a good one!

How have you and your team adapted to change and disruption to the pandemic?

I feel like we’ve adapted well. We were already able to work one day at home remotely during the week, so we had a system in place. We just had to get used to doing it every single day. We’ve implemented more meetings with the staff to keep us connected, find out what’s working for other people at home, and to help each other out. I think I’ve adapted well. Don’t get me wrong, I miss the face-to-face interactions with everybody and just catching up on, those morning conversations with coffee about, you know, our sons playing baseball. But personally, I’m OK.

Is there anything that’s been particularly challenging through the pandemic?

I do see that our schools depend on us more; that was especially clear at the beginning of the pandemic when schools needed masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer. We were struggling to get those supplies even for ourselves here in the states, and it was difficult to explain to the school worldwide that supplying them was going to be difficult. We were trying as much as possible, but it was hard to not always be able to get the school what they needed, especially in such a stressful time. That was really challenging.

Thankfully now since companies are pushing these health supplies out, we’re able to get them what they need now. Plus schools are ordering more in bulk so that, God forbid, if this happens again, they have the supply of what they need. When one of my schools ordered COVID testing kits for the first time, I didn’t even know what it was. But as I researched it, I realized those orders are going to come more and more, as kids go back and schools are testing. Helping keep schools and kids protected in a pandemic has been something new, challenging, but important to us.

What advice would you offer to schools considering their international school supply plans?

Plan ahead. There are a lot of delays with manufacturers because they are having a hard time getting materials. For example, metal is currently hard to get. That then means there are a couple schools that couldn’t get their chairs, or had to change their usual ordering path, because there wasn’t enough metal to make the items. Take into consideration these longer delays and plan early. I’d also ask for patience with the team here at ISS. Sometimes situations are just completely out of our hands, like when there’s just not enough metal in the world. But we are working diligently to get you what you need as much as possible!

What do you find meaningful in your work with ISS School Supply?

Seeing pictures of kids, with their books, seeing them on laptops or in classrooms with their big colorful carpets, and just knowing that School Supply was responsible for making it happen — to me, those are just wow moments. I’m sitting behind a desk, behind a computer doing my day-to-day tasks, and then I actually see what the end result of my work is. It’s amazing to feel I’m doing something good, you know?

Do you have any particular stories that stand out when you think of your time with ISS?

I’ve been working with a school in Islamabad for 13 years and have a contact named Rose Puffer. Whenever we communicate, even though not in-person, she’s been very friendly and just a good person. Then finally, about three years ago at a New York City ISS job fair, we were able to meet. And she embraced me like we have known each other forever! Even brought this beautiful scarf for me. It almost brought me to tears. I was just so thankful for what I get to do for the school. It was just like rewarding for her to wrap her arms around me and say, “Oh, wow, I’m finally meeting you! Thank you so much for all that you do, and please take this gift from our school.” Just awesome. Meeting her was one of the best moments that I’ve had at ISS.

Many thanks to LaQuail for sharing her stories and reflections! Learn more about how to source international school supplies here.