Foreign Service Officers
Patrick, U.S. Diplomat, Under Secretary of State for Management
My name is Pat, and my career track in the Department of State is in the Management field.I've been an Management Officer for almost 38 years. Our job is to support our colleagues, but also provide services and support to Department of Defense personnel, the Homeland Security personel, to personnel from the Library of Congress, who are spread out and use our embassies and consulates abroad as platforms from which they also do the nation's international business. And they need administrative support. But what they don't send, these other agencies is that they don't send management professionals. And so it's the State Department that worries about leasing and utilities and transportation and security; telecommunications, medical. Anything you can imagine in the management arena; those abilities, those skills are put at the service of those other agencies. And that's what makes managing international environments so interesting.
I remember being on my first assignment in the Foreign Service as a Regional Management Officer in Africa, being in Kampala, Uganda when Idi Amin was the dictator during the Arab-Israeli war in 1973, when he threatened to kill our senior officials, expel the Marine security guards, and it fell to me to close the embassy and assist in the evacuation of all the personnel from the embassy. And we did. We got everyone, we got everyone out safely.
There also were sad times. Twice I've been part of delegations sent out to a foreign country to recover the remains of Foreign Service or other U.S. Government personnel who had been killed in the line of duty. It's very, very sad to participate in loading a coffin on an airplane, and you...but you remember those things as well, because of the dedication that those individual's lives symbolized. If somebody asked me what were the characteristics that you try to demonstrate I think, obviously, when you're managing and working in a foreign environment, which is a seven day a week, 24 hour on-call operation, you have to have extreme amount of flexibility.
You have to be able to listen to other people. Other people are either gonna be telling you their story, telling you what they need to get your mission - their mission accomplished. And if you don't listen, and you don't understand what they want, how are you gonna be able to deliver? And so you have to be open. You have to be to a degree - creative. And you have to be flexible.
One talks about the Foreign Service -and there are two words in that statement- "Foreign" and "Service." When you look at the United States' place in the world, our role continues to expand. Countries depend upon us, they depend upon American leadership, in many cases they depend upon American diplomacy.
We cannot advocate for the United States, we cannot advocate for our values, unless we have embassies and consulates and interest sections and liaison offices and missions around the world. But to get those offices to function, they need a management cadre to underpin them. And I think that, that is an incredibly honorable profession. It's one that I've been very, very proud to be a part of.
Joseph, Retired Foreign Service Officer, Provincial Reconstruction Team
My name is Joe, I'm a Political Advisor to a joint interagency task force on counterterrorism in Afghanistan.
When I was offered the 3161 position to me was an ideal; an ideal circumstance because I had been affiliated with U.S. military for some time, I was being offered a position that made it possible for me to work closely with my former colleagues at the Department of State, working within an interagency environment heavily involved with the military so as to do what is necessary on the counterterrorism front to minimize the threats to our men and women in uniform. And not only men and women in uniform to all our civilian colleagues of the many agencies out there in Afghanistan and Iraq. And equally important the host-country nationals with whom we work.
It’s been a unique opportunity. And I’ve always told people interested in what we do that there are there's one key work in what we do, and it's service. I don't care if it's the Foreign Service for those who have a vocation to serve abroad or it's the civil service. I think people working for State have a distinct ethos and it comes across.
I arrived in Afghanistan late October of last year. Typically, the way the process is conducted, you come into the country, you're met by colleagues at the embassy, you're given a briefing, a series of briefings during a three day period. I had also been designated to work on a counterterrorism task force. And what we do within this task force is to focus on the external threats to Afghanistan.
Those threats that emanate in - let's say Pakistan or anywhere else in the world - but whose intent is directed toward Afghanistan. And I’ve been doing this now for about six months; as you can imagine this is done in a fairly Spartan environment.
I’m assigned to Bagram Air force base and within the air force base there are many different camps. One particular camp when we work on these issues exclusively, there isn't much to do, so we work seven days a week, 12-14 hour days but the work is fascinating.
You'll find people who will work on governance issues. I recall when we worked on governance issues in Baghdad, we were involved in matters that went across the board whether it was teaching community councils to make use of Robert’s Rules of Parliamentary Order, or how to use budgets at the municipal level to do basic city planning. We were doing that.
Many of my colleagues were involved in rule of law and rule of law is a very big issue in all of these provincial reconstruction teams. In places like Afghanistan, it's doubly complex and challenging because so much of Afghanistan society is still permeated by the traditional tribal institutions and so you know tribal customs and mores dominate western law as we know it.
Janice, U.S. Diplomat, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs
Probably the most rewarding experience for me as a Foreign Service officer was when I was the Deputy Assistant Secretary for visa services in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. This was a time of great change and great concern about border security, and I was able to work with the new Department of Homeland Security and other agencies as we tried to put together policies that both protected our borders, but also continued to facilitate and welcome legitimate travelers to the United States. The decisions that consular officers make really touch people in a very real and personal way. We are often the window on America at our overseas posts because the vast majority of people coming to an embassy or consulate are actually coming for a consular service, and so what we do is very important, but how we treat people that come in for our services, of course, is also very important. So, we play a big role in forming the image of America that people have.
To be a good Consular Officer you really need good leadership skills combined with a sense of enthusiasm. You have to be fairly empathetic because you're going to be helping people. You have to be effective. And more than anything, you have to be a problem solver. Working for the State Department is really a lifestyle. It is not a nine to five job. It’s a real commitment. It is an opportunity that offers you the chance to experience wonderful adventures and to grow personally.
Jayne, U.S. Diplomat, Consular Career Track
My name is Jayne. I'm a consular officer. I was stationed in Istanbul, Turkey, on my second tour and my boss called me late on a Friday night and asked me if I would be willing to go out to southeast Turkey the following morning to assist an American who was facing deportation.
This young American had attempted to board a plane to Istanbul and onward to the United States with an American passport that was completely blank, and unfortunately, he didn't speak enough English to convince the Turkish immigration police that he was, in fact, an American citizen.
Apparently, his father had abducted him from his American mother 13 years before, and fleeing compulsory military service in the country he was living, he had fled over the border into Turkey seeking to go back to the United States and reunite with his family. I was supposed to pick him up and turn around and get on the next flight back to Istanbul. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating and heavy snow had started to fall almost as soon as my flight landed. And it was the last flight in or out for more than a week.
So, we spent a lot of time sitting around the hotel lobby and cafeteria just drinking tea and getting to know one another. So the third morning, we were sitting in the airport cafeteria having a kind of philosophical conversation about the role of America and the world as viewed by foreign countries, and I was a little surprised, because kind of out of the blue, his eyes really took on a hard tone and he said, "You know, you Americans. You're so wealthy and arrogant." And what I said to him was, "You ARE one of those Americans that you're talking about. And the fact that I, a representative from the US government, am sitting here with you and I'm going to bring you home, means that you now have access to far bigger dreams than you could ever have had in the country that you fled from in the middle of the night.
And to me, the great thing about being an American is the right to disagree with each other, you know, and to dialog. And while I deeply disagree with what you just said, I respect that you have the right to that opinion and we're still going to take you home." And he said something along the line of, "Well, thank you." And then he said that until our conversations about America and Americans, he hadn't really thought of himself as an American. And that all being an American had meant to him was getting the blue passport.
To me there's something unique about consular work. There is no other government in the world that takes care of its citizens the way America does so, I feel pretty privileged to be an American consular officer.
Sandy, U.S. Diplomat, Consular Career Track
My name is Sandy and I'm a Consular Officer.
I was working in the Office of Children's Issues. The father called and said that his six-year old son had been on a month long visitation with his ex-wife, but the ex-wife instead of returning him had disappeared. He tracked him as far as Europe, and then had reason to believe that they were actually on a flight to Mexico that night. .
I lost track of how many phone calls I made that day to the Dallas police to make sure they got the warrant to Interpol. To Interpol, to make sure that they put the proper flags on it red flag is for an arrest, a yellow flag is for involving a child, and to make sure it got to Mexico not a worldwide alert, but that the Mexicans got it.
I found out that the boy had been recovered when the father called me. And the first thing he said was, "I just got back from a ride around the block with my son." I just sort of burst out with smiles on the phone my heart almost stopped. It was great and he wrote a letter to Secretary Powell and he said that, "without the leadership of the Children's Issues in the interdiction, my son would probably be in Mexico at some undisclosed location not at home and not at school. Thank you." It's moments like that when you know you've made a difference that makes it all worthwhile.
I didn't follow a normal career track, which I came into the Foreign Service. I was a lawyer by training and I practiced law for several years. What I did was child abuse and neglect cases in New York City. I prosecuted on the civil side. And that was part of the reason why when I joined the Foreign Service, I learned about the Office of Children's Issues, really wanted to work there. I thought this was something parental child abduction and they also did adoption cases would be something that I'd like to do and would be good at. It turned out to be true.
Terry, U.S. Diplomat, Consular Career Track
My name's Terry. I'm a Foreign Service Officer, Consular career track. I'm currently working actually in a management job, managing a general services division for the Bureau of Consular Affairs. But prior to that, worked overseas in China, Laos and Indonesia; performing Consular work in each of those locations. And then, in Laos, also performed Political and Economic work as well.
When I was an undergraduate I, um, developed an interest in history, primarily Asian history, and originally being from Arkansas there weren't really any universities that provided Chinese language instruction. I kind of planted the idea of the Foreign Service in the back of my mind at that time, and years later after working as an economist for the state of Arkansas, I decided to go ahead and take the examination and passed.
I selected Consular work because I really like working with people, and I found particularly the American Citizens Services portion of that work to be particularly fascinating. And I’m glad I selected that track, because working overseas, I think the most rewarding work that any Foreign Service Officer has is assisting Americans overseas. I think that one of the more rewarding feelings was working on an international parental child abduction case in China.
It was complicated, but it was rewarding in a sense that we were able to get out to visit with the children, to confirm that they were, in fact being cared for, that they did not have any serious health issues and so forth, and we were able to report that information back to the left behind parent.
Our core job is to remain neutral; we can't take sides and to try to do our best to make sure that the children are being cared for. So I found that rewarding because it lasted over a two year period of meeting regularly with the parent and the children and then communicating back with the Department.And eventually it was resolved, with the children being returned to the United States. So that was a good outcome but it took like a long time.
There were certainly lawyers involved on the U.S. side but also the State Department has an Office of Children’s Issues that specializes in international parental child abduction and they offer guidance on these types of cases as well.I think it's a great honor to serve overseas representing the United States government. And there's a lot of diplomatic corps in the world for every country and not all of them actually have the opportunity to select the countries they're serving in, and this is a point that I make regularly to host country nationals and host country officials.
When a Foreign Service Officer is posted to a particularly country, it's because they listed that country on a list of positions they were interested in. And I think that carries a lot of weight when you mention that, because a lot of officials think of Foreign Service Officers coming because they're sent there, and they have to be there, but we choose to be in the places we're located in.And I think that demonstrates that we have a real interest in serving in those particular countries, and have an interest in the issues in those countries.
Darren, U.S. Diplomat, Economic career track
I'm Darren. I’m a Foreign Service Officer in the Economic career track. I'm relatively new to the Foreign Service. I’ve been in the Foreign Service about four years. And before starting the process of joining about six years ago I had frankly never heard of the Foreign Service. I had worked in the private sector for about 20 years most recently as a director of corporate strategy and my job was to recommend to our senior management where the company should make the next big investment internationally. And when I learned about the Foreign Service and the fact that all of those things which really interested me were things that here in the Foreign Service we impact, we help make that policy as a Foreign Service Officer and then we execute that foreign policy.
And for me coming from the private sector background where I was dealing with all of those issues and trying to understand them, it was really intriguing to me to move from understanding them to helping to impact them and improve them and working for U.S. interests. So professionally it was, it was very interesting for me and it was, the more I learned about being a Foreign Service Officer, the more I became interested. Um, personally it was intriguing because I’m married, I have two kids, one is a teenager and I really thought that it would be great opportunity to expose my family and me to new cultures, to learn about new people, um, to learn foreign languages, to learn that where we lived in America wasn't the center of the universe but to really broaden our perspectives and the Foreign Service has definitely done that so far.
When I was in Madrid, Spain I was in the economic section, I was the environment, science and technology officer. And so my portfolio included things like energy, renewable energy, things like wind and solar and hydropower, it also included any sorts of science and technology like space cooperation that the United States does a lot of with Spain. And so it encompassed lots of different areas. I would say the areas that took up most of my time as the economic officer in Spain were energy and climate change. Part of what my job was, was to form relationships with those companies, to understand the market in Spain and how U.S. companies could participate and compete in the local Spanish market.
Um, it also involved working with the Spanish companies to identify potential for investment in the United States. Which they have, they’ve made significant investments in the United States. And so a lot of our work was bringing together policy makers on the Spanish side and the American side to talk about how you create financial incentives, how you work through policy to really encourage and get the renewable energy going. If I do my job really well and help the U.S. government to learn new things, to create more effective policies, um, to help around the world to increase security through economic prosperity and helping other countries to integrate with the global economy, you really are making a huge difference.
Part of what attracted me to the public sector was being able to serve the greater good. I have an undergrad in business and I also have an MBA, and I can remember telling people that I was about to join the Foreign Service, I was leaving my job and when I told people I was leaving the private sector as a director of corporate strategy to become a diplomat, people could not make that connection.
Any part of a business doing business internationally with any other country involves a part of our bureau and the Department of State. So we really do important things and it is, there is a broad array of work going on in the Department of State on economic issues, and so I think an MBA is great preparation for being a Foreign Service officer in the economic career track.
Alan, U.S. Diplomat, Economic Career Track
I realized a lifelong dream when I was accepted into the State Department.
My name is Alan. I currently work in the operation center. We connect the department principals from embassies around the world. We brief them to news and information.
One of the reasons that I wanted to join the Foreign Service was my second grade teacher. One of the things she taught us was that there were people whose job it was to go and make friends in other countries and prevent wars and those people were called diplomats.
Wherever there is peace, there is diplomacy. So there is a great satisfaction in serving my country and maybe leave the world in a little bit better place than you found it.
There is no such thing as a slow day and the work itself is fascinating. There is no component of international relations that doesn't depend on the State Department. So there's a weighty responsibility there. You are, for all intents and purposes, America, to them.
When I was in Algeria, I actually observed Ramadan as an act of solidarity with the people who worked in my section. At the end of each night of Ramadan, there is what's called an Iftar and an Iftar is a feast. I was actually invited to a number of iftars by my friends and it was pretty amazing to experience their culture.
The travel is tremendously exciting.
Algeria is a place that has tremendously under-explored Roman ruins. My experiences in Algeria really opened my eyes to the impact of the work that we do.
There is a great satisfaction in serving my country but there's also a great satisfaction in knowing that I am making the world a better place.
Clark, U.S. Diplomat, Economic Career Track
I'm Clark and I'm an economic officer at the State Department. I’m currently the deputy director of the Russia desk. Well, I'm from Philadelphia, the surburbs and I, uh, when I graduated from college which was in Chicago, the University of Chicago, I really really really wanted to study German because when I was in high school I took this philosophy course and I had read Friedrich Nietzsche and I thought he was wigged out and really cool and so i said I’m going to learn German and read it in the original. And I did.
But I did the wise thing and I tried to work in the finance sector in the NASD, and I did that and was bored to tears, to be honest. So I said what I really want to do, what my dream is to be an FSO, to be a foreign service officer working and living overseas. So i took the test and I passed it. And I came in '89 and I’ve done a whole bunch of different jobs. I’ve been in Cyprus where I was head of the, what was it, the commercial assistance and economic office with a huge range of responsibilities.
I’ve been a staff aid to an ambassador. I’ve been working on Greece where I was the economic counselor, in Israel as well and now on the Russia desk. One of the really neat things about the Department is that it actually trains you in these languages. We actually have our own university, um, and uh as part of the job when you get assigned you actually have a responsibility frequently to learn the language. And so within my first months of joining the Department I got Greek training for, I think it was six months. You get to learn the foreign languages, you get to actually practice them.You get to read the newspapers and your job is to understand the foreign culture.And that's really neat because you're not a tourist.
You’re like living in the country for two or three years and by the time you leave, you're an expert on that country. And its idiosyncrasies and explaining those idiosyncrasies to policy makers back home here in Washington. The economic track encompasses a really wide range of issues, um, environment, science, technology and health assistance projects depending on where you are. You may be the assistance officer as I was actually in two posts. And sometimes it goes really far beyond what you think. Because in India I worked in the environment section and I was in charge of environmental projects and these included tiger tracking, elephant tracking, a project with the national park service at the Taj Mahal, and I mean come on, what other job is going to give you that? I mean, really.
And if you're going to be good at your job that means you're going to have to push yourself to learn about an entirely new culture, set of relations, and it forces you, especially as you move up in the ranks, to become more efficient, more thoughtful and just introduces you to the world as it really is, you know, the tough compromises involved in diplomacy. I'm an advocate for the United States and for our diplomatic values. I mean, I am!
When I meet, particularly younger people, who ask me about the Foreign Service and whether they should look into it, I tell them if you're intrigued by foreign cultures, if you find that when you travel you really get a kick out of it, and you're kind of the type who likes to go in the back alleys and see what people are really doing beyond the tourist resorts, look at the Foreign Service because that's kind of what we do. We like really try to understand deeply a foreign culture and explain it to people back home and get paid for it.
Heidi, U.S. Diplomat, Economic Career Track
My parents had a tremendous amount of personal pride when I was actually selected for the Foreign Service. My name is Heidi and I'm a U.S. Foreign Service officer working at the U.S. embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I have also served in El Salvador, China and Malaysia. I am a daughter of immigrants to the United States and my family in Honduras had a very rich civic participation ethic. For me to represent their new country overseas was an extraordinary, extraordinary achievement. Sometimes people have this perception that the United States is a very homogeneous society when in reality we are a fusion of cultures. It's intellectually stimulating to be working on issues that show up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.
In El Salvador I was able to help facilitate and moderate a public debate on their economy. I certainly do my best to represent the United States overseas. I think in terms of contributing to changing peoples' perceptions, not just about the United States, but also about their own societies. To empower people so that they themselves begin to demand more from their political leadership. What you are able to draw from this experience is so rewarding. It really does enrich you as a person.
Miriam, U.S. Diplomat, Economic Career Track
My name is Miriam and I work in the Operations Center at the State Department, and I’ve been the Foreign Service six years. I’ve served in two assignments where I’ve been an economic officer. I served in the consulate in Jerusalem and I served in the embassy in Athens. In both posts, um, I worked a lot on environment issues. We worked a great deal with the Palestinian Authority on how to ramp up their ability to conserve and protect their resources. Um, in, uh, Athens, I worked a lot on how to change the image of the U.S. vis a vis the Greek public
I work in the operations center at the state department, I’m a watch officer. There’s about 40 of us, um, and essentially we’re the hub of information for the State Department. So, obviously, our primary principle is the Secretary, we support the Secretary and her staff and in fact the rest of the building. This becomes particularly critical during the off hours and when, you know, especially on the weekends and holidays. We’re there to, uh, understand the information that is happening, news events that are happening, alert key principles and basically really be a nerve center for the State Department.
So it’s been I think both physically and personally challenging because a lot of the work is shift work and so we work, uh, early mornings, afternoons, overnight shifts, so we frequently are leaving the building when people are coming into work. But at the same time the experience has been incredible. I’ve learned so much from my one year in ops both how to brief, how to alert, how to understand information. You know, we’ve had, it’s only April and we’ve had a slew of crises already with the Haiti earthquake, the blizzard that paralyzed a lot of the area and then also the earthquake in Chile. It’s been fascinating to see what our response is, how our interagency process works, how we work with the Defense Department, how we work with the White House.
There is a lot of really interesting dimensions of economic work that are incredible. I really enjoyed working on the telecom portfolio in Jerusalem, working with our group back here on building an independent telecom regulatory agency in the Palestinian Authority and trying to get them up to speed on how to do that, how to implement accountability. I was working with the medical director of a Palestinian hospital and he sat me down in his office for about 30 minutes and yelled at me for everything that is going wrong with American foreign policy. Then when he finished we carried on with a conversation what his needs were and how we could change things. I remember at my farewell in Jerusalem, you know, he just came over and hugged me. Although we may or may not always agree with our foreign policy, there is some good that can be done, whether it’s on a microscopic level or not and that really, that person to person contact can really change a dynamic.
Todd, U.S. Diplomat, Economic Career Track
My name is Todd, and I'm in the Economic career track.
I was working in the Middle East, and as you know, there's a whole lot of conflict there. I was working in a country that was coming up on a major conflict. We were working with the U.S. military very closely through the Embassy there. The U.S. military had been working directly with the state oil company to purchase the fuel supplies they would need to enter into this conflict if it was going to happen. And they had a lot of technical discussions that had become very bogged down in political issues. The officials from the oil company were concerned about the political ramifications of doing this deal.
I was called in to provide some assistance through the military and through the Ambassador. So I pulled together a meeting of our military officials and a large number of officials from the government and from the oil company. We all walked in and all of our host nation friends were sitting on one side of the table, and all of the Americans were sitting on the other. And the comment I made as we walked in was, "It's unfortunate that we don't have a table with a single side, because clearly we're all on the same side in this issue." And it kind of broke the ice, and it changed the tenor of the conversation immediately and immensely.
You know, you can have a huge impact on advancing U.S. foreign policy goals, and international security goals from within the economic track. It's not a career that you have to have a specialized education for, or a special interest in foreign cultures or something. You need to have a desire to serve your country, and you need to " we need a State Department that represents all of the United States.
Tom, U.S. Diplomat, Economic Career Track
My name is Tom and I specialize in Economics here at the State Department. I was in my first tour as a Consular Officer at the Consulate General in Guangzhou, China. And that was the day after NATO forces accidentally bombed the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia. And so, there were, of course, when the news came out, it incensed a lot of Chinese citizens. And it created so much anger that the streets filled with Chinese and they went to protest at all of our missions throughout China.
And so, the day after, May 8th, the protests really started happening, and we drew down the Consulate to a handful of people. And so, I was one of those people who stayed behind, and one of my jobs was to make sure that some of the sensitive materials and sensitive items that were in the Consulate were properly secured and, in some cases, destroyed.
I've always wanted to join the Foreign Service because it provides obviously you work overseas and I think living and working overseas is just exciting and very challenging because you live in a different environment you're away from the norms and the values that you're most accustomed to, and you learn to try and adapt to the environment that you're in, while retaining who you are at the core, and being overseas advocating for the United States, articulating American foreign policy and representing America, that for me that I've always wanted to do.
And so, the great thing about the Foreign Service and the Department of State is that in a sense, it's almost you learn from every job and you build upon that experience and knowledge so that in the end, you would have the skills, the knowledge and the abilities to run an embassy, to be an ambassador, to be an integral part of developing and implementing foreign policy at the highest levels.
Victor, U.S. Diplomat, Economic Career Track
My name is Victor. I'm a Foreign Service Officer in the Economic career track. I've always been interested in economic issues, especially economic recovery after some war or other type of crisis. And the, with the Economic career track you get a chance to go overseas and report on whatever important economic issues are going on at that time.
So you get to sort of be the Secretary of State's own Financial Times reporter or something like that which is really exciting to me to get to be the eyes and ears of U.S. decision makers. My path to get into this career came through one of the Department's fellowship programs, the Pickering Fellowship. I entered the undergraduate program in 2002, and the program included some summer enrichment opportunities such as a domestic and an overseas internship.
I worked domestically at the office that deals with failed states which really highlights my interest in economic recovery. And then overseas I worked in Ghana, a very exciting summer during the World Cup, and got a chance to cover economic issues related to arms smuggling. Well, I’m now in my second assignment; my first assignment was as a Consular Officer in Hong Kong. It gave me a chance to see crises, not on a broad scale level, because Hong Kong is a very easy to live place, but on a small scale personal level. Because Consular Officers often see people who are in personal crises; Americans who have been hospitalized or imprisoned abroad. Now in my second assignment I have ,um, the sort of a global portfolio, I’m a Watch Officer. So I work in the Secretary of State's 24 hour operations center. And our job is to keep decision-makers informed about issues that are happening all over the world.
I think the most important skill I that brought to the table was writing skills. To be able to look at a pile of numbers or a bunch of news stories and to make some sense out of them. The most important skill that I’ve gained from the job has been communication skills. Being able to stand up in front of foreign audiences, in a language I did not speak before I came to the Department of State.Well, the Department of State will train you in the languages that you need for your next job.So I came into the Department of State with some Mandarin Chinese skills, and those have been improved to a professional level so that I’m no longer just talking about topics about a college dormitory but I can talk about my job, talk about economic issues in Mandarin Chinese. And I’ve also learned quite a bit of Cantonese as well. Both were helpful in helping me in learn about Hong Kong while I was there.
I’m passionate about development. And one of the great things about the Economic track is that you’re in a position where you can be the eyes and ears of the government and help to explain the crises that are unfolding and if you get it right, if you can diagnose the problem correctly, then you can lead to some good solutions.
James, U.S. Diplomat, Economic Career Track
My name is Jim, and I’m an Economic Officer in the Foreign Service. I remember, that early on during the first year I was here, I was actually put in charge of negotiating a staffing agreement for the new terrorist threat integration center, which was a new center that integrates all of the terrorist threats that come in from all the different agencies. It was very interesting work.
And then, a year later, I was in Sao Paolo, Brazil and I was taking the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee to a sugar plantation to see how ethanol was made. Then, a year later, I was in a classroom in Arlington, Virginia and I was learning Mandarin Chinese, which had always been a dream of mine. A year later I was Shanghai, China and I was speaking Spanish to a group of Puerto Rican counterfeiters who had been selling, um, trying to pass off fake dollars. And I was talking to them in Spanish and trying to talk to the jailers in Chinese. A year later I was in Southern China and I was working with a World War II veteran who had been arrested for public nudity, and um, trying to convince the local authorities to let him go home where he needed to get medical attention.
A year later, I was five floors beneath Manhattan deep in the bedrock. I was in the Federal Reserve’s gold vault. And I was doing a briefing and receiving a briefing from the Federal Reserve where they were talking to us about sovereign debt and paying off different debts using the gold bars that are down there.
I’m the only college graduate in a family of firefighters. And, uh, you know I was really inspired by my father’s heroic public service, and I knew that when I grew up I wanted to do a job or have a career that involved public service. But also involved adventure, you know, and you know growing up in Las Vegas I'd see all of these foreign tourists coming in and visiting my city. And I remember as a small kid looking at them and wondering, why are they coming to my town and what is like where they’re from, and I always wanted to know what it would be like to really see like where they were from.
I frequently have to explain to my friends and family from back home what it is I do and why it’s important. And as an Economic Officer what we do is we formulate, and then implement U.S. economic foreign policy. When we work in the embassies overseas, right, or in the consulates abroad, we're really implementing the foreign policy that's been made here in Washington. We’re the people that are taking it to the foreign government telling and what is they do good, what it is they need to change and how they can, how we can help them improve.
I met my wife in law school. My wife is also a Foreign Service Officer; we're a tandem couple. That’s what they call it when two Foreign Service Officers are married; they call us a tandem couple, they move us around together, we're stationed together we're able to kind of have our own careers in the same place. And we move around together.
And uh, we decided in law school we didn’t want to be practicing attorneys. We liked each other too much. We wanted to be able to have a life. And, um, so much of what international law is and what law students think of as being international law is what Foreign Service Officers do. Especially Economic Officers. Because we're the people who, in many cases, are actually are actually doing the treaty negotiation. We work with the U.S .Trade Representative’s office.We’re frequently sitting in on the negotiations and the meetings and the working groups that are leading up to the two figureheads who sign that treaty or sign that agreement. We’re the ones that are hammering out all the details.
We represent U.S. foreign economic policy to the world to foreign governments and to foreign audiences, and that has an impact. To me, the impact there is actually U.S. jobs. I think of the livelihoods of the people who work back in America, the people that I grew up with, the people that I serve as a public servant. And what I do overseas makes it so that they have a better economic future and their children and my children have better economic future. Not only are we talking about having a more prosperous America, but having a more prosperous world.
It's something that the people back at home in America, they need that voice, they need someone to tell the world that, that the U.S. stands for prosperity; and not just American prosperity, but world prosperity. And that's my job.
Alaina, U.S. Diplomat, Management Career Track
Hi. My name is Alaina. I'm in the management career track. I have lots of stories over my entire career, but there is one that sticks in my mind. I was woken up by the sound of the radio. We all had radios for emergency communication. And it was a Peace Corps volunteer who was having a medical problem. And there was really nobody available to respond to him. I supervised the health unit, and I had the keys to the office. I knew where the medical supplies were. I knew how to get the doctor, and as a result, the volunteer was able to get the treatment he needed and go on his way.
There are crises of all kinds that come along, and you really have to be prepared to act. And I think that's the key — is being able to act outside of the box. Knowing how to apply your knowledge, your authority, your resources to a problem and solving it. I've really enjoyed my career with the Department and in the management track in particular Being able to see the results of my work, whether it's a new building we've acquired, somebody I've hired, a project that we've been able to fund and undertake and make happen. All those things contribute certainly to enormous personal satisfaction, but I'm also honored to be a servant of the American people…to be out there pursuing our administration and our country's foreign policy. And I think that at the end of the day, every time I've had a rough day, that what I look back on and think, "This is why I'm here. This is what makes it important and worthwhile."
Cherie, U.S. Diplomat, Management Career Track
My name is Cherie, and I'm a Management Officer, and that is my career track. The day that mattered the most for me in my 19 years in the Foreign Service has been or was September 11th, 2001. And the reason for that is that I had been in Mexico City for less than one month.
We -my husband and I - were a tandem couple. We had arrived there in August 2001. We had tremendously high expectations during our tour. We had word of the first acts, which everybody thought at that point was a tragic accident and as we got to work, it became apparent to all of us in the press section that this was no accident. So, we- I assembled my staff and I said this is a very this is a very unusual event. We’re going to have to work very hard here all day, so I want all of you together with me.
We’re going to be huddled in my office preparing whatever we can in terms of press guidance, in terms of information for the public. There was no clear guidance from Washington at that post, so we were extracting information from Washington as we could, translating it as soon as we could and releasing it, and working the phones as well with the Mexican press, which was already starting to get a little bit frantic for news.
So as the public assembled and as the press assembled, we drafted a short statement for the ambassador. He went out and he delivered that statement, and he turned to me and he said, okay, you’re on your own. You go out there and you need to continue feeding the press the information that it needs and the public to let them know what is going on and what we are doing. And I went into the middle of what seemed to be thousands of people with cameras clicking, tape recorders whirring, people with pen and pencils, just flying, and a million questions at the same time. And I just thought, okay, this is a situation where I can really make or break, and I thought this it, this is where being a Foreign Service officer really makes such a difference, and that you can be cast into situations where you never would have expected to be in the middle of.
I had graduated from college and I worked for a year and a half as a program manager at the Organization of American States. And my husband was a Marine, a Marine pilot, so we lived in a military base for about five years. And one day he looked at me and I looked at him and we said, we should really take the Foreign Service test. It’s something we were always interested in and we did, and much to our surprise, we kept passing each section of the test. And I came in shortly after he came in, and it's been it's been quite a rollercoaster for the last 19 years. We've been able to make it work. It's been a wonderful career for both of us.
Danny, U.S. Diplomat, Management Career Track
My name is Danny and I'm in the management track. The day that mattered the most to me was in December on my first assignment. There was attack on our consulate in Jeddah - and I was stationed at our embassy in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia and was sent to Jeddah right after the attack to kind of deal with the aftermath. We had lost five of our colleagues and I was sent down there as a management officer to deal with kind of rebuilding the infrastructure, kind of rebuilding our offices, refortifying our security, and overseeing kind of the morale and rebuilding the morale of an office that had lost, five of its employees.
The lessons that I pulled away from it, which--one was just the extent to which American values and American people are respected around the world, even in a region kind of filled with anti-Americanism like the Middle East. It was incredible to see--you know, in my flight from Riyadh to Jeddah, to see how many people had come up to me knowing that I was coming from the embassy and giving their condolences and telling, telling me that this was no reflection on the American people and they loved our values.
The Foreign Service gives us a unique experience to be able to really change the world. But I came into it with just a passion for learning about other cultures and a passion for my own culture, the American values and American system, and eager to share that with other people. And I think a lot of times, people sit on the sidelines and are frustrated with the way the world is going or the directions we're going as a country or the different policies we have, and this career gives you the ability to make a real difference, and you can touch people's lives.
Ed, U.S. Diplomat, Management Career Track
I'm Ed and I'm a Management Officer
It was my first tour and I was assigned to Duala, Cameroon, in West Africa.
And I was a Management Officer and it was pretty interesting because I'd been in the job for a year, and as a Management Officer, you do a whole bunch of duties, but a big part of my job was as, was handling shipping. I get a call from the embassy saying that I was going to get a shipment from the Smithsonian in Washington, and it was supposed to be a statue, and we were to return it.
And I learned the story here, and it belonged to a traditional society in the rural part of western Cameroon in the grassland area near the Nigerian border.
And it belonged to a kingdom and a king it was a traditional king from a former country called Kom, and this object was called the Afo-A-Kom.
It meant that it belonged to the Kom this is where the traditional king got his authority, his cultural authority. So the deal was we had to return this to the king of Kom.
So, I put it all back together and the next day, I had a consulate vehicle and myself, my wife and the Consul General and a driver. We took off for western Cameroon and as we all get close to the village of Kom,
we start seeing the road lined with all these people. And people are drumming and they're singing and in every village, there were a couple of guys with homemade muskets made from the driveshaft of a Peugeot 504,
which is partially hollow and filled with black powder and set off great noise and a lot of smoke. There was a big celebration that the Afo-A-Kom was coming home. The whole region was turning out to see it.
And the fawn received us, and we were still a ways away, and some of his envoys came up and whispered to me that this is a patriarchal society and only males can be in the immediate surroundings of the king.
So, I went up to see the king. Now I was forbidden to touch him, so I didn't shake hands or anything, but I made a little speech. "I'm proud to be here on behalf of the United States government, and return this important and sacred object to you."
And so, he was very pleased at this, and I was instructed that I would get to drink schnapps from the hand of the king. Okay.
Couldn't touch him. A bottle of schnapps came out and somebody poured it into the right hand of the king, and it dribbled out, and I had to drink the dribbles — which I did, and not very much.
And the king and the rest of us went around to the front of the palace and there was my wife and the consul general, who were waiting the respectful distance away. And I was told I was to be honored by the king and made an ambassador to his court.
And I thought that was pretty special and I also thought it was pretty special that after just one year in the Foreign Service, somebody decided to make me an ambassador.
Kaara, U.S. Diplomat, Management Career Track
My name is Kaara and I've been a management officer at State Department for over 25 years. I'd be hard pressed to pick, out of my 25 years, one day that was the best day. I've had a very odd career path for a management officer because I speak Russian rather well. I--out of my 25 years, 14 years have been spent in Russia or the Soviet Union.
I was there when Chernobyl blew, and we didn't know if we were going to have to get everyone out of post, women of childbearing age and children. I was there when we lost the local employees. I was there when the Iron Curtain came down and we started being able to hire Soviet citizens again and the Soviet Union broke up into 14 or 15 independent states.
One of the best things I like about management work is, we are the platform. Nothing happens on the policy side unless management officers get the buildings out there, hire the people, make sure you get the right people for the ambassador, make sure that you're getting everyone paid and that you're getting them paid as well as they can be paid.
The Foreign Service matters to the American public because we are the peaceful arm of making sure our relationships with other countries are amicable …and that we protect American citizens, we protect American interests overseas.
And we can't do any of that, we can't protect American citizens and we can't protect our interests unless we have that diplomatic platform, and a management officer is what ensures the ambassador that we have that platform.
Mike, U.S. Diplomat, Management Career Track
My name is Mike Raynor. I'm currently the Deputy Executive Director in the Bureau of African Affairs.
I was a management officer in Conakry, Guinea, in West Africa. We were just going into a holiday weekend and got a call from our DCM saying that we needed to meet urgently at his house for some reason and we all rushed over there to find out what it was. He'd basically gotten word that we would need to evacuate people from Sierra Leone to Guinea. Guinea is itself sort of a hardship post. It doesn't have very good infrastructure. It's not the sort of place you normally expect to evacuate people to.
Within a few hours we had a U.S. military warship off the coast, and it started to ferry helicopters back and forth between Sierra Leone and Guinea. And my job as the management officer was to be the senior officer at the airport handling that evacuation. Our job was essentially to reengineer this airport to make it an evacuation center to marshal the volunteers from the embassy to do everything from making sandwiches to donating diapers. Um, and the helicopters started to come. And we had over a few days; a couple thousand people come in through this tiny airport in this -- in this sort of dusty African environment. And our job was to get these people, many of whom had been traumatized; we had rape victims, people who had suffered horrible violence looking to us to be their sort of conduit to safety.
It was about a five-day period during which there was very little sleep and very little downtime. But it resulted in a couple things. One is it saved those people, but another, another thing is that we did a good enough job that the military was able to do a sort of second phase of the operation. So, they actually went back and got out several hundred more people than they had planned or expected to bring out. So, in all it was just a very sort of meaningful experience.
Management work is always about people and, and doing things for people, so its always got that sense of reward, but in this case it sort of took it all to a higher plane.
Ray, U.S. Diplomat, Management Career Track
My name is Ray. I'm in the Management career track. When I was a post management officer in the AF Bureau, I covered East Africa all the countries in East Africa…and at the time, we were in the process of moving the embassy in Sudan from Nairobi back to Khartoum. We moved back to an old hotel, which was an embassy building. There were lots of problems with the building in terms of security.
At one point, the proceeding of a particular meeting, there was just all of this bickering back and forth. And we were moving nowhere. We weren't pushing the ball down the road, so to speak. And so I slammed my hand down on the table. And it got real quiet. You could've heard a pin drop. And I said, "Today, we in this room have to decide if Embassy Khartoum is going to be an embassy of the United States, or a hole in the wall."I said it like that. And I think that it crystallized something inside people's brains.
And, all of a sudden, I added that we had to make these decisions we have to make this thing work this thing representative of the United States of America. And in the process of re-establishing operations in Khartoum sort of got ratcheted up to a new level. So, that was one day one discreet moment in time when a slap of my hand and making a statement got everybody to focus everybody’s attention, and I think I made a difference.
Richard, U.S. Diplomat, Management Career Track
What appealed to me most about the Foreign Service was the ability to help people.
My name is Richard. I am a Foreign Service officer in the Management track. I currently work in the office of the Secretary of State. We advance the travel of the Secretary of State, going out 5 or 6 days in advance to prepare the program. We negotiate with the host government on who she's going to meet. The State Department has brought me to every corner of the globe and taught me a couple of languages. They trained me from scratch on how to be an effective diplomat.
When I was first assigned to West Africa they taught me French. I was a Political Officer first year. I reported on human rights abuses. I traveled up country reporting on child labor practices on cocoa plantations. After that I went to Paris where I was a Consular Officer. I interviewed applicants who wanted to travel to the United States. I helped American citizens who were traveling to France. We're the face of America to the world. We value differences. We value different cultures. We want to show how our diversity is our strength. You can't help but feel pride for what you do.
It's filled with adventure and intrigue and a keen sense of mission. I can't wait until I have grandkids and tell them stories about what I used to do.
Wayne, U.S. Diplomat, Management Career Track
My name is Wayne and I'm in the management career track. I was the General Services officer in Jerusalem we found out during a celebration that the prime minister had been assassinated. The next day, that delegation arrived, headed by the President, several Congressmen and the Secretary, and a number of other American dignitaries and we were pressed into service to make that American representation at his funeral work.
On that particular day, I think what we needed was steady nerves. We needed to show firm leadership because a lot of people who were involved weren't necessarily aware of the big picture. So we had to keep them in track, keep them involved and keep them in line. I think that, you know, the skills that you acquire in a lot of other fields are relevant to what we do in management.
I come from a pretty diverse background. I was in the Marine Corps. I was in Sales & Marketing both for soft drinks and wine beverages, and everyday I feel as if I'm selling somebody something. We worked extremely hard it was the kind of thing that you train for, but you can't really train for at that level, because we never expected anything like that on our watch, and the fact that we pulled it off in about 36 hours no sleep, no shift work everybody worked.
It made me feel as if my job was important; that I couldn't imagine doing anything that mattered more.
Francisco, U.S. Diplomat, Political Career Track
My name is Francisco. I'm a political officer.
It was the day the first Gulf War started and I was working in the State Department operations center, the crisis management center of the Department I was not on shift, but as the reports came in around 5 o'clock that evening that the war had started, I'm picking up my girlfriend at the time and I said, "You'd better drop me off at the Department, they might need, some help." And I walked in, and of course, everything was just completely underway and we were beginning to coordinate the Department's crisis response, how we were going to help American citizens get out of the region.
It's a team effort in, in the operations center, as it is in an embassy with a country team. Everyone has a critical role that they play in the conduct of diplomacy the crisis management center, the operations center of the Department, actually draws in people from all of the career tracks.
We are managing the consular response. Consular track officers are critical to helping understand what we can do to help American citizens overseas in a crisis, so they work in the operations center.
Economic officers are helping us put together the sanctions regime that led up to that actual moment of violence where they were helping try to put together the economic sanctions or incentives that could help persuade the Iraqis.
And then the management track officers are the ones who make the place run. You've got to have management officers in the operations center as well because they understand how you get people into places where they can make those critical contributions.
Linissa, U.S. Diplomat, Political Career Track
You won't start off stapling paper. You'll start off actually doing something important.
My name is Linissa. I work at the U.S. embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon. As soon as I came in the Foreign Service, I went to Sudan. When I found out I was going to Sudan, my mom was in shock. I think for her the issue was safety. But the more and more she learned about the country, the more and more she became comfortable.
One of the key things that foreign service officers need to do is to make friends with people that are from the country that you're in. They're your best source of information. They help you learn about the culture, they help you learn about the political situation.
So often when you're in the United States you see the world from one view. It's like you have a camera lens here. But when you go overseas, the camera lens sort of shifts and you see it in a whole different perspective, and so you have a more complete view of how the world really is.
One time I visited Darfur with Sudanese government officials to look at the situation of violence against women. And I said I understand your situation, and the United States, we care. We are doing everything we can to make the situation better for you. That really made me love being in the Foreign Service, to actually give hope to people. I would definitely recommend joining the Foreign Service. Because you represent America. You represent America and its diversity.
Manu, U.S. Diplomat, Political Career Track
I think this is about as challenging a time as any for a U.S. Foreign Service officer to be out in the field telling America's story.
My name is Manu. I'm a Foreign Service officer. I'm currently working as a staff assistant in the East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau. I happen to be a first generation immigrant. I spent 12 years in the private sector before joining the department.
The State Department I think has done a wonderful job of getting newly recruited Foreign Service officers up and running. They realize that entering classes the Foreign Service officers come from a wide array of backgrounds. For many it's a mid-career jump.
Once your assignments are known, then they give you more detailed training in that particular job that you'll be doing as well. I think part of our job is to understand the local psyche, the local thought processes, understand the nuances that are embedded in the culture and in the language. You really have to, to some extent, throw yourself in it. But you have to find that happy balance between understanding the local culture and promoting U.S. views as well.
My first posting with the State Department was in Manila, in the Philippines. A lot of Filipino entertainers were victims of the sex trade in Japan. And with a lot of political pressure, a lot of discussion, negotiations, the Japanese government ended up changing its visa regulations and I saw that play out first hand.
It makes you feel very good when you're able to help somebody and you've done your job right. There's been a positive outcome, that's a great feeling.
Mariju, U.S. Diplomat, Political Career Track
My name is Mariju and I’m a Political track Officer in the Foreign Service. I joined the Foreign Service in 2004. I came to the Department in 2001, actually September 11 was my second day at work, and so it made quite an impression on me and I decided I wanted to stay and work for the government. Because originally I came in on a fellowship program called the Presidential Management Fellowship program and I had planned on clerking for a district court judge in the area immediately after law school; but because of the historic events of September 11, I made a commitment to myself to give back to my government and to my country.
And since then, I have travelled around the world as a Foreign Service Officer in several countries. I’ve been posted to Mexico, Ecuador, Greece and I am now back in the Department, this is my second day of work on the France desk. Did I ever think I was going to work for the State Department and become an American diplomat? No, I did not. I always thought diplomats were important people from important families and I had no idea we had a Foreign Service and that we had a system of selecting people to represent our country. And I actually, it's all kind of fortunate that I became a member of the Foreign Service through the State Department.
I started my career actually doing counterterrorism. I began in the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism. I had the multilateral portfolio and then coordinated our counterterrorism efforts in international organizations such as the European Union, the G-8, the Group of Eight, and from there I kind of made multilateral diplomacy my area of expertise. I think 9/11 was the starting point for me to understand that I was going to dedicate my career and my life to public service and to the U.S. government. And I found the best way I could do that was actually representing my country overseas and being an American diplomat overseas is like no other lesson in patriotism.
You are that voice representing our country back home. And whether that has been in having to call a family member and saying "I’m sorry to inform you that on behalf of the Department of State I must let you know that your son has passed away in Mexico," or if that means speaking to a former president of a country and reassuring that former president that yes, the United States is obviously very interested in what's happening in your country.
Every basic lesson for me is that I’m an American and whoever I’m speaking with or interacting with is coming away with some sort of impression or feeling about my country. And so it's so important to me that in everything I do here in Washington or overseas that I’m creating the most positive impression of what my values are as an American. I can't do this anywhere else in terms of furthering our policy goals and doing that with other countries and being able to celebrate all of the values that our country cherishes; it's democracy and human rights and equal treatment under the law, and for me, being an American is such an honor and a privilege.
And I’m just so grateful, that the bottom-line is that I get to share that love of my country every single day.
Navarro, U.S. Diplomat, Political Career Track
My name is Navarro, I am assigned to our U.S. embassy in San Salvador, El Salvador, and I am in the Political career track. I was born in Atlanta but I grew up in Southern Georgia, in Valdosta, a rather small city about 15 minutes away from the Georgia/Florida border, just about as South in Georgia as you can possibly get.
So I grew up there, I attended high school at Valdosta High School and I did my undergraduate work at Valdosta State University. I took a class on international relations, um, really at that point not even knowing, you know, having heard about the State Department, but nothing more than that. And so, that's the first time I really heard about the State Department.
I graduated in 2006 with my bachelor's degree in political science, and I moved here to D.C., I interned in Congress for a while. I realized I didn't want to take that path and I worked here in D.C. as well at the Federal Regulatory Commission as a campaign finance analyst for about a year, year and a half, until I figured out I didn't want to work in that arena as well.
Around this time, I heard about the Pickering program which is a special fellowship program that's funded by the Department of State and administered by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. So I went to school, I received a master's degree and um, but during this time I was in graduate school I had to do two internships, another stipulation of the program. I did two more internships with State, one in Bangkok, Thailand and another here in D.C. so in total I did three internships, a master's degree, an internship in Congress, and another year and a half working here, like I said, at the Federal Regulatory Commission before I actually started working in September of last year as a diplomat.
So, persistence is definitely the key. I would definitely say visit the website because there are so, so many resources on the website that explain everything in great detail. There are surveys, there are quizzes about which track may work better for you, there are lots of resources on the website. But also in several geographic locations, several different locations across the country, there are Diplomats-in-Residence who are people who are specifically placed by the State Department in these areas,
I know actually in Florida there are two, there's one in Miami and also one in Tallahassee and there's one in Atlanta as well. And these people are placed here in these areas, in these universities, and their job is to sort of to reach out and to mentor people, college students, who want to maybe pursue a career or an internship with the State Department.
One of the main things I would definitely say is that, you have to believe in the service component of the Foreign Service because they're, the benefits and all the privileges are very well explained and people know about those things but there's also a service aspect, and things don't always work out to plan, things don't always go the way you want them to. However, you always have to remember that you are serving your country.
Ricardo, U.S. Diplomat, Political Career Track
I'm Ricardo and I'm a political officer.
I was a consular officer in a small border post in Matamoros, Mexico, and our job there was to help U.S. citizens who ran into trouble overseas. In this case, it was a young man who had been with some friends and one of his friends tried to pass a fake traveler's check. The perpetrator was able to get off on bail, as were all the other young students who were with him, but this one person, who was in this instance honestly just in the wrong place at the wrong time, became the subject of the irritation of a overworked and overtaxed Mexican prosecutor who was looking at ways to basically put him into jail for several months to several years.
During the hearing, it was clear that the prosecutor was changing the testimony as he went along and essentially changed the plea from innocent to guilty and had the American citizen on a track to go to jail for, again, several months to several years for something that was really not only minor, but he actually hadn't carried out and the guilty party had already been excused from punishment. So as a consular officer, I intervened and, and reviewed had them review the court testimony and correct the court testimony, and in a matter of a few minutes, essentially changed this, this American citizen's life in a meaningful way.
The internship program is probably one of the best programs that the Department of State has and what it does is it offers you a way to basically get a cross-section of whatever bureau or embassy you happen to be working in, but a good way to have an opportunity to see what the work is really about, because for the most part the students who participate in the internships do actually do the work that we do and it's not generally administrative work, it's the work that Foreign Service officers do, and it's a chance to observe that and to participate in that.
I had a chance to intern with the Department of State in Uruguay and this was in 1992, and I was finishing up my undergraduate degree and I realized that it was what I wanted to do. And so I after graduating from college started working for a trade association in the Washington area, but really focused myself on finding a way finding a time to take the Foreign Service exam, to take the Foreign Service exam, and it was relatively quick after that.
Uzra, U.S. Diplomat, Political Career Track
Hi, I'm Uzra. I'm from the political career track.
I think the day that mattered most to me was immediately after the terrorist attacks of September 11th in 2001. I was working in the UN Office of Political Affairs in the State Department and amid the shock of witnessing the devastation that happened in New York and at the Pentagon and being concerned for our colleagues and all our fellow Americans, we really had to come together to work as a team to try to respond to this terrible outrage, but also to try to mobilize the international community to come together to unify, to fight terrorism.
A team of colleagues and I from our office, from offices throughout the Department, from Legal Affairs, from the Economic Bureau, from bureaus throughout the building, came together to work on a project to see how we could mobilize the United Nations to respond more directly to the threat to international peace and security posed by terrorism, and I was very proud to have been part of a project that came up with the elements for the first binding Security Council resolution against terrorism. That's Resolution 1373. I think working for the State Department is something for people who, one, are looking to have a direct impact and I think one of the greatest things we can do as State Department employees, no matter what your track is, no matter what your position is, whether you are the most junior or in a senior position of responsibility, it is representing the United States and what we stand for and making those connections with people all over the world.
Andrew, U.S. Diplomat, Public Diplomacy Career Track
My name is Andrew and I'm a Foreign Service Officer on the Public Diplomacy career track and I'm working right now in the Operations Center here at the State Department in Washington, D.C. The communications center for the State Department.
Before this job, um, I went to Japan to teach English for a while; I was there for three years. Really got the bug for living abroad. I really enjoyed that and wanted to find a way to stay in the international arena find a job that gave me a chance to travel, didn't actually do that immediately. I was actually one of the Americans at the Japanese consulate in San Francisco doing similar kind of thing, helping them run of their exchange programs to send people to go teach abroad in Japan like I had done.
Some friends were taking the Foreign Service exam, they suggested hey why don't you come along. I had thought about it a long time before back in college but never really given it that much thought. But then when the opportunity came up and my friends mentioned it I suddenly found myself getting more and more interested in it all over again.
My wife also, um, just gave me that extra push and she had been working as a teacher in San Francisco, but the timing just felt right; she said why don't you go for it. Wound up taking the test and here I am now.
For any Foreign Service couple, family I think you'll find out that you can't really do this job alone. I certainly couldn't do this job without my wife. She, her support is absolutely essential and in a lot of ways her job is harder than mine. When we go overseas I have a job, I can go to the embassy do my job throughout the day, um whether it's processing visas or scheduling press conferences but for spouses who are in the Foreign Service or who are partners in the Foreign Service they're still at home.
They have to find a way to figure out how to find a place for themselves in the new culture, what to do at home throughout the day. There is definitely support from the State Department.
My first tour in the Foreign Service was as a press officer in our embassy in Tokyo. So as a press officer often I would help with different press interviews for VIPs or if our ambassador went somewhere in the country we might arrange press interviews, press gaggles, things like that all of the different press opportunities for them abroad. So I got to follow the ambassador, meet the parents of this abducted girl and then actually arrange for them to be able to walk that same path, coordinate the press, all the way as they talked, as they saw the house they used to live in, the school she used to go to, but most importantly, I was struck by meeting the parents themselves. In this job, more than just the places that I’ve been to, the people that I’ve met have been absolutely incredible.
Daniel, U.S. Diplomat, Public Diplomacy Career Track
Daniel, Public Diplomacy Officer. I guess one of the most interesting days where things really solidified for me, when I really knew I was doing something special, was when on my first assignment in West Africa I was in Mali…and one of my first assignments was to go up to Timbuktu, the fabled city of Timbuktu, I mean who knew it ever even existed, right? But, I got to go to Timbuktu and I had to observe presidential elections that were taking place in the country, and to see people that lived in this austere environment, this sparse, desert land how they were so motivated to come out of the desert, to come from all around, from thousands of hundreds of miles away on camelback to vote for their president.
And at the end of the day in this dusty town after seeing thousands upon thousands of people line up in 100, 120 degree heat to cast their vote, after casting their vote, they would dip their finger in an inkwell and hold it up to prove that they had voted. That evening, my guide invited me to his house and him and his wife and his child cooked for me a meal that I'll never forget, of couscous and lamb and chicken and all of these other dishes and on the roof of their home in the middle of the night, in the middle of the Sahara desert in Timbuktu we ate under the stars and talked about life and our experiences and I realized that I had chosen a career that no one else was getting to experience in the way that I was getting to experience.
Few careers affect people's lives in such a direct and indirect way. You really are the representative of much more than yourself and how you carry yourself and how you conduct your business often means more than just for that immediate situation. It means everything from how our relationship with that country will be, to maybe even the future of our policy, depending on how well you do in that given situation.
Marjorie, U.S. Diplomat, Public Diplomacy Career Track
My name is Marjorie, I’m a Foreign Service Officer and my career track is, uh, public diplomacy. I served four years as the cultural affairs officer in El Salvador and I had the opportunity to share parts of U.S. culture such as a Native American dance group, a blue grass music group, artists, all kinds of exciting and interesting classical music programs with Salvadoran audiences.
I was Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras in Central America and I knew from that point that I wanted to live overseas and work with people and have that kind of career - a Foreign Service type of career. But it didn't happen overnight, I returned to the States, I worked at a law school for 7 1/2 years as the director of admissions. I was recruited to return to Honduras to work for a U.S. government contractor working with refugee. When I was living in Honduras; it happened overnight. I woke up and I had started to lose my eyesight. And I realized then that the only place I could really figure out what was happening and get on with my life was to go back to the United States, get a diagnosis and then move on. And at that time I had my, had an infant daughter so I returned to the U.S. for what I thought was going to be a few months in figuring out what was happening turned out to be 5-7 years in the U.S.
I lost the job in Honduras prior to returning to the U.S. because they told me because I couldn't see, I couldn't do the job. I knew that wasn't the case, I knew that there was something that, I knew I could do the job I just needed to be, the proper training so I returned to the U.S. took computer courses, learned about accommodations, and I knew deep down, I said I’m going to give it a try, I’m going to take the Foreign Service exam. And as most people know it's a long process, I had reasonable accommodations for the written exam, passed the written exam, took the oral exam, had reasonable accommodations and joined the Foreign Service in 2002. My dream came true, it took me, it was a journey but it was a journey that was well worth it.
Served my first two years as a consular officer in northern Mexico, now I’m working at the Foreign Service Institute training other Foreign Service Officers who will be going out to be cultural affairs officers. I am passionate about sharing U.S. values and culture through exchange programs and other artistic and cultural programs abroad. Despite my disability I have been able to open a world of opportunities for foreign students to study in the United States.
Tania, U.S. Diplomat, Public Diplomacy Career Track
My name is Tania and I'm a Foreign Service officer in the Public Diplomacy field. In 1993 I was a brand-new Foreign Service officer in a brand-new embassy in a brand-new country, in Kazakhstan…and, although very junior, I got to play a role in a major foreign policy event.
When I arrived at post, officers more senior to me had been working with the Kazakhstani government to secure dangerous Soviet-era nuclear weapons that had been left in Kazakhstan's territory when the Soviet Union broke apart. When it became clear that the project would go through, it was obvious that the public affairs aspect would be important to prepare the announcement of such a big event and since it was a small embassy, I, the first-tour officer, was the press officer for the embassy, so I was brought into the project fairly early on.
I accompanied our ambassador, along with a couple of other embassy officers, to meet with the Kazakhstani side. On their side, the person speaking with us was the foreign minister of the entire country. So we were having this small meeting to discuss the announcement. Therefore my role, my contribution, was supposed to be important. As it happened, that day I had laryngitis, so I had to whisper my contribution to this very important meeting. But in a demonstration of human empathy, all the other participants whispered back, starting with the foreign minister, so we had this long, intense meeting all in a whisper and it made the whole thing seem even more secret.
In the end, the announcement was covered by the world. It was a big deal. It was probably the height of our relationship--US relationship with Kazakhstan. The fun of Kazakhstan then is there were very few Americans that had ever lived there, so we really got to start from scratch. As I've progressed and done more and more senior jobs in the public diplomacy field, I've probably picked up more skills about how to present a complex policy, how to study a language in a very specialized way, how to manage the people who will help me do my job.
That's one of the most important things that you pick up as you progress in a State Department career. But that openness to a culture, both the State Department's culture and a foreign culture, really set you off on a great foot even if you haven't had a lot of State Department training when you come into the Foreign Service.
Michelle & Mary, U.S. Diplomats, Public Diplomacy Career Track, Political Career Track
My name is Michelle, and I’m in the Public Diplomacy career path and currently working in the Bureau of Public Affairs.
And my name is Mary, and I’m in the Political career track and am currently working on the Poland desk.
I always knew what I wanted to do with my life was public service; I wanted to work in the government.
I didn't really want to go into the army, into the military like my dadand I was interested in foreign affairs, interested foreign policy.
I studied diplomatic history; I got a PhD in diplomatic history.
I realized I didn't want to teach, still was interested in foreign affairs and diplomacy and applied for, took the Foreign Service exam, and passed, and thought that I would give this career a try and see how I liked it.
She was going to blow the exam off and I told her, no, go ahead and do it.
It was at seven in the morning.
And then she passed it and she was going to blow off the oral assessment and I said no, we'll go to DC and do the tourism thing and it'll be great.
And then she passed that, too.
Then they gave her an offer to join and we're like, ok, I guess we need to figure this out now.
She was living in Azerbaijan, she was working with these really smart, fun people; she was getting to really get to know another culture, another place, another language and that just seem liked a really exciting way to spend your life.
And then when we were there we would go on trips; whenever I would go and visit we would go on trips to, you know, um, the upper reaches of Azerbaijan.
Who back in South Carolina where I’m from has even heard of Azerbaijan?
And I have pictures of me and Mary in the mountains up in Gobastan, Goo-ba, Goo-ba? Up in Gooba.
It just seemed like that would be a lot of fun and really interesting.
And a way that we could both serve the country and still be together.
I’m the one who wrangled Mary into this, and I love to get the opportunity to talk to people about the work we do and the experiences that we get because it's just a lot of fun.
And I feel like we do very important work for the country, that our services are very valuable to the country.
And yet we're getting to have these experiences that most people only get to dream about.
I grew up in a very small village in South Carolina.
My familiy are American Indians. Most of them have never left the country.
Most of them have never even had a passport.
And when my grandmother referred to trips overseas, she called them once in a lifetime things.
And I don't think of those as once in a lifetime things anymore.
When we were in Jerusalem, we have a long weekend, let's go to Cairo.
And for so many people that is a once in a lifetime adventure and while we're going through Cairo and only there for a long weekend, we said well you know we missed this but we'll just come back.
And being in the Foreign Service you know that it's realistic to talk that way.
One of the reasons why the Department has selected you to serve is because they want to be able to show the full spectrum of the United States and what our population is like and that means having gay people and straight people and people of all colors and people of all ages.
It also means people with children and people with pets.
And if we all gave up the things about ourselves that made us different, and spoke to sort of the fabric of America is, then there's no reason for them bringing that diversity in the Foreign Service to begin with.
And so you have to sort of select what are the things that are important to you that you need to take with you overseas to still be the person you are and the representative of people like you back in the United States.
And for us, we don't have children, but we have children with fur and that's our choice - and feathers.
That’s the thing that we haven't given up.
And so, for example, we had an opportunity to bid this year on Cairo.
They don't allow birds. We didn't bid on Cairo.
One of the things that I’m getting to do now is, I’m the special assistant to the Assistant Secretary in Public Affairs.
And there are a lot of times when he needs to bounce ideas off of someone in terms of how we're going to craft our message, what we're going to say to the public when he gets up on the podium and starts talking to the reporters, particularly when he's dealing with issues concerning the Middle East, I'll go in there and we'll just talk about ideas. And I’ll be able to help him craft the best way to get our message across to the reporters.
And it's you know it's an area where I can then flip on the TV and watch him do the daily press briefing and say that was my sentence, that was me helping him think through his process.
And I feel like that's an area where I get to make a difference.
When I think about the more memorable experiences they all center around helping.
And so I guess one of the more recent ones is I’m on the Poland desk, I’m the Poland desk officer, and when the plane crashed, the Polish president's plane crashed a month ago, and killed not just the president and the first lady, but a lot of really important people in that government.
And a lot people, the Polish people here at the embassy, were deeply affected by this; it was a really, really hard time for them.
And, um, because I had that relationship with them already, I felt like I was actually do something to help.
It was hard to put my finger on exactly what that was that I could do to help but working here, and working with our embassy in Warsaw we could see that we were, we did matter and this relationship did matter.
I’m an American diplomat; I represent my country and my government and advance the interests of the people of the United States.
I don't know how I can top that.
I went to the University of South Carolina, which is a small school.
It’s, who thought of going into the Foreign Service going to the University of South Carolina majoring in English, and yet I did.
And I have something to contribute.
And I think that most people who find they have any kind of interest in serving the government, serving the country and experiencing the world, living overseas and living with other people will find that there is something they can do within the Foreign Service.
There is, within the five career tracks, some area that would be of interest to them and probably that they've had experience in.
They're probably there is already something that they can contribute to our mission here and overseas and they just don't realize it yet because they haven't been thinking along those lines, they've been thinking that if I didn't study in international studies or foreign service, then this isn't a career for me.
And it absolutely is.
Foreign Service Specialists
Stephanie, Foreign Service Specialist, Construction Engineer
I’m Stephanie, I’m a Foreign Service Specialist and I’m a construction engineer.
I was born in Canada to American parents so I have dual Canadian citizenship. I graduated from Texas A&M university with a degree in civil engineering and after that I worked in the private sector for a while. I never, I won't say I never thought about the State Department; they came to Texas A&M for a recruiting fair but they seemed to be only looking for electrical engineers at the time.
I happened to read about the State Department again in a little blurb at the back of my professional society magazine, uh, there was a little ad that said would you like to travel overseas, do you want to support our diplomatic missions abroad, contact us. And so I did, and that brought me to the State Department five years ago as a civil servant. I was a civil engineer for three years within our Bureau of Overseas Building Operations and after a year or so I realized there actually was a specialty of construction engineer.
Our job overseas as a construction engineer is to oversee and manage the contractor who builds our embassies. We basically make sure the U.S. government gets what it pays for. We do, in some parts, do inspections but it’s mostly for a quality assurance aspect. There is a fair amount of walking around in the dirt and the mud and around the concrete. Um, but a lot of it is a managerial job. You oversee a staff of site engineers, who review shop drawings and submittals and, uh, it definitely takes the managerial side that you have to, as an engineer, sort of think with the other side of your brain and get into the managerial aspects of it.
You need to be able to work with people from other cultures because as a construction engineer overseas you're going to be working with engineers from the local, from the host country. And they know the local host country requirements that you don't know and perhaps the construction practices that the local workers will be using that you're not aware of. So, um, it helps to have an understanding of, a lot of, it helps to have an understanding of how other people work and how you can facilitate things without getting too much into the weeds of the technical aspect because that's the contractors’ job and that's the designer of records job but you're there to make sure you interpret the contract requirements for the contractor and that you ensure that the project continues smoothly.
With the earthquake in Haiti, the embassy there was one of the few buildings that was basically untouched; I understand the damage that it received was only superficial. We still had electricity with our generators, we still had clean water. We had a structurally sound building and that was a big success because we had to, that was a prime example of why the U.S. embassy is there, they were there to help the host country rebuild and they're still serving that function. I look forward to the chance to represent the cultural ideals of the United States and to show women overseas that, that the United States is a place that supports equality for women and that women can be in fields like engineering and construction and that it’s important for women to be in the workforce the same as men.
Jim, Foreign Service Specialist, Facility Manager
I’m Jim, I’m a Foreign Service Specialist, I’m a Facility Manager in the Department of State.
I’ve been with the Department of State since 1995. I joined after a career in the U.S. navy where I was a power plant engineer. I was, uh, was 32 years old at the time and I’ve been serving overseas ever since. We do a lot with property management and so a good real estate background, real estate law and management, you know, just having general management background is always a good skill set to have as a Facility Manager.
The U.S. government is the largest property holder of assets in the world. I think of one single property holder. And so without a doubt coming in and working for the U.S. government as a Facility Manager, you're going to be exposed to all things that you possibly could in any type of career track.
You’re going to be competing with Donald Trump for properties in London. You know, whether you're in London, Paris, or anywhere in the world, you're going to be one of the large property holders and making those deals and negotiating that property.
Probably my most challenging and my most recent was my deployment to Haiti for three months after the earthquake. You know so I was down there, uh, erecting tent cities for the search of U.S. government aid and support that we were doing down there and so I erected a 500-man tent city inside the compound of the U.S. embassy.
It was very unique experience. The only way I that I can describe the downtown grand roux in downtown Port Au Prince, it looked like a Hollywood epic movie scene. You know the buildings were on the wrong angles that they should be in, the devastation was absolutely, you know, incomprehensible.
As a Facility Manager basically what we're doing out there is to make sure that the operations and maintenance of the embassies are run efficiently and effectively. You know we're concerned about the green efficiency and conservation of energy systems. We’re making sure that the overall plant is operating effectively as a platform for U.S. diplomacy overseas. And we're going out and leasing properties, renting properties and making sure housing is suitable for all of our staff that are over there. I think, um, my most memorable experience working for the Department of State was back in 1997-2000 when I was working in Moscow and we were tearing down the old bugged building. And as a Facility Manager ensuring that, uh, while they were tying in the power to the new building and doing the demolition that we were maintaining continuity with the rest of the compound.Our Facility Managers in the Department of State mirror very much what you'll find out in the private sector. There’s a mix of engineers, a mix of property professionals and business majors but somebody interested in joining the Foreign Service has got to have a technical background because you may be deployed to some areas where you are the regional expert on everything.
You know, you may be in the backwaters of the planet and some of the expertise there, your local nationals there, the employees that are working for you are going to be looking for you to tell them how to correct these things and fix these things. Meeting budget demands is probably one of the most challenging or demanding is the government has a lot of properties over there. And their budgets are always underfunded and so you got a constant demand from our customer base to upgrade or improve things and simply don't have the resources to do that. I think creative thinking everywhere on the management team is a valuable asset.
I’ve got a passion for effective public administration. You know, I think that that's one thing that really needs to be focused on in the Department and all across the public sector is making sure that all of our assets are maintained effectively and efficiently and whether it's through the current greening efforts that we have out there, maintaining all our properties in a green or sustainable fashion. You know several of our embassies have been awarded the LEED certificates, green, gold, I think one just achieve a gold, I can't remember it off the top of my head. We’ve got the league of U.S. green embassies, whole active projects doing geothermal heat pumps. They’re currently looking for a place where they can probably use wind energy but they haven't found the correct embassy site yet to install the turbine, the wind turbine.
But the Department and the Secretary are actively pursuing all things green and sustainable, reducing our carbon footprint. And so we've got a lot of various different projects, rainwater reuse, green rooftops, are just some of the things we're pursuing at the Department.
Catherine, Foreign Service Specialist, Financial Management Specialist
It's a sense of adventure, and the sense of obligation and pride for the country that accepted my parents.
My name is Catherine, I'm a Foreign Service specialist, currently stationed in Washington, D.C. as a program analyst. I'm originally from Miami, Florida. I am a child of Cuban refugees. I found out about the Foreign Service sitting one day in my graduate level class the professor started talking about this job and I thought wow, that sounds kind of interesting. I always thought I would join the Foreign Service, do it for a couple of years, and then move on. And after a couple of years, it was infectious. I didn't want to leave.
I'm a CPA, I have a masters in accounting, and I had friends who joined the big accounting firms, and they were doing regular boring stuff. And I look at what I've done. I've lived all around the world, I've traveled extensively. At the end of the day I have a richer experience of life than my colleagues who stayed behind in Miami. I come from a very close knit family, so the idea of leaving home was hard. Once they saw the black passport, the diplomatic passport, the sense of pride was just out of this world.
Stella, Foreign Service Specialist, Information Management
My name is Stella, and I am a foreign service specialist, specializes in IT. And currently I am working in the Information Resource Management bureau. I am responsible for the telecommunication systems, the computer systems, the radio systems, anything that falls under telecommunications for an embassy. Think of it as a small business, you know, where you’re responsible for all the telecommunications, the computer systems, the radio systems, the telephone systems.
So you’re that person that everybody comes to when they need, you know, to find out what -- 'How come I can’t get on the internet?' or 'How come I can’t -- my phone is not working.' So you are the person that they come to for all these type of questions, and you have to be knowledgeable in all these areas in order to be able to help them out.
The most memorable was probably, I would say, Kampala, even though it was a hardship. But Kampala is an up-and-coming country in Africa, and it has a lot of potential in terms of what they were doing with the different resources that they had, whether it’s to build the skills of the children in schools or the women to expose them to the different, let’s say, resources that are available to them. As an IT specialist, I also volunteered, you know, in terms of teaching the children how to use computers and how to identify the different parts of computers, so there was a lot of opportunities for different things to do, not just at the embassy but also in the community.
Using the skills that I have acquired and the knowledge, it’s -- and you have to understand as a Foreign Service specialist, it doesn’t stop just at -- in the office and at the job. So I have opened up and do a lot of mentoring and involve others and try to help them along and share my experiences so that they don’t make the same mistakes that I have made. Especially in this field, where women -- there’s not that many of us, so you know, you have some of us who come in, you have a family or you know, you’re wondering how you’re going to survive in a country like Timbuktu, so I think I have been able to enlighten some of them, mentor them and help them to understand that even though you’re going out in that particular part of the world, it’s the middle of nowhere, but you’re still going to be under -- you know, guided.
And I think it’s also an issue of me taking the initiative to find out what is available and what I can use to help me to -- not just to build my skills but to build myself as a person and to become better so that I’m able to handle whatever is thrown at me because when you accept working as a foreign service specialist, you’re going to be thrown anywhere in the world and you have to be prepared. Don’t be afraid when you hear a country or someplace where you have never heard before. Don’t be scared to step out of your comfort zone, you know, because anywhere you go with the State Department there will always be somebody watching out for you.
Working for the State Department is the best thing that could ever happen to anybody because it gives you the opportunity not just to work in different environments and different countries but to also be exposed to the different cultures and, you know, travel and live in different parts of the world and to really expand and diversify yourself as a person.
Tangela, Foreign Service Specialist, Information Management
My name is Tangela. I am a Foreign Service Information Management Specialist. I currently work in the Office of eDiplomacy and I am also the president for the Executive Women at State's associate division. We are in charge of mid-level women along the career path. As a Foreign Service Information Management Specialist for the Department of State, we typically take care of telecommunications information systems at posts,to include telephones, radio, computer systems, classified and unclassified. I spent 11 years on active duty in the U.S. Navy. I left the U.S. Navy and I went back to school to Old Dominion University, received my bachelor's degree, and there happened to be a person recruiting at an event at my school for the Department of State.
The transition for me from the United States Navy to the Department of State, which -- was a natural one. I always serve my country, and I continue to want to serve my country. My family is military oriented. My husband spent 20 years in active duty. My son, who is now 18 is going to join the U.S. Marine Corps, so we just serve. We're a family that serves.
The skills I brought with me were the leadership and management that the U.S. Navy taught us. The skills I'm learning here in the Department of State are more soft skills, more customer service skills, more sensitive, being gentle when you are approached. The department that I work in is called eDiplomacy. One of the offices within my division is called the Diplomatic Innovation Division, and we host tools such as Corridor, such as Communities at State. The other part of my office in eDiplomacy is the customer liaison division, which I am part of. We typically provide outreach to posts and to domestic users to assist them with their IT concerns.
We also hope that they'll be more innovative in their approach. I have been with the Department of State for seven years. My first assignment was to Islamabad, Pakistan as a new hire, Foreign Service specialist. I don't have any one particular tour that provided me good, bad or indifferent. Each one is very different. I have also, you know, did time in Baghdad, Iraq as we moved to the new embassy compound.
I had a tour in Iceland, which is very different from any other tours I have been at. And I'm also with -- eDiplomacy, I just traveled. I just did the trips, the regional trips to Iceland, Montenegro, Ankara to Istanbul. There are three groups within the Executive Women at State. There is the higher group we call The Bosses, which includes the Senior Executive Service women. I am the president for the associates, which are mid-level women. Our goal is to promote, support and mentor women within the Department to have them move forward to senior ranks. And we host a variety of programs through the Department encouraging and supporting women as they move through the ranks.
The Department has leadership and training and management schools available, and I think-and encourage women to take those because they will be beneficial to them. My aspect on it is technology is what's going to separate us. It's what's going to push us forward, and it's what we need to get ahead of in order to stay in the game. I think technology will be the one thing, and that gives us that boost to break that glass ceiling, so I encourage women to stay involved in technology.
Tony, Foreign Service Specialist, Information Management Specialist
My name is Tony, and I am with the Foreign Service as an Information Management Specialist. Well, first found out about the Foreign Service when I was studying overseas in China doing my master’s program and we had a field trip to the consulate in Guangzhou.
I saw what kind of work they did, and I was like, "Wow, that's really cool." And then another trip I went to in Guatemala, I met another Foreign Service officer. And coming back from those trips, I decided to apply with the Foreign Service.
I decided to go with Information Management Specialist route because I have an undergraduate degree in computer engineering and then I got a master’s in international studies. So put the two together, that was the perfect match for a kind of career I was looking for. Not only do I get to travel to all parts of the world with the Foreign Service, I also get to apply my technical expertise at the embassy. To find out more about the Foreign Service, I went to the careers.state.gov website, and I looked at the different positions that were available. And then I looked through the selection process. I found out that I could apply online, and from there, what the steps were to get, to start a career in the Foreign Service.
The biggest challenge with joining the Foreign Service would have to be the oral assessment for me. It was a six-hour oral -- a six-hour process, and usually job interviews that I have gone through would just take a few hours. But with the Foreign Service, they want to make sure they cover all of your dimensions and your different qualities. I just started my core Information Management Specialist training in June, and the training is a four-five month course. And it covers everything from handling classified material, unclassified material to radio, evacuation and a lot of different courses. And I really like the diversity of the courses and I have learned a lot from them.
My next step is going overseas to post. So with that process, we -- I have to figure out the kind of housing that I want to have once I arrive at post, contacting the embassy and talking with the other Information Management Specialists overseas and seeing what kind of tips and advice they have for me before going overseas, what kind of things that might be hard to get at post that I should purchase here in the U.S. and bring overseas. My advice for someone applying for the Information Management Specialist position is go ahead and go on the website and look at the position and all the details and the different processes that you need to go through. And I guess the number one advice is just, if you have an interest, start early and just submit your application and see what happens because I think it’s an exciting field to be in.
Susan, Foreign Service Specialist, Office Management Specialist
My name is Susan and I'm an Office Management Specialist. The day that mattered most was the day of the first presidential elections in Afghanistan and I go to go out as part of the polling team. So, as part of the Economic-Political team, I was working with nine officers in the Political and Economic sections. Our job was to track all of the events leading to the election.
We had Congressional delegations, which we call "CODELs" coming to Kabul about once a week. So, we had a lot of regular office activities and we had the CODELs coming, which would disrupt everything. We had Secretary Rumsfeld. We had Secretary Powell come. That was happening months in advance. So, we were ready the Embassy everybody was gearing up for the election. And we really did not know what that day would bring. How peaceful things would be what would really happen. But we went out onto the streets and we went to different polling booths, and people were out everywhere families, children ladies walking together. It was sort of a festive, very festive mood. We saw people with purple thumbs, where they had dipped their thumbs in the ink 'cause they couldn't sign.
And, everywhere we went, people were just so happy so pleased and so proud of themselves. And for me, since I had been there almost a year and working almost everyday towards this very thing, it was just overwhelming. My husband and I are a tandem couple, and he joined first in 1984 and I worked wherever he was until 2003. I decided that I had had enough of just trailing and I thought I would jump onboard, too. So, my first assignment took me to Kabul, Afghanistan. When I worked in the political econ section in Kabul, I worked for nine officers and was pretty much considered an equal team member. And, you know, as long as you pull your weight and people realize what you're doing and what you're doing for them, it's really, really great.
David, Foreign Service Specialist, Regional Medical Officer/Psychiatrist
My name is David; I work with the Department of State currently in Washington D.C. as their Chief of Crisis Response although my position is a Regional Medical Officer/Psychiatrist.
After college and before medical school I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand so that really, um, got me excited about doing international work. During medical school I did a number of rotations on the Thai-Burmese border and Thai-Lao border, also in Cambodia. During residency actually I heard about the positions as a Regional Medical Officer psychiatrist and had been thinking about that for quite a long time and just trying to find the right time to kind of have this second career for myself. Just in the last couple years decided it was the time in terms of our family and to move overseas and so, um, here I am.
My experience overseas with the Department of State has been really related to the earthquake in Haiti. Things were very chaotic at that time, um, the whole compound was full of people from the military as well as search and rescue crews and other people from Department of Health and Human Services and they were camped around the embassy. There were a lot of officers working in the Foreign Service as well as Haitian staff who were very effected, many of them lost their homes, had lost their families, some of them their entire family and had no place to stay.
Within the embassy people were sleeping in their offices and food was short, they were eating these military, uh, ready-made meals. I treated a lot of people individually, mainly related to issues of acute stress disorder or also grief and loss. I am an advocate for the health of the Foreign Service officers and people connected with the Department of State. You get exposed to very unique experiences and very unique situations. All the psychiatric skills that I’ve learned over the years, you have an opportunity to apply that directly in many different ways, often unexpected ways. Go to careers.state.gov or talk to me some more.
Chimere, Foreign Service Specialist, Security Engineering Officer
My name is Chimere, I am a Foreign Service Specialist serving as a Security Engineering Officer.
A Security Engineering Officer, what do we do? It can run the gamut, oh my goodness gracious, we can repair alarm systems, install alarm system, install cameras, we can travel as a part of the advanced team for the Secretary of State, um, we can do inspections overseas, we can inspect the network at various Department of State embassies overseas.
I was recruited directly out of college, out of Clemson University. And actually I went all the way to the other side of the country to actually be recruited. I was a member of the National Society of Black Engineers and we had our 2003 national convention in Anaheim, California and that's where I saw the State Department table. I knew absolutely nothing about the State Department. I had never heard of the State Department.
I did hear of course of the Secretary of State. What got me excited about the job was the travel. Granted, I was a little nervous at first when they told me I’d have to travel overseas and live overseas because I had never been apart, well, that distance, from my family. I am a country girl from South Carolina so, you know, I travelled distances maybe two or three states over, stayed for about a week or so. Never two, two to three years away from my family. That was really nervous, really made me nervous but I was willing to take that chance. Well, when I served on Secretary's detail where I served as a part of the advance team for the Secretary of State, I visited approximately 16 different countries, some of them being Kyrgyzstan, Luxembourg, Mexico City, Lima, Peru, when I served in Dakar, Senegal I was actually covering seven other embassies in seven other countries, um, ranging from Mali to Guinea-Conakry to Cape Verde.
So I’ve seen quite a bit of the world in my short tenure with the Department of State. Social-wise I made sure that I was involved in a lot of embassy activities. In West Africa we have WAIST, we have West African Invitational Softball Tournament. So, I ran the concession stand for that and i found, you know, other little groups that i could join. And tried to do things actually locally, attend local concerts and things like that. So you can make a social life for yourself overseas. This is a very educational and challenging experience for me. It, it gets me out of comfort zone, definitely gets me out of my comfort zone as well as gives me the opportunity to serve my country, to represent my country overseas without carrying a gun. So that’s what keeps me going, being able to learn a new skill, being able to learn how to wire up a panel or alarm system by myself, you know, it really gets me out of comfort zone and it's out of the box and I don't have to worry about staying in a cube 24/7. There’s always something exciting going on.
My advice that I give to a lot of the engineers that I may encounter at career fairs, is granted you could do a lot with engineering, you can design, you can build. But if you want an out-of-the-box experience, an out-of-the-box engineering job, I recommend that you go to careers.state.gov or talk to me some more.
Sam, Foreign Service Specialist, Security Engineering Officer
My name is Samuel, I’m a Foreign Service Specialist and I’m a Security Engineering Officer.
What I’m responsible for is securing embassies and consulates all over the world. So I get a chance to travel to a lot of new places, see a lot of new things in the course of my work. The work involves some engineering, some technical work as well as a lot of management and leadership of others, technicians, as well as local hires that we have working in our shop.
Well, growing up, I never heard of the Department of State. I didn't know that they were interested in engineers. I didn't really know what they did. And I went to the University of Virginia, and majored in mechanical engineering. The way I found out about the Department of State was actually at career fair for the first time. I’ve lived in two places overseas, I’ve had two overseas tours. One tour was in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this was in 2005, shortly after the attacks, terrorist attacks on our consulate in Jeddah.
I was actually there seven months after the fact so I was responsible for putting in a lot of the after-action repairs and upgrades of the security systems. So I saw a lot of the carnage, I met a lot of the people who were affected by that, and you know, experienced life in that high intensity high threat environment. So that as a first tour, especially, it wasn't Paris, France by any stretch.
But I had a good time. That was part of the Foreign Service is going places like that. One thing we say around here is the needs of the service, so that's where I was needed, so that's where I performed. Our job is to not only work in one city at one post, but we travel regionally as security engineers. So my region from Abidjan was Freetown, Sierra Leone, Monrovia, Liberia and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.In the course of my work though I also went to Bamako, Mali, Lome, Togo, Niamey, Niger; visited for personal trips to Dakar, Senegal, Accra, Ghana, so throughout West Africa. But in going to Monrovia and Freetown, those are two of the poorest areas of the world so I got to see that, but I also got to see that they're happy people and in some of the worst places you can think of. Good food, good people, good experiences.
Well, what I wanted to do when I got out of school was to go into a job that was somewhat technical with a lot of management. As engineers, sometimes we're on the fence. We don't know if we want to go into hardcore engineering, or if we want to do more of the management that comes also with the degree. I didn't know about the State Department.
I tell engineers all the time; you can do great work here, you can provide a public service, you can serve your country, and you can see the best parts of the world. So it's not military, it's not like you're going to be in a bunker for six months at a time. You move around, you're expected to adapt well, meet new people, learn about new cultures and also perform at a high level.
Noe, Foreign Service Specialist, Security Technical Specialist
I’m Noe, I’m a Foreign Service Security Technical Specialist and I work on security systems, technical security systems at our embassies and consulates abroad. Mainly, supporting and maintaining the technical security systems that our regional security officer needs to protect our people and our classified information abroad.
Well, I’ve always liked to tinker with things and when I was in the military is where I established my base on electronics. In 2002 I was assigned to Washington for my first tour and I was very lucky because we were doing technical security upgrades which means I was getting my hands into all our systems and I didn't know them very well, but it was a wonderful opportunity for me to start learning them. And I’ve been travelling to Moscow and Pakistan and as well as Canada, so I’ve been very fortunate in my travels and I’ve enjoyed the work.
When I was first with the Foreign Service I was an Information Management Specialist and I married another Information Management Specialist that we met in the new hire class. And we courted over the internet; so that took us two years and we got married afterwards. And unfortunately, we could not get a tandem assignment, uh, after we married, so I decided to resign and follow my wife around for five years.
And five years later the STS program was open and I applied again and now we're a tandem couple and we've been fortunate enough to be assigned together ever since we got married.
You have lots of friends you can entertain, it's just like being here in the States but you're overseas. And you meet different cultures and you eat different foods. For example, when I was in west Africa, I had bat once and it was crispy and somewhat crunchy, but I wouldn't eat it again.
I would say that mentoring the newer, the new cadre is what's really impacted my career. I really like working with people.When I ever see an eligible family member that's working at our embassy that shows technical savvy, I always talk to them and try to bring them onboard. They need to be technically proficient in alarm systems and some other electronic devices. Um, willing to travel because that's the nature of the beast, that's what we do. I think those, and to be able to communicate your thoughts effectively.
I believe in what we're doing overseas, promoting democracy and I have to, this is my contribution in the manner I can do it. Service is something I think everyone should do.
Margaux, Civil Service, Congressional Liaison
My name is Margaux, I’m in the civil service, and I’ve been working at the Department for three years. So I went ahead and went to Indiana University for undergrad and I studied sociology, business management, East European and Russian studies. I really couldn't make my mind up of exactly what I wanted to study so I studied a bunch. And so my senior year I found out about this great internship opportunity at the State Department and so I decided to leave my last semester senior year and come work in D.C. in the Human Resources department of the State Department.
And um, so I worked on a mid-career professionals program called the Franklin Fellows Program It was a brand new program at the time in 2007 and it, the goal, is to bring mid-career professionals from the private sector and non-government organizations into the State Department for a year.
So I started gathering position descriptions of what these fellows would do and I was amazed to learn all the different issues and offices the State Department offers. And I still am amazed by a lot of the cross-cutting issues that we cover, as well as, you know hot issues in the media. So I became really interested and I found out about a two-year Career Entry Program which I got into, um, that offers rotations and training.
The Department has really helped me advance career wise and so I’ve taken a lot, I’ve taken advantage of a lot of the Foreign Service Institute classes, taking everything from Islam in Iraq to public diplomacy, um, and other sorts of courses. In addition, it’s personally impacted me in the fact that I can attend lectures and discussions here in the building with the Secretary or key experts on foreign policy issues. So I really advanced in really learning a lot of these foreign policy issues.
I am passionate about foreign policy issues. I am definitely an advocate of international environmental issues and democracy, human rights issues, and I find that my job here at State Department fulfills a lot of my personal and work goals. I would definitely encourage anybody, no matter what age, to definitely look at the State Department because as I’m a great example. I don't have the political science or international type background. I studied sociology, business and Russian and the State Department has a variety of different types of people, different backgrounds that really promote different thoughts and work experiences.
Juan, Civil Service, Foreign Affairs Officer
The day that mattered most to me was the UN General Assembly in New York in 2007.
Every year the Secretary goes up and has meetings related to the UN General Assembly, but also, has several meetings on the margins with their counterparts. I accompanied our Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs to New York and participated with him in all of his meetings, with the Secretary coordinating meetings that he had with the President. And the highlight of the day was actually a meeting that the Secretary had with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.
I was born in Colombia, I'm a Colombian American, and it was really special for me to actually coordinate the event, put all the work and hours in, and then at the end actually participate in a meeting with the President of the country I was born in, representing the country that I am now a part of. My responsibilities were to basically coordinate the meetings, but also report back to embassies and to the Department on everything that was discussed, from energy to military relations to kind of elections and, and just issues between the two countries. It's been really special for me. I've only been here for five years and if I were to sum it up, I feel like only in the United States does somebody born in Colombia actually represent the United States in its bilateral relations with a country like Colombia.
So it's been an amazing ability to opportunity to interact with leaders in different countries to participate in policy-making. It's very exciting.
April, Civil Service, Human Resources Specialist
The state department just gives you so many career opportunities. Whether you are a psychology major, whether you're a sociology major, an econ major or a political major.
My name's April I'm an HR specialist and former intern for the Department of State. I see our mission as bringing peace and bringing the world together. I'm supporting the people who have the opportunities to go overseas and to help our nation. I graduated from Washington State University in Pullman Washington and I had first heard about the internship program from a career center there.
Because I'm a newly graduated University student, I feel that I'm bringing new ideas.I get to see what's behind the scenes; I get to be involved with everything that's going on behind the scenes.You have the training necessary in order for you to progress in your career. There are so many career tracks that we can go into: there's foreign affairs, there's budget analysts, there are programs for just everything. This is a very diverse agency we have people from many back grounds, from many different areas of the world. Everyday I learn something new and I grow and I see the positive things that the agency is involved in and that's what gives you a sense of fulfillment. That you are making a difference.
Tony, Civil Service, Information Technology Specialist
I’m Tony. I have been with civil service for a little bit over a year now. I am an IT specialist, specializing in data management. I’m attracted to the stability of the -- working for the government job and the challenge that it presents integrating all of the different systems and information resource management.
I came from a computer science background, and it was my major in college. And from there, I did have to go for a bunch of certifications. My current specialty relies on business process management, and so that's BPM, and we do use a number of BPM tools here at State. Department of State has a lot of challenges when it comes to innovation because we do need to integrate older systems with newer technologies.
So in my current position not only do we need to integrate how people interface with forms instead of having everything on paper, have that in electronic form, but have that data also integrate among newer and older systems at the same time. You have to establish all the SOPs, all the standard operating procedures, you have to work with multiple people in a lot of different levels of management and different skill sets as well, when it comes on to the IT side. So you do have to navigate the equivalent of multiple companies internally to the Department itself.
The skills that I brought forward include programming skills, data risk management skills, database integration skills and similar items.While on the job however, we did have to leverage new skill sets and learn it on the job to include business process management via tools and leveraging web services to talk between different database systems.
One of the most fulfilling aspects of this job would be how quickly your turnaround gets over from your development network to production and you get to see the impact of your application and how many man-hours you havesaved into production. Every process you streamline you’re going to see the benefits of that live, so to speak, very soon, and you can measure your improvements right there.
Robert, Civil Service, Inspector
I'm Robert and I’m a civil service at the Department of State. I work in the Office of the Inspector General and currently I’m an inspector. I go to missions overseas and bureaus within the department to review the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations.
One of the things I like about the Department of State is that there's a job for everyone. And it's like a smartphone with a lot of applications. If you want a job in policy, there's a job for that. If you want a job in doing passport applications. There’s a job for that. Talking about prestige in the Department of State I think a lot people make the association with being a diplomat. And sure, that's an aspect, and something that I’m even considering doing in the future. But being a civil service and working in the Department of State exposes you to different things, uh, within the federal government.
We’re the only agency within the federal government that really looks deeply at human rights issues. Or we look at economic development issues, climate issues, women issues, I think that being here has given me the opportunity to be exposed to a diverse group of people. When I mean diverse I don't mean just ethnic background but also have given me the opportunity to be exposed to ambassadors, assistant secretaries, and having those face-to-face meetings, not just um seeing them speak at an event but really having those one-on-one meetings.
The State Department offers that flexibility and capability in which you really interact with people who, for lack of a better term, are considered powerful. As an inspector I’m focusing on looking at the administrative platform of embassies and bureaus within the Department. But I also have that opportunity to evaluate policy, to look that our embassies, are meeting U.S. policies or following U.S. policies.
I also have been given the opportunity to look at the interaction within a mission, how’s it works, the coordination with different agencies, other agencies present at those embassies. So it's a satisfaction, I wake up every morning really looking forward to going to work because there's something challenging, something new is going to be waiting for me. Yes, I travel quite a lot. And it's a great opportunity. Actually, I have been to over 35 countries around the world. It's a privilege to represent the U.S. government, you know, to have that privilege to represent your country uh in a diplomatic mission is something that I take not only seriously but it's something that I’m very proud of.
I'm passionate to make up the U.S. government a better place. And how do I do that? Very easy. As an inspector I have to make sure people are in compliance with law and regulations. But I also look at efficiency and effectiveness of programs. If somebody is doing a good job sometimes other people don't get to know about those things. So I make sure I highlight best practices in my inspections report or in my evaluation reports. It’s important to address an issue as we identify them. So by doing that I think I make this place, the Department of State, a much better place to work.
Roberta, Civil Service, Marketing Director
I'm Roberta. I'm the marketing director for the Office of Global Publishing Solutions. I started off as an intern and have risen all the way to marketing director. I’ve experienced all the different stages of my career beginning with the graphic designers up until what I do today.
One thing that I value in the Department of State is the blank slate that it offers me and all of the experiences I’ve had as an intern and as a marketing director. I’ve been able to travel the world. It’s so exciting because I’m able to do design work for presidential travel, or women's issues or trafficking in persons, and then the Department has also given me really exciting things to design such as the design for Diplomacy Symposium.
We have a fantastic team. One thing I love about working with them is that cultural sensitivity and that knowledge of other cultures. We keep in touch through emails, sometimes it's a little bit tricky to do teleconferences because of the time difference sometimes we have 7am conference calls, but we collaborate on many different projects daily. We focus on embassy outreach needs; we develop different calendars for embassies to distribute.
When I started in college I majored in communication, professional technical communication, and I thought, you know, what can I do with this skill? I’ve always loved art but people told me you can't always make a living with art. So I struggled with that for a while and I tried several things. I started my internship here at the Department of State which incorporated a lot of graphic design and I realized I really love this. And this is, you know, where I belong.
Well, graphic designs are a critical part of the diplomacy and we stress visual diplomacy in how we get our message to the world. There are language barriers, certainly, whether it's through sign language or written communication or other foreign languages, but, we all are familiar with the phrase a picture is worth a thousand words. So, I was particularly drawn by how pictures and visual information is transmitted throughout the world, and I was excited to have a part of that visual diplomacy and that lead me to the Department of State.
We reach out to the heart of people worldwide and I would say that aligns with my passion. Like I said, producing new products such as calendars and the holiday cards and those things that reach out to the world makes my work more pleasurable and it helps me think how I make a difference in the world every day in some small way.
There’s something for everyone here at the Department. There’s a full range of opportunities from being a driver to being a Public Affairs officer. When I look at the definition of the word diplomacy and think about what that means and how we become diplomatic, I would say I have become more diplomatic in just a way of approaching life and approaching others.
I’ve become more aware of political issues internationally, I’m more sensitive to those issues now, especially women's rights and other issues that we find in other countries, it's given me an awareness and a sensitivity that I don't think I had before.
Rene, Civil Service, Procurement Analyst
My name is Rene I’m a civil service employee and I’m a procurement analyst at the State Department. Actually I'm the liaison between the program office who wants to buy something and the contracting office who does the final contract on anything the State Department wants to purchase. I basically make sure we're using the right contract vehicle, dot the Ts, I mean dot the Is and cross the Ts basically that's what I do.
I came here as an intern with a bunch of 21 year old kids, about 6 years ago and the reason I came over here was because I had a company in San Antonio and after the economy went bad, kind of after 9/11, my company wasn't doing so well so I decided to quit that and do something else. I was like, kind of lost, what am I going to do now, I’m 47 years old, I don't have an education, I can't start at the beginning, it would be too hard for me to start all over again.
I had two years already towards the bachelor’s, I came here as a junior actually, and I did that in two years, took a little break and jumped into the masters. Believe me I suffered, there were times I wanted to throw my computer out the window. I got an MBA and my bachelors was in business management.
I’m basically one of the few in my family that has any kind of formal education so it's kind of like, wow, everybody’s like is he really over there? I go and try to encourage like the young, my nephews and nieces, they've kind of been encouraged because they see that I went to school and acquired my degrees and they're like if he can do it, I can do it so they're kind of like, it's really been neat for my family,for my friends, for the young people that I know around where I grew up.
What I’ve been able to contribute is I’ve always had a very strong work ethic and it's sometimes people give the government a bad rap about that, we don't do anything, we just waste taxpayers’ money and that's not true. If you're in a good team, which I am in, we get things done and I’m kind of proud of that and I love everybody that I work with, they're good people. I’ve taken about 10 courses, at least, for what I do, for procurement, since I got here and they've really given me the resources to do my job even better because the government has a little bit of a different way of doing business than the private sector.
I’m bilingual and I’m trying to learn a third language so it's working out. I’m not married so I don't have responsibilities, I mean and I don't have children here, my kids are grown, so it's just a whole new chapter to my life.
John, Civil Service, Public Affairs Specialist
My name is John and I'm a Public Affairs Specialist.
The day that mattered most to me when I was an intern at the U.S. Embassy in Maseru, Lesotho. I was working on the Ambassador's Self-Help Fund, which was to go visit remote villages throughout the country and to evaluate village's proposals that they would send to the embassy to get small grants for projects.
There was one that stuck out the most to me which is when I went to go visit a village, it was late in the afternoon, and we stumbled upon an older woman who said we were at the right location, and she says, "My daughter submitted an application." The young girl submitted an application because she wanted young girls who were vulnerable, children, to learn life skills.
So, she wanted to create a dressmaking school, so she was just asking for funding for sewing machines and material so she could start her school. After I left it was like, wow. I was one person, but I was representing the United States government and it really hit home and to me it made a huge difference just seeing how a young woman with such a small part can do such a big thing.
I joined the Department five years ago as a student. I was just in high school and I was just doing a student program and I started working in the Department and I was like wow, this is really neat, just meeting all these people ambassadors and people that are pretty high up in the foreign service just understanding their career and it really inspired me to say, maybe this is what I want to do in life. The skills that I retained definitely during my internship prepared me to where I am now.
I was able to learn the writing process at the embassy, which was a little bit different from like the private sector.
Ron, Civil Service, Staff Assistant
My name is Ron. I am a Civil Service employee in the Department of State. I've been in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs for eight-plus years now. The day that mattered most to me would probably be my introduction into the United Nations General Assembly that happens in New York in late September.
I was a staff assistant for then-Assistant Secretary Daniel Fried and I realized that the UNGA, as we like to call it, is probably our response to the Golden Globes in California. It is chaos, it is press, it is police, and it is as much fun as I've ever had in the Department of State.
My job was to coordinate the Assistant Secretary's meetings, keep track of his briefing papers, and to make sure that his meetings ended on time and started on time, which was impossible. I think that a number of our agency officials count on our ability to stay calm in the focus of all this chaos, this madness that happens and we manage to do that year in and year out.
What the Department of State offered that those did not was actually ability to work and do something for my country and that was the most inviting aspect to it all. And to be a part of—it's very difficult to live in Washington and not be a part of the political scene, and I think that once you connect, you begin to understand what Washington is all about and that was what drew me to it.
There is a great acceptance of Civil Service workers in the Foreign Service community, and the notion that we are equally as important to the Foreign Service and to the Department of State as the Foreign Service Officers who serve abroad. I joined the Department five years ago as a student. I was just in high school and I was just doing a student program and I started working in the Department and I was like wow, this is really neat, just meeting all these people ambassadors and people that are pretty high up in the foreign service just understanding their career and it really inspired me to say, maybe this is what I want to do in life.
The skills that I retained definitely during my internship prepared me to where I am now. I was able to learn the writing process at the embassy, which was a little bit different from like the private sector.
Corneal, Civil Service, Training Technician
I’m Corneal and work as a training technician for the civil service at the Department of State. And I’m located at the Foreign Service institute.
I just pretty much keep track of the enrollment processes, the number of enrollments and I also take care of the budget for the department. I purchase items that are needed for our, you know, to assist in our training, I assist the instructors in what they may need and in their travel.
I worked for DOD, well, actually to start off I was in the army, I worked a little bit there; twenty years retired. And as my career was ending my wife's career began. So as she began her career and I began to follow her around so that's how it was. And as we were leaving from Texas after five years, and we were coming this way, her job brought her here. So I started researching and I found the Department of State job and I was called in for an interview. And that's when I knew more about the Department of State and it was really interesting. And I decided to come here similar to a budget field, from my experience in the army I deal with supply and demand and purchasing items and I’ve thought I could do this. And in the military you do various jobs outside what you come in for and so then that really helped me a lot.
I’m maintaining our budget, our expenses, um, on a daily basis and plus the students that come in and direct from the management side of the house, the human resource side of the house, financial management side of the house, general service students, they come in for that and it's great. I enjoy it you know. You make a lot of contacts. You never know who you'll see in the future.
I mean I contribute, I mean I have organizational skills, I like to help, I like to show others what I’ve learned. I like to contribute knowledge. I mean that's my overall, my passion, is providing others with knowledge. Some things that they don't know or better ways to do things that they do know. And I’ve also learned much in the process of all of that.
I’ve learned a lot of skills through processing of management, of financial aspects considering I deal with the budget. I learned working in financial, finance and accounting system, the global management fundings, I do all that so I’ve learned a lot and it better helps me especially when I’m budgeting my own checkbook at home