Posted July 20, 2015 by

Careers in the Foreign Service – One Diplomat’s Story

Becoming a Foreign Service Officer can be extremely challenging but on the other hand is even more rewarding. Ana Escrogima describes her experiences as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer in the Middle East and how the State Department carries out its mission to implement foreign policy objectives. She also describes the efforts of the State Department to recruit diverse and talented candidates for the Foreign and Civil Service.

In this recorded webinar, Andrea McEwen Henderson, National Account Manager for College Recruiter, hosts Ana Escrogima, Diplomat in Residence for the New York Metro Area.

Key Takeaways:

  • Work with the State Department on the forefront of foreign policy issues attracts people with a both sense of adventure and key skills that are essential to a successful career.
  • Given the nature of 21st century policy challenges, a diverse and dynamic staff at the State Department is essential to good policy making and effective diplomacy.
  • The Foreign Service is more than just a career path; it is a lifestyle and a great opportunity to serve your country.

Ana Escrogima is a Foreign Service Officer currently serving as the Diplomat in Residence at City College of New York. Before this assignment, she was the Deputy Director for Syria in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the Department of State.

Ana earned a Master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in 2003 and a Bachelor of Arts at Brown University in 2001.

Topics Discussed:

  1. Tell us a bit about your background and Foreign Service career.
  • I grew up on the lower east side in New York. The time I first became interested in communication with other cultures was in my high school French class. It really opened doors for my future involving this passion of mine. It planted the seed so to speak. For undergrad, I went to brown university, and majored in international relations and French. I had decided to study abroad and really enjoyed the experience. Then I went to Columbia University for graduate school and studied Arabic. That’s when I decided that I wanted to go overseas and serve.
  • First, I did internships during my studies, then after graduation in 2003 joined the state department. My earlier domestic assignments include a tour as a Special Assistant to Under Secretary for Political Affairs, advising on Middle East issues and serving as a member of the U.S delegation to nuclear talks with Iran. I was also the Deputy Director for Syria policy in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. In my overseas assignments, I was an Arabic language Spokesperson at the State Department’s Regional Media Hub in Dubai, a reporting officer and Spokesperson at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq and a political officer in Damascus. Finally, after 7 years overseas I thought it was time to come home, in all of my 12 years so far I have done nine different assignments.
  1. What is a Diplomat in Residence and how can audiences connect with you?
  • I am one of 16 Foreign Service officers based on college campuses across the US. An easy way to connect is on the careers.state.gov where there is a map of the US, and you can see where the officers are located. Then are able to send an email to them. I host information sessions on university campuses, where the public can connect easily with me or other officers. We encourage people to attend and to be able to connect with the officers that are representing them.
  1. How is the State Department actually organized to carry out U.S. foreign policy objectives?
  • John Kerry is the boss of 70,000 employees all together and the Headquarters is located in Washington DC. There are a total of 275 embassies and consulates. In all, 8,000 officers travel overseas, there are 6000 Foreign Service specialists and a majority are not American citizens. The non-Americans are local nationals (institutional officers while the US workers transition from assignment to assignment) who work side by side with US workers. There are 10,000 civil service employees who are the core of policy practitioners and are based mostly in the US.
  • Every embassy has a US ambassador (face of the embassy; the leader) or chief of mission officer who is appointed by the president of United States. Next in line is the deputy chief of mission who acts as CEO for the embassy. There are many different groups that officials work in, including: economic policy, political policy, management, counselor, and public diplomacy.
  1. What have been some of the most challenging personal and professional experiences of your career?
  • The most exciting thing about my job is also the most challenging. Moving from country to country, starting a new job, meeting new people, and trying to get to know the country/culture. It’s super fun to adventure but very hard to leave your family behind. In addition, sometimes the places we serve can be intense, but can also be the most rewarding assignments. I would say the most difficult thing was saying goodbye for the first time.
  1. What motivates you and keeps you going?
  • It’s all about doing what I’m passionate about. By making a difference in lives and local or global issues, I always have some new intellectual challenge with every assignment. Whether it’s meeting a new group of people with a new language, or the sense of adventure and new lifestyle. However, wherever I move, the people there become a second family to me overseas.
  1. What would you advise the next generation seeking to join the State Department?
  • If foreign affairs is what you’re interested in, go for it. You don’t need a certain background to apply for the position. What we are looking for are good communicators, people who are composed in stressful situations, and those who can adapt to new cultures quickly. What we do is bring in people with the right skills and then train them in stuff like languages and cultures. Don’t automatically opt yourself out based on your background or current knowledge. Almost any type of background can join. Also, don’t forget to persevere. If you don’t pass the exam the first time, try again. Use the study guides on our website (careers.state.gov) and stay connected on social media, think about this as a process.

 

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