An afternoon of inspiration and intrigue with the U.S. Foreign Service

| October 18, 2019

An opportunity to be exposed first-hand to U.S. Consular Officials is rare for an undergraduate from UTS, so I was naturally very excited to hear their perspectives on careers in diplomacy and to pick up any pearls of wisdom that they might be able to offer.

Both visiting officials have had fulfilling careers in foreign service thus far, as their biographies prove.  Kira Moriah is currently a political/ economic officer at the U.S. Consulate in Sydney whilst Donald Maynard is a public affairs officer and a career member of the U.S. Foreign Service.

Both have extensive experience in their respective positions and have held impressive postings, Kira has served in Washington, D.C. in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, working in the Office of Russian Affairs. She previously served at the United States Mission to the United Nations in New York, as well as at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

Donald was previously the Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Mission to UNESCO. He has also served at the Deputy Press Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and held a number of positions specializing in public diplomacy and public affairs in Brasilia, London, and New Delhi.

The session opened with a discussion on the topic of deliverables in foreign policy. Kira and Donald explained the depth of work required behind the scenes in order for high and low level Summit meetings and foreign visits to take place.

Following this breakdown, Donald asked the group if anyone knew the single most important deliverable agreed upon by Scott Morrison and Donald Trump during the Australian PM’s recent visit to Washington DC.

Luckily, due to my work at GAP, I knew that this was Australia’s $150 million pledge in funds to develop technologies to be used in the mission to the Moon and Mars. As a prize for my answer I received a lapel pin with the Australian and U.S. flags.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, the conversation quickly turned to the Trump Administration, with both Donald and Kira commenting how the President’s indomitable style has made their weekly schedules a little more unpredictable than during previous administrations.

As a group, we discussed Trump’s disruptive style of leadership and noted that his utilisation of Twitter as a sort of trial balloon mechanism certainly added a new element of volatilty in policy dealings.

We received useful advice on the essential skills required by students interested in embarking upon a career in diplomacy and foreign policy. Both Kira and Donald highlighted the importance of learning foreign languages, for example. Kira said her career has allowed her to become fluent in Mandarin Chinese and Spanish, while Donald noted that undertaking a foreign language exam is an essential component of acceptance into the U.S. foreign core.

Both saw the ability to gather language skills and to fully immerse yourself in different cultures as a huge highlight of the job. When asked what skills are most important to their roles they noted that strength in writing, oral presentation and the art of conversing and socialising are all vital for a career in diplomacy. 

As the discussion progressed the state of gender equality within the profession was brought up.  I was particularly interested to learn that until 1972 women who decided to marry were forced to step away from the Foreign Service.

Kira noted that although the tide is turning and diversity within the department has certainly improved, there is still much work to be done in order to achieve gender equality, particularly around the mid-career mark. Donald agreed that there remain small biases within the system that simply do not accommodate for women.

Hearing both Kira and Donald recall some interesting moments from their careers, the thrill, sense of adventure and cultural immersion one stands to gain from embarking upon a diplomatic career became even clearer to me.

Despite Donald sharing the experience of sleeping underneath his desk in Baghdad for two weeks and explaining what goes through your mind when you are weary of being tracked in foreign postings, the prospect of working in such a dynamic space remains utterly exciting and I hope to pursue it in my future career.

The title picture shows the Global Studies Degree Coordinator, Dr Ann El Khoury with Kira Moriah and Donald Maynard.