Variety = Spice of Life

A colleague and friend of mine who works as a management officer in the embassy recently posted on Facebook about how many different kinds of jobs she performs under the umbrella of “diplomat.” Some of the positions she mentioned were curator, travel agent, pet shipper, motivational speaker, lawyer, property manager, financial manager, party planner, and operations research analyst. As I read the post, I thought, “That’s so true!”

It got me to thinking about how much variety I have in my tasks, probably more than in any position I’ve previously encumbered. Tashkent has been an especially great opportunity for me as a new officer because our consular section is small, allowing more leadership opportunities than might be found at a larger post.

I think the stay-on-your-toes nature of the work could fill introverts and creatures of habit with dread. Yet somehow it’s precisely that highly varied, command-performance work that makes this introvert get out of bed each morning – even though truth be told, I too sometimes am filled with dread. And thus the comfort zone keeps expanding.

Here is a sampling of some things I’ve worked on just during the past two weeks alone – some within my direct purview as a consular officer (Vice Consul) and some falling under the broader “diplomat at the embassy” jurisdiction.

  • Serving as a voting member of the Housing Board, the body responsible for allocating housing to incoming embassy staff, and participating in a tour of newly identified houses to determine suitability.
  • Serving as accountable officer and Acting Consul while my boss, our section head, traveled.
  • Running a staff meeting: managing up, across and down.
  • Drafting guidance, both internal and public-facing, explaining various aspects of consular operations.
  • Representing my boss and our section at meetings with our ambassador and deputy chief of mission.
  • Liasing with Washington to consult on a variety of consular and legal matters.
  • Representing our ambassador and making remarks on her behalf at a cultural event at another embassy, which received national press coverage.
  • Attending two diplomatic receptions – one an evening ball, and one a working dinner.
  • Interviewing non-immigrants (in Russian) and adjudicating student, tourist and exchange visa cases.
  • Managing non-immigrant visa unit staffing, performance, policy, and workflow, and managing our wait time for appointments.
  • Revamping our post’s interview waiver policy.
  • Promoting our summer work and travel program via web chat with prospective student applicants, and preparing future remarks for a public presentation.
  • Interviewing and adjudicating Diversity Visa (“green card lottery”) and petition-based immigrant cases.
  • Reviewing fraud and criminal investigations.
  • Meeting with my boss to discuss my performance and identify goals for the next review cycle.
  • Liasing on joint efforts with our colleagues in other embassy sections, and building relationships.
  • Conducting an English club outreach event sponsored by the Public Affairs section, and encouraging Uzbek students and academics to practice their English by discussing advanced hypothetical situations.
  • Assisting Americans in need with everything from lost passports, to obtaining documents for their newborns, to answering queries on ex-pat voting.
  • Attending classes with my Russian tutor.
  • Approving and justifying proposals for training of our locally employed staff.
  • Facilitating a discussion and session of the Federal Women’s Group examining gender and maternal bias in the workplace.
  • Preparing protocol duties for the embassy’s 4th of July party.
  • Communicating with future arrivals to post as a social sponsor, coordinating housing set up and answering questions about consumables, diplomatic visas and settling in to post.

As you can see, the depth and breadth of things diplomats work on is enormous, and I’m just one small cog in one small part of the wheel. Small though my role may be, some of it involves dealing with very important matters in our nation’s interest. I have found the varied work stimulating, challenging and rewarding.

I have more than ten years of federal service now, and there is one element of all my position descriptions that has never changed: “Other duties as assigned.” It is this variety and element of never knowing what I may be called upon to manage that keeps life very spicy, indeed.

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Sarah W Gaer

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