Thursday, February 25, 2010
Monday, February 22, 2010
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Monday, February 8, 2010
Obviously, I'm not springing a FS life on her (she is, and has been, very supportive). But the potential and the reality of FS life are very different things. Given that her firm has offices in DC, as well as offices worldwide, there is a slight hope that she might be able to continue working for her firm either in different offices, if possible, or by telecommuting. The likelihood of that, not to mention the sustainability, is rather low.
The AAFSW website devotes serious attention to the work (or lack of work) issues that my wife may one day face. And a recent post by Diplopundit links to the State Department's Expanded Professional Associates Program, which is designed to provide Eligible Family Members with employment at post by filling unfilled positions (which, from the description, include FSO positions).
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Thursday, February 4, 2010
I arrived at the testing place just before 7am. There were 8 other candidates, which meant we were broken into two groups; one with a Group Exercise with 5 people, and another (mine) with 4 people. Initially, we were all herded into a room and left to wait, which gave us all a chance to introduce ourselves. You could tell everyone, myself included, was nervous. Two of the candidates had taken the FSOA before, and they seemed a bit calmer. One thing I can't stress enough was how impressed I was by all the people there. One gentlemen had just come back from doing rescue work in Haiti. Another gentlewoman worked in the San Francisco prison system doing pro bono work. Another was a former Peace Corp member. And then there were a bunch of lawyers. Everyone seemed so talented and calm that I had a hard time reigning in some nerves/panic at the time (along the lines of, what am I doing here with all these wonderful people?).
The FSOA is broken into three parts- the Group Exercise, the Structured Interview and the Case Management. The Group Exercise is a timed session where the candidates are given various embassy sponsored projects to promote with limited resources. Reaching consensus is the name of the game. The Structured Interview is your typical hiring interview mixed with hypothetical questions to gauge your common sense, as well as questions for you to demonstrate how you fulfill the 13 Dimensions. And finally, the Case Management portion of the FSOA is a written exercise where you are presented with tons of information and a problem to resolve. How you determine what information is relevant (and even what the problem actually is) seems to be the key. For me, the FSOA itself was a blur. Once one component was done, it seemed like we were off to another. A short lunch, a short wait, and then off to the final portion of the FSOA. Check out the FSOA Wiki for more detailed info on the contents of the FSOA (sorry, I'm a NDA compliant paranoid).
At the end of the FSOA, my group was herded into a room to wait for our results. After such a stressful day, the waiting was the hardest. And I swear to God, the clock on the wall got louder and louder as time went by. TICK! TOCK! TICK! TOCK! The woman next to me clearly was starting to panic, when an FSO came in and called the first of us out. Minutes went by, and then another was called out. I was called second to last. I thought it would be good news once we walked by, and past, the elevators. Once we received the good news (and frankly, I was shocked I passed), it was time for paperwork and more paperwork. We had a good day, with 6 out of 9 candidates passing. I was probably the third person to be done for the day, leaving at 430pm or so.
For anyone looking to prepare for the FSOA, I suggest practice, practice and more practice. I had been meeting about twice a month since October with four other local candidates and practicing the FSOA. To date, four out of five of us have taken the FSOA and we have all passed. The last man in our group is scheduled to take his FSOA on February 8th, and we are all crossing fingers and lighting candles in the hope that he'll pass. Given our current record, I strongly recommend to anyone taking the FSOA to practice with other candidates using the various sample exercises on the Yahoo FSOA board. It's a good board for getting advice on the FSOA; it's also a good board to get completely overwhelmed by the volume of emails.
What's next? Well, once the medical clearance, security clearance and final adjudication are finished, you are put in a register for your track based on your score. It's a dynamic register, with subsequent FSOA passers with higher scores added in front of you for hiring, so obviously it's important to get the best score possible. I passed the FSOA with a score of 5.5 out of 7.0 (you need a 5.25 to pass). That doesn't sound too great, but I hear anything above a 6.0 is pretty rare. I'm on the Economic track, so I think my score puts me somewhere in the middle of the pack. Hopefully, I'll be able to add my Japanese language to the score and boost it to a 5.67. I have no idea how long the clearances, final adjudication and register will take before an invite to an A-100 (assuming that all happens). I'm guessing that if all goes smoothly and quickly, I might be invited to next year's January A-100 class. But who knows.
I guess it's time to show the 14th dimension of patience.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
On many levels, it's readily apparent why one would want to become a Foreign Service Officer. It's a life abroad. It's a job that actually pays one to experience foreign cultures and learn foreign languages. The allure of being a diplomat is compelling. But those are the selfish reasons to join. A deeper and more relevant reason for wanting to be a Foreign Service Officer, however, is for the chance to serve. I can't imagine a more satisfying career than to represent my country on a daily basis and doing my best to serve its interests. Moreover, the Foreign Service offers an incredible opportunity for me to combine my natural interests in foreign cultures, languages and international relations, with both the linguistic and cultural skills I have developed living extensively abroad and my experience as a finance attorney.
It may sound cliché, but I love my country and believe it is the greatest nation on earth. I write this not out of a sense of jingoism, but out of a sense of gratitude for all the opportunities I have been afforded as an US citizen. In particular, I am thankful for the rule of law, a stable political system, the opportunities to advance in society regardless of one’s background; these are all things that I am deeply grateful for, and yet I think most Americans take these advantages for granted. Having lived and travelled extensively abroad, I am keenly aware of these freedoms and opportunities that cause so many people in other countries to want to immigrate to the US. These advantages have given me the ability to travel throughout the US and the world, allowed me to enter law school and develop my practice as an attorney, and provided a stable life for my family. I now feel that I am at a point in my life where I can, in some small part, give back to my country for all it has provided me.
Growing up the son of a career Air Force officer gave me the flexibility and adaptability necessary to adjust to the life of a Foreign Service Officer. I spent most of my childhood moving every few years, adjusting to new schools, making new friends, and adjusting to new regions of the country from urban east Los Angeles (where my neighbors spoke primarily Spanish or Vietnamese) to rural southern Maryland where most of our neighbors had never travelled beyond the state lines. That childhood shaped my interests and talents, and I was instilled with a love of travel and learning about foreign cultures and languages.
Additionally, my experience over the last eight years as a structured finance attorney has given me the skills and experience necessary to perform the duties of a Foreign Service Officer in the Economic track. I have worked long hours under stressful conditions while negotiating billion dollar transactions between US and foreign corporations. I have advised US corporate clients on their marketing strategies in Japan, pointing out the need to be sensitive to cultural and business norms that differ significantly from those in the US. I have researched and informed US clients of regulatory developments in China that would significantly affect their businesses, and developed strategies to mitigate those impacts.
I don't think I have any illusions about being a Foreign Service Officer. I expect long hours, challenging work, difficult assignments, rough local conditions and stress from moving my family every couple of years. Despite these challenges, I believe that being able to use my lifetime of experience and skills in service to my country, plus my lifelong interest in learning about and experiencing foreign cultures and languages, as well as sharing with others all the things I believe are unique and wonderful about the United States, confirms to me that becoming a Foreign Service Officer is the right choice for me.