Canada’s future foreign policymakers 2017: Meet the millennials making a mark in international affairs

By: /
July 12, 2017

From representing Canada at the United Nations and supporting the Canadian foreign minister on international visits to taking part in free trade talks and working on Canada’s international assistance review, the global experiences open to young Canadians today are myriad.

For the second year in a row, OpenCanada is featuring some of the best and brightest working behind the scenes of Canadian foreign policy, in order to give readers of all ages a glimpse into the opportunities available in diplomacy, development, trade, defence, environment and more. The list also shines a light on the contributions this group is making and is a preview of the kind of policymakers that may help shape this country in the years to come. 

Along with their daily duties, the young people highlighted here share insights on their internship experiences, their inspiration for going into their field and their advice on how to make the best possible impression in the workplace.

Whether you’re interested in a career in foreign policy or simply curious about the work that goes on behind the scenes, take a look at this year’s featured millennials. (See last year's list of future foreign policymakers here.) 


Shafiqah Muhamad Nor

Age: 26

International Development Officer, Jordan Development Program, Global Affairs Canada

Education & Internships

Degrees: MA in International Affairs, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University; BA, Major in Law and Minor in Philosophy, Carleton University.

Internships: Two FSWEP placements at Global Affairs Canada: Southeast Asia and Oceania Division (Political Relations), and Strategic Analysis and Operations for Europe and Middle East (Development). Prior to these, I worked for three years at the Parole Board of Canada as an FSWEP student.

On The Job

As an international development officer at HQ, I provide support to my colleagues at the Canadian Embassy in Jordan. A majority of Syrian refugees reside in Jordanian communities, which places an immense strain on public services (including the education system) in the country. My work focuses on ensuring that Canada’s bilateral development assistance can help Jordan respond effectively to the impacts of the Syria crisis on the country. My files are primarily on the education sector and on women’s economic empowerment.

Some of my tasks include negotiating agreements with development partners, reviewing project proposals and consulting various specialists/stakeholders. For proposals received, I evaluate the sustainability of results, assess value for money, and ensure alignment with Canada’s priorities. I also review audits and reports, in addition to following up with implementing partners and my colleagues at the Embassy who regularly conduct field visits to monitor projects.

Memorable Moment

My very first on-the-job travel to Jordan last August made me realize the importance of my work. It shed light on the magnitude of the Syrian crisis and the effect of the conflict on host countries in the region. The opportunity to meet with Jordanian government officials, conduct site visits and connect with beneficiaries provided meaningful perspective. It was professionally rewarding as it complemented the fast-paced and challenging work experiences I have had at HQ. A memorable moment was connecting with the youths at a project site visit. Regardless of our different backgrounds, it made me realize that we have a common passion as youths to overcome social and global issues.

Inspiration

I admire and have much respect for Louise Arbour. Her distinguished leadership in international affairs and dedication to human rights are qualities I aspire to have. She was a lecturer, a Supreme Court Justice, a Chief Prosecutor for International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and even served as High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations. She was recently appointed as the UN Special Representative for International Migration, which I look forward to following closely as it relates to my current field.

Words Of Wisdom

International relations is a very broad field which fortunately means various different angles to manoeuver around. There is not really a straight path and everyone is different. Nonetheless, a piece of advice I would give still applies to me today: Try to seek different perspectives in each task and don’t be afraid to ask for challenges.

Isaac Caverhill

Age: 28

Policy Officer, G7/G20 Summits Division, Global Affairs Canada

Education & Internships

Degrees: MA in Global Governance, Balsillie School of International Affairs, University of Waterloo; BA University of Calgary (Arts and Science Honours Academy, exchange at University of Glasgow).

Internships: Permanent Mission of Canada to the UN in New York, Office of the Minister of Health of Alberta, Permanent Mission of Canada to the UN in Geneva (UN Conference on Disarmament).

On The Job

As part of the G7/G20 Summits Sherpa team I support the Sherpa/Leader track negotiations by coordinating Canada’s policies on several files.

Memorable Moment

I had the good fortune of working in New York at the UN during the 68th General Debate. It was exciting to see world leaders discussing many of the important issues that we all read about during our undergrad courses or in the news. It was especially interesting as I had the opportunity to work on the signature events of Canada’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister on maternal health and child and early forced marriages; two issues that Canada continues to take seriously in its foreign policy.

Inspiration

I have found that my motivation does not come from a single source. Through the years my parents, teachers, managers, friends and many mentors all encouraged and supported me along the way.

Some specific issues grab my attention. In particular, the lack of resilience and adaptability in our multilateral systems stonewalls a lot of potential initiatives. Fortunately, the G7 and G20 are two venues that reduce many of those barriers by enabling frank discussions. Working on them is definitely rewarding in that respect.  

Words Of Wisdom

I find that a major ingredient in achieving success is empathy. Putting effort into understanding the motivations and ideas of co-workers, clients, managers and stakeholders is critical to achieving goals. Being empathetic means that you can comprehend work situations more accurately. I also believe that professionalism must go beyond the collegial facade and reach out to the individual. We can never fully separate our personal and professional lives. Making an effort to understand the people you work with makes the difference between co-workers in an office and a cohesive team that achieves more meaningful outcomes.

Anton Bezglasnyy

Age: 30

Senior Analyst, Department of National Defence

Education & Internships

Degrees: MA in Political Science, University of British Columbia; BA in Political Science and Economics, Simon Fraser University.

Internships: I joined the Canadian Foreign and Defence Policy (CFDP) community as an intern with Global Affairs Canada at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC, and had the opportunity to contribute to Canada’s most important bilateral relationship. While at UBC, I spent a summer working at one of the nerve centres of international relations at the multilateral level, during an internship at the United Nations Department of Political Affairs, in the Security Council Affairs Division.

On The Job

Currently I am a senior analyst at DND, working on defence procurement. In a way, defence procurement is a file that has a lasting legacy on CFDP because it shapes the capabilities Canada will have for decades into the future. Defence procurement is a fascinating file because it exists at the intersections of foreign, defence and economic policy interests. For those same reasons, it is an immensely complex file. My group works closely with several departments, including Public Services and Procurement Canada, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, Global Affairs Canada and the Treasury Board of Canada. I am fortunate to be a part of a team of talented and energetic colleagues who are working passionately every day in service of Canadian interests, both domestic and international (shout-outs to them!). This ability to contribute towards the public good is precisely why I joined the public service.

Memorable Moment

Taking notes at the UN Security Council as an observer during a vote on a major Middle Eastern issue and watching international diplomacy at its finest. To some extent, the decisions made (and not made) in that room shape the course of history and the international system we live in. Despite criticism, I think that the UN Security Council remains a pivotal institution in contributing to international peace and security.

Inspiration

I have had the opportunity to learn and draw inspiration from some incredibly talented professionals. Managers who have invested their time and energy to share their experience with me include Karrie Thomas and Jessica Martel in Ottawa, Hirofumi Goto and Mavis Kwarteng Amaning in New York, as well as Pauline Walsh in Washington, DC. Mentorship is something I value greatly, and I am striving to give back by also sharing my experience with colleagues who are just starting out in the public service.

Words Of Wisdom

My advice to those wanting to have a career in international affairs is to look broadly for opportunities at all four sectors: government, non-profits, private sector and academia. Within government specifically, there are many exciting careers to be had doing international work at various departments. In my view, leveraging the strengths of each sector through collaboration produces better outcomes in advance of Canadian interests abroad. As a result, even if you are fully immersed in public policy from a government perspective, don't forget to look at the work being done by your partners in other fields; you might be surprised how much room there is for collaboration and mutual benefit.

The harsh reality in the field of foreign and defence policy is that your first job might very well be an unpaid internship-type position. I recommend that you approach these opportunities with the same professionalism and enthusiasm as you would a paid, permanent position in your dream job. Contribute as much as you can, learn as much as you can and meet as many people as you can. Your hard work and perseverance will be noticed.

Adam Moscoe

Age: 25

Policy Analyst, Privy Council Office (Advanced Policy Analyst Program)

Education & Internships

Degrees: MA from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa, with an exchange at Sciences Po Paris; BA Psychology, University of Ottawa.

Internships: Canada’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Global Affairs Canada and Public Safety Canada. Field research experiences in Germany, Rwanda and Israel.

On The Job

Prior to starting the Advanced Policy Analyst Program in July 2017, with placements across the central agencies of the federal government, I worked at Environment and Climate Change Canada specializing in international affairs. I joined the department just days before world leaders gathered to finalize the historic Paris Agreement. Canada’s international engagement on climate change and clean growth has greatly accelerated, and I enjoyed working with colleagues from across the federal government and beyond on ambitious projects, such as our Minister’s recent clean technology advocacy mission in China. My work required me to think strategically about how best to advance cooperation with key partners, like the European Union, on climate action, clean innovation, carbon pricing and other dynamic files.

Memorable Moment

Travelling to Beijing for exploratory discussions regarding a possible Canada-China free trade agreement, as announced by the Prime Minister last September. It was inspiring to work alongside experienced trade negotiators and policy professionals, each of whom landed in Beijing with a clear set of objectives consistent with advancing Canada’s progressive trade agenda.

Inspiration

I was fortunate to intern for Irwin Cotler, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and I remain inspired by his lifelong drive to advance human rights. He leads by example, stays calm amid chaos, and constantly reminds me that to pursue justice, one must feel the injustice in society. When I'm frustrated, I think of "Prof" and remember to focus on making a positive contribution.

Words Of Wisdom

A manager once told me, "at some point you can start being yourself." In other words, you are interesting, and be sure to share your personality, perspectives and non-work interests with your colleagues. In addition, get involved in the community and seek out opportunities for cross-sector collaboration, such as the Global Shapers of the World Economic Forum.

Karrolyn Van Helden

Age: 33

Foreign Service Stream Advisor, Assignment and Pool Management Division, Human Resources, Global Affairs Canada

Education & Internships

Degree: Honours Business Administration, Richard Ivey School of Business, Western University, with a specialization in Entrepreneurship.

Internships: ABN AMRO Bank, Change Project Assistant, Human Resources in Amsterdam, The Netherlands (supported their amalgamation with two international banks); AIESEC Volunteer in Lomé, Togo (fostered partnerships with local companies and promoted AIESEC’s work exchange program).

On The Job

While Human Resources may not traditionally be a role that effects foreign policy change, I have been privileged to be at the forefront of departmental-wide change management projects that will better facilitate our foreign policy objectives being met — work that goes beyond my day-to-day activities of serving employee needs and helping managers staff their positions abroad and at headquarters.

For example, post-amalgamation, we continue to work on shaping the organizational culture, which includes working on a Competency-Based Approach for Human Resources (focused on recruitment, promotion, assignment and talent management). In addition, I organized a symposium focused on modernizing the foreign service corps to be of increased strength and of greater relevance, with the goal of developing policy recommendations for the department. It is a challenge to strike the right balance between fulfilling the business requirements of Global Affairs Canada while empowering and satisfying employees.

Memorable Moment

Contrary to some misconceptions that an assignment abroad may be extremely glamorous, in reality, it is very difficult for some employees and their families to adjust to a new (sometimes dangerous) environment, as they may face health challenges and/or have children coping poorly in new schools. Thus, a rewarding part of my job is being able to support employees in the depth of these situations to successfully improve and/or resolve their issues. I always want to see employees excel at their work and integrate seamlessly in their new location, regardless of whether that be abroad or in Canada.

Inspiration

Mark Fletcher, Executive Director of my division, has been an inspiration to me, especially when the work volume and intensity becomes overwhelming. This line of work involves employees pouring their life stories out and despairing over the hardships they have endured. Mark demonstrates the power of active listening and the ability to provide hope, even when families have reached rock bottom. Furthermore, his passion and grand vision to better the department, in his role as the lead on the HR Competency-Based Approach, by upholding a high level of integrity and commitment to achieving these goals, are qualities I strive to emulate in my job.

Words Of Wisdom

As Napoleon Hill said, “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” Thus, believe in yourself and take advantage of “setbacks” and opportunities to continually develop yourself personally and professionally. Demonstrate your willingness and ability to produce high quality work.

Kristi Choi

Age: 25

Trade Commissioner, Aerospace, Automotive, Defence and ICT Division, Global Affairs Canada

Education & Internships

Degrees: MA in Public Administration, Queen’s University; BA in International Relations and Sociology, University of British Columbia.

Internships: Community Development Internship in Masaka, Uganda; internship at the Centre for Governance and Development in Nairobi, Kenya; co-op in the Technical Barriers to Trade division of Global Affairs Canada.

On The Job

As a Trade Commissioner in the Defence and Security sector at headquarters, I support Canada’s worldwide network of Trade Commissioners who work with Canadian SMEs on foreign market access and export development strategies. With the ultimate goal of promoting Canada’s economic interests in global markets, my team and I review business plans and proposals related to international trade promotion initiatives, and gather commercial intelligence to provide operational guidance to Defence and Security Officers, Senior Trade Commissioners and Heads of Mission. As the Defence and Security sector is heavily influenced by Canada’s foreign policy objectives, the files I work on are often highly sensitive.

Memorable Moment

Despite my relatively short time at Global Affairs, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in major trade shows and conferences. My most recent trip to San Diego, California, for an international defence trade show allowed me to engage with the industry and meet with Canadian companies, many of which are clients of the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service. Not only does work travel allow you to see different parts of the world and meet individuals from diverse backgrounds, it really helps to bring to life the work you are doing at headquarters. My first day at Global Affairs Canada was also quite memorable as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Melinda Gates made an appearance. My colleagues were quick to remind me that they weren’t here to see me and that not every day at work would be this exciting!

Inspiration

In the federal government, I have been extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with and be mentored by incredible managers and colleagues who have expressed genuine interest in helping me grow professionally. My first supervisor, Jean-Francois Marion, has always taken the time to thoughtfully answer my questions and provide his honest advice. My colleague Nathan Lysons is also someone I can constantly rely on for conscientious feedback on my performance and for advice on navigating my career path. Barbara Martin, foreign policy professor at Queen’s University and former diplomat, is someone I greatly admire as well. Despite her impressive career, she is incredibly humble and has helped me to develop the ability to analyze situations through multiple lenses, which has proven to be a valuable skill.

Words Of Wisdom

If your goal is to work in foreign affairs, I would highly recommend gaining international work experience. Competencies that you develop abroad such as intercultural awareness, adaptability, judgement and resilience are highly regarded at Global Affairs Canada and across many departments.

I would also stress the importance of developing strong interpersonal skills. The ability to listen actively, communicate well with others, and exhibit emotional intelligence are all fundamental attributes that will set you apart immediately and help you to build a positive reputation. This includes remembering to always say thank you to those who help you. Everyone is busy and if they take time out of their day for you, it is important to express your gratitude. You won’t make it up the ladder by yourself.

Lastly, always be open to networking — formally and informally. “Networking” isn’t only restricted to organized events. Take the plunge and start a conversation with someone in the cafeteria, or with the person sitting next to you at a meeting. You never know who you will meet and how your network will open new opportunities for you.


Adam Rossiter

Age: 22

Desk Officer, South Asia Division, Global Affairs Canada

Education & Internships

Degrees: JD/MA Candidate, University of Ottawa; Joint Honours BA History & Political Science, University of Ottawa (with an exchange to SciencesPo Paris).

Internships: Placements at Service Canada and Global Affairs Canada through the University of Ottawa co-op program.

On The Job

As a Desk Officer in a geographic division my responsibilities revolve around closely following developments in my assigned country from a Canadian perspective and in maintaining Canada’s relations with the country at the working level. In practice, this work includes liaising with the country’s embassy, preparing briefing material and remarks for senior officials, organizing programs for visits, preparing diplomatic correspondence and writing memorandums for the Deputy Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Memorable Moment

Helping organize a series of visits to Canada by delegations from the country I cover focused on sharing Canadian expertise and best practices in several fields. Not only did this give me a chance to learn more about the wide range of work done across the government of Canada, it also created an opportunity for Canadian advocacy on behalf of a group of refugees in the delegation’s country, which promises to help facilitate their resettlement here.

Inspiration

Reminding myself that my work can help or otherwise have a positive impact on real people, even if it is at a distance. Keeping this in mind drives me to make sure I am doing the best work I can, and to go the extra mile.

Words Of Wisdom

Be open to learning new things and read as much as you can! Twitter is an invaluable tool for this; by following a diverse group of analysts, diplomats, journalists, academics and specialized publications you will have plenty of expert analysis and insights at your disposal. Try and gain experience following (or better yet, working on) multiple countries and different regions. Lastly, seek out opportunities to hear directly from more experienced colleagues, academics and other experts as often as you can.

Christopher Heffernan

Age: 32

Policy Analyst, Governance Team, Global Affairs Canada

Education & Internships

Degrees: MA in International Affairs, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University; BA in Political Science, Huron University, a campus of Western University.

Internships: I did one co-op term with the former Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) and two terms with the former Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The co-op terms at CIDA were with the World Bank Unit, which led to my full-time hiring upon graduation in the former Multilateral and Global Programs Branch at CIDA.

On The Job

I work on governance policy for Global Affairs Canada, specifically on Public Financial Management (PFM) and Domestic Resource Mobilization (DRM). These link with the government’s commitment to champion inclusive and accountable governance and are important elements for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. A rewarding aspect of the job has been to serve as Co-Chair of the Addis Tax Initiative Steering Committee, which oversees the collective effort of nearly 50 countries and international organizations to scale up capacity building for developing countries on revenue mobilization. Doing all of this via telework from West Africa has also provided me with opportunities I wouldn’t have had in Ottawa. At the same time, it has presented certain technical challenges requiring a lot of flexibility and planning to overcome.

Memorable Moment

With colleagues from several other countries, I helped to organize a side event during the 2016 UN High-Level Political Forum. I attended the event and prepared a speech for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development to deliver as the keynote address. Only minutes prior to the start of the event, it was brought to our attention that the event moderator, a senior government official from another country, did not have a pass for the UN building. Certainly not one of my favourite moments in event planning. We managed to resolve it as a third country’s UN permanent mission quickly agreed to issue him an emergency pass. The event then proceeded without a hitch. It was rewarding to hear the Parliamentary Secretary deliver an address that I had helped to craft.

Inspiration

I’m a big fan of history, both ancient and modern. It can be easy to look at the many problems in the world today and feel discouraged and disempowered. However, my ongoing reading of history continues to provide me with optimism in the state of humanity today and in our collective future. Relative to most of our history, we live in a world with staggering opportunity and wealth. The ongoing challenge and inspiration is to continue the expansion of these benefits to everyone.

Words Of Wisdom

In many ways, a job is what you make of it. Be flexible in the jobs you take and in your day-to-day work. Even a position that doesn’t appear as interesting on the surface may have hidden value if you scratch hard enough.

Abdullah Abdi

Age: 28

Trade Policy Analyst, Asia & Oceania Division, Market Access Secretariat, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Education & Internships

Degrees: MA in International Affairs, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University; BSocSc in International Development and Globalization, University of Ottawa.

Internships: Services Trade Policy Division, Trade Agreements and Negotiations Branch, Global Affairs Canada (Co-op/Casual Contract); Rural & Co-operatives Secretariat, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (FSWEP)

On The Job

In my role I work to open new markets and expand business opportunities for Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector. This requires me to assist Canadian producers in maintaining, restoring and opening new market access for their products in the Asia-Pacific region, specifically in China. Advancing market access issues is particularly important due to the emergence of non-tariff barriers as obstacles for the Canadian agriculture and agri-food industry, a sector that employs one in eight Canadians and exported over $60 billion of goods in 2016.

Day-to-day, my role requires me to monitor and work to resolve agriculture market access issues, engage with stakeholders in the sector, support trade missions and act as a conduit for bilateral relations for the department. Advancing market access issues can be challenging as it requires a lot of problem solving, adaptability and patience; but it can also be satisfying to help resolve these issues and see the positive impact it has on Canadian food producers.

Memorable Moment

I would have to say that my most memorable on-the-job moment was working on AAFC’s trade mission to China last year. While we were the putting the mission together, we weren’t aware that we were in fact coordinating the largest Ministerial trade mission the department had ever led (over 100 Canadian industry representatives from all 10 provinces). It was a lot of work, but it was gratifying for us see the successful outcome of the mission that secured new export opportunities in China for the Canadian agri-food and seafood sector.

Inspiration

While I’ve been interested in international affairs for as long as I can remember (the product of my family coming as refugees), my interest in trade started in the classroom. Being taught by professionals who themselves had made their mark in the public service by working in international trade helped steer me towards the field. Professionally, I am grateful to have had mentors and supervisors like Sean Clark, Chera Holditch and Mohamed Deria to teach me the ropes, give advice and build my technical skills. Now knowing the value and impact that proper guidance can have on young professionals, I hope to pay it forward in the future.  

Words Of Wisdom

Making a career in international affairs can be challenging as the path isn’t always straightforward. Unlike some fields, graduating with the right degree/experience and immediately getting hired into a secure long term position is not too common. More often than not, working in a series of short term contracts is the norm before securing something more stable. Recognizing this period of time as an opportunity in addition to being a challenge can be beneficial down the road. Getting exposure to a diverse range of experiences early on in your career can make you a more capable professional with more to offer. I would also recommend the many development programs in the public service which recruit and develop young policy analysts. Not only are they a path to securing a stable career in the field, they can also help you to build the diverse skillset  needed to excel in international affairs.

Shawn Friele

Age: 33

Second Secretary, Political and Economic Section, Embassy of Canada to Thailand

Education & Internships

Degrees: MA in International Affairs, Carleton University, Norman Paterson School; BA in Psychology and Political Science, University of Toronto.

Internships: During the second year of my Master's degree and the subsequent two years, I worked as a co-op student and then contract employee with the Global Partnership Program Bureau at Global Affairs Canada (then DFAIT).

On The Job

We have a small political section at our Embassy in Bangkok so my responsibilities are quite diverse. I primarily cover the promotion of human rights, reporting on Thailand's political situation, and advancing bilateral relations between Canada and Thailand. I also manage our local programming in Thailand on human rights through the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives. Given the current political context in Thailand (a military government has been in place since a 2014 coup), human rights advocacy has been a significant focus of my work since my arrival in August 2015, which has connected to broader Canadian foreign policy priorities related to inclusion, peaceful pluralism and diversity.

On a day to day basis, my responsibilities involve working closely with local civil society to advocate for freedom of expression and assembly, rule of law, the prevention of torture and enforced disappearance, the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, gender equality and the rights of the LGBTI community, and the protection of human rights defenders. This work can be challenging given the current political context but I've found the opportunity to provide concrete support to human rights activists working on the ground to be extremely rewarding.

Memorable Moment

My two years in Bangkok have involved lots of memorable moments, including meetings with current and former Thai politicians (those who have led coups and been removed by coups), supporting visits by Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs to Cambodia and Laos, visiting a refugee camp along the Thai-Burma border, and seeing the outpouring of national grief among Thais following the death of the much-beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej last October.

However, I've found the opportunities that I've had to support local human rights defenders to be my most rewarding and meaningful experiences. This past February, I worked with a Thai civil society group to organize a public photo exhibition (called Those Who Died Trying) in Bangkok and other cities around Thailand that featured the inspirational stories of 35 Thai human rights defenders who have been killed or disappeared because of their advocacy. The stories were so incredibly powerful. In a similar vein, I've been closely following the case of a young Thai human rights lawyer who is facing sedition charges for her work defending student activists. I vividly remember being present at the police station last October when she reported to face charges and emerged from fingerprinting with her hands covered in black ink. In that moment, I was immediately struck by the severity of the risks faced by human rights defenders in Thailand and elsewhere. It was a powerful reminder of the importance of the work that Canada and others partners do in protecting human rights around the world.

Inspiration

Since joining the Department of Foreign Affairs in 2008, I've always drawn inspiration from the challenging issues that I've had a chance to work on. I've had several opportunities to learn about critical global challenges and to work with amazing colleagues to identify how Canada can make a positive contribution, including on preventing WMD terrorism, improving nuclear security and combating nuclear proliferation, protecting and promoting human rights, and improving Canada's relationships with countries in ASEAN, including Thailand.

Since arriving in Bangkok, I've also drawn a lot of inspiration from my young daughter Adeleigh, who was born only nine weeks before our move to Thailand. I'm proud that she is having the opportunity to spend her early years in Thailand, represent Canada, and travel around neighbouring countries (even if she won't remember all the experiences she is having). I also feel incredibly privileged to be able to work on issues that I hope will make her future world a better place. This has certainly been a powerful inspiration that helps me through those times when progress is slow or seemingly non-existent.

Words Of Wisdom

My main piece of advice is to remain patient! It was almost eight years between when I applied for a position in the foreign service and when I arrived in Bangkok for my first posting. There were certainly moments during the eight years when I wasn't sure if it would happen but I'm glad I stuck with it as the experience in Thailand has been worth the wait. My other piece of advice, speaking as a fairly quiet introvert who sometimes feels out of place in the highly extroverted world of international diplomacy, is: it is not always necessary to be the loudest person or the most frequent speaker in a room in order to make a difference and have your perspectives heard. I truly believe that sometimes those who speak the least can still have an extremely significant impact.

Alina Kwan

Age: 27

Policy Advisor, Human Rights & Indigenous Affairs Policy Division, Global Affairs Canada

Education & Internships

Degrees: MA in Public Administration from the School of Public Policy at Queen’s University; BA in International Relations and French from the University of British Columbia.

Internships: Through Queen’s, I completed two co-op terms in the Asia Policy Division at what was then the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.

On The Job

My current files include promoting and protecting the rights of children and the rights of older persons, particularly in the multilateral setting. It’s an exciting time to be working on human rights given that it is a foreign policy priority for the government and an important part of Canada’s diplomatic and advocacy efforts abroad. The most simultaneously challenging and rewarding experience I have had so far in the department — not with my current division but my last team — was representing Canada at the negotiating table for several United Nations General Assembly resolutions last fall. It was incredible to “be Canada” and actively advance Canadian values and positions, particularly in what can sometimes to be a challenging multilateral climate.

Memorable Moment

My first travel opportunity with the department was to Qingdao, China, for an APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting. It was an eye-opening experience to be part of multilateral discussions on the ground — participating in and watching experts talk and find a way forward on a topic where there was little consensus.

Inspiration

Nature — getting out of the office, and reminding myself how beautiful the world can be, how lucky I am to be able to appreciate it, and how worth protecting my world (values, culture, environment) is. Being outdoors also reminds me there is always a bigger picture, which is helpful when work is stressful.

Words Of Wisdom

Challenge yourself. The work won’t be easy but you will grow from the experience, and feel prouder of your work for it.

Fanie Thibeault

Age: 32

Policy Analyst, Natural Resources and Governance Division

Education & Internships

Degrees: MA in Public Affairs and International Affairs, University of Ottawa; BA in International Development, University of Ottawa; Certificate in Mining Law and Social and Environmental Responsibility, Wiener University (Peru).

Internships: My first internship at the Canadian Embassy in Quito, Ecuador, opened the doors of the sustainable development world and was the beginning of a fantastic journey with Québec’s General Delegation in Mexico, the Metropolitan Council of Social Responsibility of Quito and, subsequently, private sector and civil sector organizations in Latin America and Africa.

On The Job

I work in the natural resources and governance division, which is a perfect fit with my background and interest in the extractive sector. During Canada’s chairmanship of the Voluntary Principles Initiative on Security and Human Rights, I was responsible for organizing the Annual Plenary Meeting. Working towards the advancement of key governance and implementation issues in the context of a multi-stakeholders initiative is sometimes challenging, but achieving consensus on important decisions is also very rewarding.

Memorable Moment

Being the youngest and only female speaker at the 2012 mining convention Expo-Minas in Ecuador will always be proof for me that it is possible to overcome barriers in traditional sectors. I felt the same power of making a difference when I was monitoring artisanal mining projects in remote regions in the Democratic Republic of Congo!

Inspiration

I have endless gratitude for those who gave me a chance and believed in me. Being surrounded by visionary persons, such as former CSR Champion for Latin America Louis Guay, helps me to not lose focus on the value of what we collectively try to achieve. The positivism and openness of my current work team also makes a daily difference in my happiness at work.  

Words Of Wisdom

Life is not a perfect path and there is no magic recipe for success. Keep your horizons open, follow your instinct and be a person of integrity, even in difficult contexts.

Rasha Al-Katta

Age: 25

Policy Analyst, Global Affairs Canada

Education & Internships

Degrees: MA in International Affairs, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University, including a research course in Accra, Ghana; BSocSc in International Development and Globalization, University of Ottawa, including a semester at the University of Geneva, Switzerland.

Internships: Centre for Global and Community Engagement, the Permanent Mission of Canada to the Office of the United Nations, and a host of co-op, FSWEP and casual positions at Global Affairs Canada.

On The Job

In my current role as a Policy Analyst with Global Affairs Canada, I recently worked on the team leading Canada’s historic International Assistance Review. The Review process was launched to determine the most effective approach for Canada to reduce poverty and to build a more inclusive, peaceful and prosperous word. More than 15,000 people in over 65 countries contributed to the consultations. As part of these efforts, one of the files I managed was the content, design and production of the What We Heard Report, which adopted an innovative approach to publicly communicating consultation findings.

As part of the International Assistance Review team, I received a Deputy Ministers' Award of Excellence, was invited to speak on a panel with the Clerk of the Privy Council about his Annual Report to the Prime Minister, and presented the What We Heard report during the Blueprint 2020 Innovation Fair. 

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of such a historic process.

Memorable Moment

Many moments come to mind, but most recently was when Canada’s Minister of International Development and La Francophonie came down to offer thanks personally (and tweet out a group selfie!) with the teams working on the International Assistance Review. It was an unexpected surprise that we still talk about to this day.

Taking part in the discussions about the future of Canada’s international assistance has been nothing short of memorable.

Inspiration

Having fled to Canada at the age of six, I came from a part of the world that frequently ranked poorly in development charts to a country abundant with resources and opportunity. This experience inspired my personal passion for understanding how the complex intricacies of the world we live in come to shape the paths of people and nations, and my pursuit of a career in the public service.

Words Of Wisdom

Be open. Be driven. Be passionate. See an opportunity you want to get involved in? Ask. Hear about a cool internship that you would be a perfect fit for? Apply.

As a first step, I highly recommend applying for a university program with a co-op option. It opened many doors for me and introduced me to so many great people who I am fortunate to still have as my mentors today. By working in this field, you will have the privilege to work with some of the brightest minds out there; people that have truly made a difference in the world. Take the opportunity to learn from them and listen to their advice and direction. You will learn a great deal.

If you want to make a difference, this is the field to be in.

Marie-Soleil Fecteau

Age: 33

Senior Policy Advisor on Space Issues, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Division, Global Affairs Canada

Education & Internships

Degrees: MA in International Studies from Laval University (six-month exchange at the University of Oslo as part of Master’s program in Peace and Conflict Studies); Bachelor degree in law (semester exchange in Buenos Aires, Argentina).

Internships: I started in Global Affairs Canada (DFAIT at the time) as a co-op student in the Services Trade Policy division, where I supported the team in charge of negotiating Canada’s Free Trade Agreements chapters pertaining to trade in services.

On The Job

I’m currently the lead advisor on outer space security issues, which ties into non-proliferation and disarmament as well as international security more broadly. It includes developing positions and policy advice on space issues being discussed within multilateral institutions, such as the UN General Assembly, the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, and the Conference on Disarmament, as well as representing Canada during these discussions.

I’m also responsible for bilateral diplomatic engagement with international partners on these issues. I work in close collaboration with a number of other departments and agencies, amongst which you can count the Canadian Space Agency, the Department of National Defence, and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. Space is a complex, cross-cutting and fascinating issue, the importance of which often remains misunderstood.

The learning curve is steep, as I continue to learn almost every day, and it is very stimulating and rewarding. This job has brought me to collaborate with a broad range of actors from scientists and engineers to lawyers, policymakers, diplomats, military and defence representatives, academia, the private sector and non-governmental organizations, all who share a true passion for space. The space environment is changing fast, with pressing problems such as orbital congestion and space debris as well as emerging activities like space mining, which puts pressure on the international community to strengthen the international framework governing space activities to ensure it continues to serve its needs. It is therefore a critical time to work on these issues as new ideas and initiatives are required. It offers someone like me the opportunity to play an active role and make a real contribution to emerging issues which will affect my generation and the generations after me.

Memorable Moment

I represented Canada during international negotiations to adopt a Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities. While the negotiations were not successful, the experience was unique as it allowed me to participate in or witness condensed diplomatic activities (back door negotiations, coordination efforts amongst like-minded partners, dramatic statements from certain countries!) and tension peaks. I have also met with a number of heads of international organizations or high-level officials from other countries as part of my business travels to New York and Vienna.

Inspiration

I have been drawn to discovering new territories, food and languages for as long as I can remember. Having a job with a strong international focus is therefore very appealing to me. I come from a fairly traditional small community, but my family on my mother’s side is quite multicultural and counts many globetrotters among it. I sometimes eat Indian or Mexican food at Christmas instead of turkey, received gifts from Peru and Nepal before I even knew these places existed, and was exposed to languages I couldn’t understand from a young age. I think the dichotomy between the place I grew up and the environment in my extended family has shaped my vision of the world. It made me want to have one foot rooted in Canada while also looking outward, with the recognition that our planet is rather small (especially viewed from space!) and interconnected, and that collaboration and mutual understanding is key to addressing the global issues affecting each and every one of us, be it the environment, the financial system, development issues or the shaping of commons norms for the use of outer space.

Words Of Wisdom

Work hard, remain open-minded about the opportunities that are offered to you and be patient. It may take some time before you have your “dream” job, but in the meantime, focus on developing the skills that will open those opportunities for you. Also, learn different languages such as Spanish or Mandarin, which may give you an edge compared to other candidates if you wish to work at Global Affairs Canada.

Ena Cimic

Age: 26

Advisor, Environment Division, Global Affairs Canada

Education & Internships

Degrees: MA in International Affairs with a Specialization in African Studies at Carleton University; Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Alberta.

Internships: As part of my MA, I completed two co-op terms at the former Canadian International Development Agency/Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.

On The Job

My current position entails managing Canada’s relationships with and contributions to several bilateral and multilateral climate change funds that support adaptation and mitigation activities in developing countries. These include the Canadian Climate Fund for the Private Sector in the Americas at the Inter-American Development Bank and the Green Climate Fund. My team works alongside our environment specialists and policy colleagues to support the mandates of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of International Development and La Francophonie regarding combating climate change. We also work frequently with other colleagues in geographic programming, trade and foreign policy within Global Affairs Canada, and with other departments such as Environment and Climate Change Canada, which is a rewarding part of my daily work. As I have been in this position for less than a year, I am also enjoying learning about the climate finance space, including the various ways in which concessional finance can be used for development outcomes.

Inspiration

When I first moved to Ottawa with an interest in studying international development, I had no experience in the field and I learned the most about what opportunities were out there from other students in my program, who had come from a variety of educational and work backgrounds. I have also been fortunate to work with some great colleagues during my few years at Global Affairs Canada.

Words Of Wisdom

If you have the opportunity, doing a co-op or student term as part of your program is a good way to gain experience and create a small network of people you can connect with and learn from, whether you are interested in government or other sectors. I have a few friends doing really exciting work for organizations such as Refugee 613 in Ottawa or MasterCard Foundation in Toronto — I would encourage young people to look at opportunities outside of government as well.

Mahmud Naqi

Age: 32

Senior Development Officer, Pakistan Development Program

Education & Internships

Degrees: MA in International Affairs (Specialization: Conflict Analysis and Conflict Resolution), Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University; BA (Hon.) International Development Studies; Political Science (minor), McGill University.

Internships: Rideau Institute, Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, Society for All Round Development.

On The Job

I am the lead headquarters officer on development programming to support democracy and polio eradication in Pakistan. In addition to managing projects, I collaborate with my political and trade colleagues to help make sure that we have a coordinated approach to any new and emerging issues that may arise. I travel to Pakistan about once a year, and during my missions there, I meet with government of Pakistan officials, international organizations and NGOs. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is working on Canada’s polio eradication programming in Pakistan. The world is extremely close to ending the disease once and for all, and it feels nice to have played a small part in a larger, global issue.

Memorable Moment

From September to December 2016, I worked as a UN General Assembly Advisor at Canada’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York and was a delegate to the Third Committee. Representing Canada was an amazing experience, and so was seeing firsthand how the UN General Assembly works. The busiest part of my time in New York was “High Level Week,” which marks the annual opening of the General Assembly, when over a hundred world leaders come to New York to address the General Assembly. Working on Canada’s team during last year’s High Level Week was probably the busiest I have ever been in my entire life. The only thing that kept me from feeling overwhelmed were incredible colleagues from across government who had my back and helped me out. That experience, of working together on one of the best teams that I have ever seen, is something I will not forget.

Inspiration

When I was a kid, I used to imagine travelling the world. I would sit in my dad’s office in Calgary and devour every issue he had of National Geographic, the Economist, Newsweek and Time Magazine. Still, when I was growing up, most of my travel was long road trips between different parts of Canada. That changed when I was about 16. I visited my family in Pakistan, after a gap of about 10 years. I found it a difficult experience because I was older and more aware of how different everything was from Alberta. I came back from the trip with so many questions about how the world worked, and why there was conflict, underdevelopment and extreme poverty. I realized that the world is so much more complicated than what I had read in the news magazines. I was very lucky to have a good group of friends and an amazing high school social studies teacher, Mr. Dale Weiss, who encouraged my curiosity. There have been many career detours and digressions in the years since, but I still do not have a satisfactory answer to the questions that got me interested in international development. Trying to figure the answer to those questions is a big part of what keeps me engaged in my job.

Words Of Wisdom

There is not a single career path in life. I have worked jobs that I was not very good at and did not like. I changed my majors several times before I figured out what I really liked. I have moved to the wrong city. I have turned down amazing opportunities and accepted bad ones. I chose bad university classes that were boring and unhelpful. I worried so much when I was making those choices that I was going to be making the wrong choice. In the end, I think that I got lucky, but I also think that part of what makes life interesting is just trying something and seeing where it goes, staying curious, meeting new people and figuring out what you really like, which is incredibly hard. It will not be obvious, and you may put a lot of effort into something that does not end up anywhere, but these will be your choices and you probably will not regret the “wrong” choices as much as you think.

Colin Chau

Age: 27

Research/Analysis Officer, International Relations, Transport Canada

Education & Internships

Degrees: Master of International Public Policy, Balsillie School of International Affairs, Wilfrid Laurier University; exchange studies at National University of Singapore; BA Political Science (minor International Relations), University of British Columbia.

Internships: During my BA, a co-op term at the Acquisitions Branch of Public Works and Government Services Canada in the Office of Small and Medium Enterprises.

On The Job

I provide strategic advice on international issues as they relate to Transport Canada’s mandate, international relationships and participation in major horizontal and foreign policy initiatives (bilateral and multilateral). This includes coordinating the implementation of outgoing and incoming international visits and events, and conducting stakeholder consultations within the department, Canadian missions abroad, and other government departments on transport-related international relations issues. The consultations in particular allow us to help advance and protect government-wide objectives, such as in relation to critical consular cases, trade negotiations and the successful fulfillment of bilateral and multilateral agreements. The advice is typically delivered in the form of briefing or scenario notes ahead of conferences, meetings and other engagements.

We have a very compact but agile team of managers, advisors, analysts and support staff. Collectively, my shop is able to produce constant real-time, nuanced critical analysis of events going on all around the world. I am grateful for the complementary skillsets that enable the team to navigate the morass of complex issues with grace, pride-in-check, and a great sense of humour. It’s a truly unique experience to be overseeing such files in a department that has taken on a significantly expanded role over time.

Memorable Moment

This job has allowed me to really hone my diplomatic finesse and to appreciate and respect the shrewdness required in managing multiple stakeholder interests, maintaining goodwill in effective relationships, and internalizing the long game. It’s fantastic to be working the parts of my brain that give me the most pleasure.

Inspiration

I have had the good fortune of having many people in my life who have believed in and gone to bat for me so that I could pursue different experiences and add colour to my journey. There are far too many to mention, and none of them are ever forgotten.

Words Of Wisdom

1.     One particular challenge that I’ve observed amongst millennials comes through the perceived need of a solid laundry list of what must be said and how people should comport themselves to get what they want. There is none. Focus on allowing the self to shine through genuinely and be gracious when it is valued and appreciated. And know when to walk away with your self-esteem.

2.     Everyone has their own set of moral virtues that they subscribe to, and living up to these value sets affords each person a sense of self-worth and identity. This makes humanity diverse and unique, not universal. If you fail to persuade others of your opinions (without the use of force, of course), take pleasure in the art and exercise of compromise.

3.     Those with financial barriers to international travel can definitely look around them for cost-effective means of engaging globally by taking advantage of Canada’s rich demographic profile. Boundaries can more often be self-imposed than one realizes.

4.     Demonstrate a sincere interest in understanding your environment and the people around you. This is appreciated not just in daily life, but immensely so when on the job.

5.     Be purposeful with everything you do. With limited time and energy to spare, connect every personal and professional pursuit with a clear end-goal. If you’re still trying to figure out what those goals are, devote this time and energy to being open to as many experiences as possible.

Samantha Tam

Age: 31

Senior Trade Policy Officer, Tariffs and Goods Market Access, Global Affairs Canada

Education & Internships

Degrees: MA in Public Administration, Carleton University; BA (Hon) in History, University of Western Ontario.

Internships: During my Master’s program, I had the opportunity to do a co-op term at Natural Resources Canada in the International Energy Division and a second co-op term at Global Affairs Canada in my current division.

On The Job

My job is primarily focused on free trade agreement negotiations and market access issues at the World Trade Organization related to tariffs and goods market access. In other words, we negotiate the tariffs on anything you can touch that enters or leaves Canada. I prepare strategy, negotiating options and instructions, and briefing materials for Canada’s lead and chief negotiators. My work is informed by a lot of statistical analysis. Our primary goal is to help Canadian businesses expand and export their goods to markets abroad. My files are NAFTA (Canada-U.S. relations), the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), and Canada-Japan negotiations. If there are active negotiations, we are expected to travel to locations to engage with our counterparts from other countries.

The most challenging part of my job is the non-stop continuous demands for information on a short turn around. When negotiations are active, we work around the clock and on weekends. However, the reward is being able to contribute to policy work that will have a lasting impact.

Memorable Moment

My most memorable moment was the conclusion of the TPP. I was in Atlanta, Georgia, when the TPP countries concluded negotiations. The delegations had not slept in almost 48 hours in order to reach a final deal. When the announcement was made by the 12 trade ministers, we all breathed a sigh of relief and awe at what we had accomplished. That very same day, then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the Canadian delegation to personally thank us for our work. To be a part of an historical trade agreement that I actively participated in and to see the text that I had drafted in the final agreement was quite the feeling.

Inspiration

I am inspired by the thought that the work we do in trade negotiations and trade policy really does have long term, positive impacts on the Canadian economy. In addition, I look to my colleagues and mentors who have provided me with opportunities to expand my career and a path to follow to success. In particular, my former Director, Alison O’Leary, has been a mentor to me in many ways. She has not only taught me how to lead, negotiate and strategize, but also how to operate as a strong woman in situations that are dominated by men (which is not uncommon outside of Canada). I know that without Alison’s trust in me, I would not be where I am today.

Words Of Wisdom

My advice to anyone considering joining the public service, and specifically getting into the world of foreign affairs and international trade, is to be patient and persistent… and to learn French. Getting into the public service in general is not a straightforward path and usually involves a few short term contracts before a permanent position; having some French language will help with landing a job. If you’re still in school, I would recommend that you make sure you are studying the appropriate subject matter to get you into that field (i.e. if you’re interested in foreign affairs, do not focus your studies on international trade as these are two separate portfolios in the government). If you’re considering changing jobs, I’d recommend reaching out to specific people in that area to really understand the job and career options.

Although a career in foreign affairs and international trade sounds glamorous, it takes a lot of hard work and grind to get to the fun part.

Daniel Barber

Age: 27

Senior Policy Officer, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Division, International Security Policy Bureau, Global Affairs Canada

Education & Internships

Degrees: MA, International Affairs, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University; BA (Hon), Political Science, University of Guelph.

Internships: Co-op, Iraq Desk (political), Gulf State Relations, Middle East and Maghreb Division, Global Affairs Canada.

On The Job

I am responsible for providing policy guidance on a range of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament issues, either in the context of particular treaty frameworks, or other bilateral/multilateral forums. Specifically, I currently cover the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, and contribute to our team’s work on the North Korea file.

Memorable Moment

Most of the stand-out moments in my career thus far have occurred in the context of official travel. It can often be difficult to appreciate the extent to which much of the work carried out at the officer-level feeds into the broader picture of diplomacy and foreign policy engagement. My experiences serving in Canadian delegations abroad brought this connection to life in a meaningful way, and provided an opportunity for me to promote national positions in face-to-face exchanges with my counterparts, an activity which is surprisingly uncommon in the overall work of the department. In terms of memorable moments closer to home, among the many curveball assignments thrown my way in my first position at the Middle East and Maghreb Division, I was once asked to draft a speech (in short order, I might add) that ended up being delivered in the House of Commons a few days later. I think I still have the CPAC video recording saved somewhere.

Inspiration

I had the good fortune of taking courses in International Relations with Professors Ian Spears and Jordi Diez early on in my undergraduate degree. Both of these individuals managed to convey a sense of consequence around international affairs that I felt was unmatched by other comparable disciplines, and inspired a certain curiosity about state behaviour and the nature of the international system that has stayed with me ever since. Later on, Professor Trevor Findlay's guidance (and patience) was instrumental in turning me toward the arms dynamic and multilateralism, issues I have ended up covering in a professional capacity. I will resist the temptation to give personal shout outs to the many inspiring colleagues I have worked with over the last few years (as many of them seem to appreciate low visibility on Google), but suffice to say I have had the pleasure of working under a string of very effective senior managers whose strategic thinking and persuasive abilities I greatly admire, and have sought to emulate in my own day-to-day.

Words Of Wisdom

In no particular order:

  1. Networking is necessary but insufficient, particularly if you are shopping around internally in a given government department. Focus on producing the best work you can, and leverage this as you will. Your awkward coffee dates will get easier if you have already done some leg work and demonstrated value to others.

  2. In your first position, try to make yourself indispensable. Be strategic about shaping your job package; take on difficult (and ideally valuable) work that others have cast aside and demonstrate competency in these tasks. Insert yourself into projects or issue areas that have good visibility within your organization.

  3. Say ‘yes’ to as many new and challenging opportunities as you can, even if you feel out of your league (disclaimer: you might fail from time to time, but it should pay off in the long-run).

  4. If you have the luxury, try to establish a coherent professional identity and career narrative once you get your foot in the door. A veteran Foreign Service officer can afford to be a ‘generalist,’ but it is difficult to convey value with this type of profile early on in your career. If possible, find a niche and promote yourself on that basis. Your contacts will be better able to flag relevant opportunities and connections for your attention if they have a sense of where you want to fit in.

  5. Invest in good quality dress shoes.

  6. Be cautious about accepting advice from 27-year-olds (except on these last two points).   


Illustrator: Garth Laidlaw