Canada’s future foreign policymakers 2018: Meet the millennials making a mark in international affairs

Curious to know what kind of work goes into the planning and execution of Canada’s international relations? For the third year in a row, we’re featuring some of the most engaged and passionate young people involved in Canadian foreign policy. 

They represent a variety of departments and agencies — Global Affairs Canada, the Department of National Defence, the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Department of Justice, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, to name just a few — highlighting that for young people interested in working in international affairs, opportunities can be found throughout the federal government.

Our “millennials” this year range from trade commissioners to policy analysts to foreign service officers, stationed at headquarters in Ottawa or at Canadian missions abroad. Here, they share a bit about their daily responsibilities, their most memorable career moments to date, and one recent foreign policy initiative they thought either should be celebrated or needs more attention.  

They also give their thoughts on job hunting, how to excel in a government position and how to keep an open mind when things don’t go as planned. Their advice is wide-ranging and will, we hope, be helpful for students charting their future career course or for anyone looking to explore ways of contributing to Canadian foreign policy making.

You can see last year’s list of future foreign policymakers here. And, as a way of recognizing the young people making contributions to foreign affairs outside government walls, this year Lamia Naji has penned an essay on the value diaspora communities bring when representing Canada. Read her thoughts here.


Wilson Leite

Age 24

Trade Commissioner, Europe Bilateral Relations and Advocacy, Global Affairs Canada

Education & Internships

Degree: BA in International Relations, University of British Columbia.

Internships: Mission of Canada to the European Union and the Embassy of Canada to Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.

On The Job

As a trade commissioner in one of Global Affairs Canada’s geographic branches, I cover bilateral commercial relations with the United Kingdom and Ireland. My job sees me coordinating any bilateral incoming and outgoing visits by the trade minister or the prime minister, and preparing the briefing material for their respective visits.

Memorable Moment

As I am writing this piece, I am on assignment preparing for and working during the G7 summit in Charlevoix. This is something that you don’t get to do often and is one of the reasons why working at GAC is so dynamic.

Separately, I had the incredible experience of working in Brussels at an interesting moment in Canadian foreign policy as we prepared to sign the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) during the Canada-EU summit. I also worked on its subsequent ratification in the European Parliament. It was both stressful and rewarding to work on this priority file for the government.

Initiative To Celebrate

I would argue that, for Canada, this has been a great year for free trade. With CETA provisionally applied last year, the signing of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the launch of MERCOSUR negotiations earlier this year should not just be celebrated but acknowledged as significant achievements in an ever-uncertain and evolving world. Canadian trade policy has never been so dynamic, and this is more than just a talking point — Canada’s impact as a positive force in free trade cannot be stressed enough.   

Words Of Wisdom

I would say take pieces of advice from others with a grain of salt. Except for this one: chart your own path because what might have worked for others won’t necessarily work for you. However, this does not mean that there isn’t anything to learn from your colleagues’ career paths. I have been privileged to work with some of the best and brightest, from whom I have learned a great deal. These colleagues are diplomats with incredibly diverse experiences and I have always appreciated hearing the stories of how they started their careers.

Ian Grant

Age 35

Public Affairs Officer, Canadian Joint Operations Command

Education & Internships

Degrees: MA, University of Ottawa, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs; BA, International Development Studies, University of Winnipeg.

Internships: Strategic Policy at the former Canadian International Development Agency (co-op); Intergovernmental Affairs at the Privy Council Office of Canada (co-op).

On The Job

As a public affairs officer with the Canadian Armed Forces, I work to tell the story of the organization and its people to various audiences. The Forces is a massive team of ordinary Canadians who do extraordinary work whenever and wherever called upon by the government. When I deploy internationally, I really feel like I’m on the front lines of my country’s foreign and defence policy. My past experience working at the strategic level was certainly interesting and cerebral, but I find fulfillment at the ground level where I can directly witness the positive impact my colleagues and I make wherever we’re engaged.

Memorable Moment

In July 2017 I deployed to Japan on Operation DRIFTNET with the Royal Canadian Air Force. I was there to inform specific Japanese audiences about what Canada was doing to protect wild fish stocks in the region and the importance of curtailing illegal fishing for both our countries. Having previously lived in Japan and having worked at one of its government’s diplomatic missions in Canada, it was a rewarding chance to employ all the linguistic, political and economic experience I had developed in a new capacity.

At one point, the deputy minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada joined us to convey our message to the Japanese media, and I was tasked with executing the plan and interpreting for the press. Before the conference began, a reporter asked me to confirm that the deputy minister was indeed a woman, as per her bio. I thought this was a strange request, but as the reporter explained, in Japan, it was unusual for a woman to lead a major federal department’s bureaucracy. I was happy to offer the confirmation, and I remember feeling a bit proud that nowadays no one back home would think this was a typo, or even particularly noteworthy.

Underreported Foreign Policy Issue

I think many Canadians would be surprised to know their military is currently deployed on an array of operations around the world, all in support of our various foreign policy objectives. Many of these operations, and the daily contributions they make to international peace and security, don’t get the attention they deserve.

Words Of Wisdom

“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world,” wrote novelist John le Carré. If you’re looking for a job to write home about, it may be very hard to find it in a cubicle, especially when starting out. Try to get an internship at a place you think you might want to work to see if your expectations match the day-to-day reality. If I hadn’t done co-op, I may have never realized that I need to get out of the office and hit the ground to really feel like I’m doing something worthwhile with my time and for my country. The military isn’t for everyone, but it’s certainly an excellent path for someone looking for challenges, responsibility and travel right out of the gate. Above all, beware the tyranny of comfort.

April Killikelly

Age 32

Science Policy Analyst, Office of the Chief Science Operating Officer, Science Branch, Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Education & Internships

Degree: PhD in Molecular Biophysics from New York University (NYC, USA).

Fellowships: Detail to the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History (Washington, DC); Postdoctoral research fellow at the Vaccine Research Center in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease at the National Institutes of Health (Washington, DC).

On The Job

I coordinate a global network of high containment laboratories that optimizes collaboration and knowledge exchange to protect human health, animal health and agriculture resources. The most challenging parts about what I do are the scope and scale of the problems we are trying to address: how do we protect Canadians, and the rest of the world, from the next global infectious disease outbreak? This problem is amplified by the growing threats posed by emerging and re-emerging diseases occurring more frequently and in new and unpredictable locations. The most rewarding part of my job is working with international partners who get up very early in the morning and/or stay up very late at night to participate in meetings and phone calls to address these challenges. It gives me hope to work with such smart, driven, creative people every day!

Memorable Moment

The network identified a need to develop a training workshop for scientists to share best practices around sharps handling inside high containment laboratories while performing necropsies on large animals (sheep). The network worked collaboratively to develop the participant list, the location and resources needed for the workshop and the teaching and training objectives. The one thing we lacked was commitment from a facilitator or trainer. This role came to me and I flew to Iowa with no high containment experience, having never dissected anything larger than a mouse, and with more than a few nerves. The scientists worked extremely well together — this included team-teaching, sharing suggestions and protocols, and developing research collaborations and ideas for future workshops. I never thought I would be in the position I was in — discussing the best way to crack open a rib cage with a group of highly trained experts — but policy work can take you in some very unexpected directions. I’ve learned to go with the flow and accept opportunities as they present themselves.

Initiative To Celebrate

In May 2018, over 4,000 doses of a Canadian-made vaccine arrived in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, in time to fight the newest outbreak of Ebola. This vaccine was developed at the Public Health Agency of Canada and production was scaled up by global healthcare company Merck. Unlike the 2014 outbreak, where the vaccine arrived too late to save the 11,000 lives eventually claimed by the disease, this time the global health community was armed with this vaccine. Getting the right intervention to the right people at the right time involved a lot of moving parts, and this coordinated success results from the combined efforts of scientific research, public-private partnership, health workers, and world-wide governmental and non-governmental organizations.

Words Of Wisdom

Follow your interest! As a scientist interested in global health, I didn’t know how to connect the dots and get from where I was (the lab) to where I wanted to be (talking to decision makers in global health and infectious disease). I followed my interests, developed broad skill sets and stayed curious about what caught my attention.

Mireille Le-Ngoc

Age 29

Senior Desk Officer, Gulf States Relations, Global Affairs Canada

Education & Internships

Degrees: Master of Laws (LL.M.), University of Melbourne; Bachelor of Civil Law (B.C.L.) and Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) with minor in East Asian Language and Literature, McGill University; Member of Quebec Bar.

Internships: International Criminal Court in The Hague; International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Geneva.

On The Job

As a senior desk officer in a geographic division, I closely monitor current events and developments in my country and region of focus from a Canadian perspective. I advise on complex policy issues and have been involved in a diverse range of files, including the bilateral relationship, human rights, economic sanctions, non-proliferation and consular issues. I draft briefing material, speeches, memorandums and other relevant material, and engage with government officials and civil society groups on issues related to my country. Current events constantly shape and unpredictably dictate my workload. Since foreign service officers are rotational, we change assignments every few years, which allows us to continuously learn new issues, face new challenges and grow professionally.

Memorable Moment

I had the opportunity to complete a temporary assignment to the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations in New York during the UN General Assembly, to support the negotiation process of a resolution led by Canada. It was fascinating to be at the UN and to participate in bilateral and multilateral negotiations on a human rights resolution. It was a great learning experience to observe the interplay between states, and to navigate through conflicting expectations and positions to ensure the widest support possible.

Underreported Foreign Policy Issue

Over the last year, there have been numerous humanitarian crises that did not receive the attention they deserved — it is difficult to identify only one. The #MeToo movement received a lot of attention this year, but little was given to the special representative of the secretary-general on sexual violence in conflict’s recent visit to Sudan, where she observed a culture of denial which feeds the culture of silence about sexual violence. There was wide media coverage of hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean, but little about the worst flooding in decades in Peru. There is also extensive coverage of the nuclear issue in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, but very little about the high level of food insecurity and malnutrition in the country. All the issues that received greater media attention merited that attention, but there are also too often issues that remain underreported.

Words Of Wisdom

Make the best of every opportunity that is presented to you. Everywhere I worked, I have learned a lot through my role and responsibilities, but I have learned even more through the inspiring people I have had the chance to work with. My internship in Geneva with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also led me to other opportunities with the organization in Ethiopia, and then with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Know yourself. Be curious, determined and passionate about your work. There is no straightforward path to an international career and, more importantly, there are many different aspects to international affairs. Clearly identifying issues of particular interest allows you to steer your career, by targeting studies, volunteering activities, internships and employment that would help you achieve your professional goals.

Daniel Canough

Age 26

Policy Analyst, International Relations, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada

Education & Internships

Degrees: MA in Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa; BPhil, Dominican University College.

Internships: Global Affairs Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada. Volunteer work with the Indigenous Peoples Documentation, Information and Research Centre in Geneva, Switzerland.

On The Job

My responsibilities on the job cover a wide array of issues. I am currently the trade lead for my department, but I also work on human rights reporting to United Nations treaty bodies and provide support at multilateral meetings on Indigenous rights and issues at the UN. In one day, I may be analyzing chapter text and responding to requests from trade negotiators, drafting speaking points to be delivered by the minister at the United Nations, or meeting with Indigenous partners and stakeholders to discuss their perspectives on international issues.

My departmental colleagues sometimes ask why an Indigenous department has an international relations team. We do not speak for Indigenous peoples. We represent Canada as our Indigenous partners work on the international stage, and we seek to help promote shared initiatives such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples or the Indigenous chapter in NAFTA. The relationship with Indigenous peoples can be complex, and there much need for reconciliation. That’s why the most rewarding moments are when Canada and Indigenous peoples work together towards common goals.

Memorable Moment

I’ve been very fortunate with the opportunities that this job has afforded me, and the intelligent, hard-working and supportive people I have met while working here. I’ve been able to witness chapter discussions during NAFTA negotiations, and represent Canada at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at UN headquarters in New York.

A particularly memorable moment was running through a thunderstorm to give a UN pass to a member of the Canadian delegation during the Permanent Forum. I had not gotten much sleep the night before, and had to spend the rest of the day in a wet suit. It might not have been my most impactful or noble task, but it taught me a good lesson about public service.

Initiative To Celebrate

UN member states negotiated a resolution on enhancing Indigenous participation at the UN in September 2017. It was an outcome of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014. During negotiations, Canada worked closely with Indigenous partners to put forward an ambitious proposal. Unfortunately, the final resolution adopted by the General Assembly was not as ambitious as Canada had hoped, but the issue will be revisited in a few years, and states are working to make progress until then.

Words Of Wisdom

“If the door won’t open, try a window.” I got my start at an international job in part because I was lucky, in part because I had done small things like volunteering for an NGO that works on Indigenous issues and reaching out to officials working on files I found interesting. Finally, when a position opened up on the international team at Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, I was able to show how I had experience working on the file, and got the job as a result!

Bryan Tomlinson

Age 30

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

Education & Internships

Degrees: MSc International Relations, London School of Economics; BSc Behavioural Neuroscience and BA International Relations, University of British Columbia.

Internships: Canadian High Commission in the UK; Royal Commonwealth Society; Permanent Mission of Canada to the UN in Geneva.

On The Job

I currently provide policy advice on a range of international nuclear issues that tie into Canada’s wider foreign policy goals of ensuring the world is safer and more peaceful. These include enhancing nuclear security in order to reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism worldwide and ensuring other states’ compliance with nuclear non-proliferation obligations.

Additionally, this year has been underpinned by Canada’s G7 presidency, allowing for Canadian leadership in nuclear-related G7 working groups, namely the Nuclear Safety and Security Group, Global Partnership Working Group, and the Non-Proliferation Directors Group.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of my job as a policy advisor on a technical subject is striking the right balance between bigger-picture foreign policy considerations and the often eye-watering detail associated with such a technically complex file. Finding that balance, however, is tremendously rewarding, and Canada consistently hits above our weight group, by virtue of the wide array of expertise we tap into across government, industry and academia.

Memorable Moment

It’s been interesting to gain a greater understanding of how Canada fits in the wider international context as a “soft power.” While attending international meetings, I’ve been inspired seeing that when we speak, other countries listen intently, given our reputation for consistently providing well-balanced, thoughtful and oftentimes novel insights that sometimes help unblock tricky discussions.

Working on the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit and getting to see a leader-level process unfold from start to finish was a truly memorable experience. I was lucky enough to be involved in preparations in the fall of 2014 until the actual summit in spring 2016, followed by the implementation of commitments thereafter, all of which involved travelling abroad to advance Canada’s goals. Many colleagues often only encounter snapshots of multi-year international processes, so it has been very educational getting to see a process from start to finish and subsequent implementation. Getting to meet the prime minister and work with other senior decision makers was an added bonus!

Initiative To Celebrate

Following the Nuclear Security Summit, Canada took on the role as the inaugural chair of the Nuclear Security Contact Group, which I helped set up from the ground up between 2016 and 2017. This work involved working closely partners such as the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and the Netherlands, among others.

I’ve been really thrilled to have been a part of the great work we do to advance nuclear security overseas with international partners, including the International Atomic Energy Agency, Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, INTERPOL, and the G7-led Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction.

Words Of Wisdom

Take my advice with a grain of salt, but here is a non-exhaustive set of tips that I’ve found particularly helpful while navigating a career in international affairs.

Enjoy the journey, but don’t forget the destination: A career in international affairs can be incredibly multi-faceted, so a key piece of advice I’ve sworn by is to maintain an open mind. Try to take on opportunities outside your comfort zone. While I was in Geneva, I was lucky enough to work on a wide range of topics, including the Conference on Disarmament, Human Rights Council, International Labour Organization, and the World Health Organization… kind of like “speed dating” in international fora!

Do your best to maintain a work-life balance that works for you: The long hours and pervasive pressure to produce top-quality results can take a toll on work-life balance, but I’ve been very fortunate to have had tremendously intelligent, inspired, energetic and supportive supervisors who keep the team on track with our eyes firmly on the goal of delivering our best work. But don’t forget to take time for yourself, doing whatever you need to do to recharge your batteries!

Try to develop an interdisciplinary background: For those interested in pursuing a more technically-oriented file, having an academically and professionally interdisciplinary background can be an effective way to stand out. Though it’s not necessary to do two concurrent bachelor degrees like I did (I originally started off in science, then deviated into international relations), having a cursory background in scientific concepts can help you navigate complex issues a lot faster, and build a reputation as someone who does not shy away from detail, in a field where people are known for being professional “generalists.”

Build social capital: Known by many as “networking,” it’s invaluable for one’s career development to have a core group of close friends and mentors you can depend upon for more in-depth issues, while maintaining a wider array of acquaintances with whom you can share opportunities, ideas or feedback you might not get from the former group.

Most importantly, don’t forget to have some fun: One of my professors once said something along the lines of, “Naturally you’re here to study… but at the end of the day, don’t forget to give the books a rest, and grab a pint with your friends and colleagues.” It’s in these fun, informal contexts that some of the best ideas, collaboration and learning can occur… so don’t shy away from taking the initiative to organize an outing once in a while.

Nicholas Schiavo

Age 26

Policy Analyst, Global and Northern Affairs Bureau, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO)

Education & Internships

Degrees: MA in Political Management from the Arthur Kroeger College of Public Affairs, Carleton University (beginning September 2018); BA Honours Specialization in International Relations, University of Western Ontario.

Internships: Ontario Global Edge Fellowship in Nairobi, Kenya; FSWEP/student positions with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and the Canadian Commission for UNESCO. Extracurricular experiences representing Canada at the Commonwealth, the World Bank and the United Nations.

On The Job

I was fortunate to join DFO’s external relations team right as Canada was preparing its agenda for the 2018 G7 presidency. Working as a policy analyst on the G7 oceans agenda, I’ve had the opportunity to help shape priorities and initiatives going into the Charlevoix summit and beyond. A typical day can include: preparing briefing material for ministerial meetings with international counterparts, managing logistics for G7-wide preparatory meetings and helping to develop a national youth and oceans engagement strategy. Excelling in this role requires me to be curious, adaptable and quick on my feet.

While G7 discussions are traditionally dominated by economic and security focused foreign policy, this year’s presidency marks a unique and profound shift towards greater global cooperation on oceans and environment-related concerns. Building off of progress made through previous environmental accords, I’m proud of the work my team and I did to make the G7 Ocean Plastics Charter a reality in Charlevoix and help reduce the amount of plastic waste in the world’s oceans.

Memorable Moment

Being asked within my first two weeks to fill in for my director and represent Canada on a deliberations call with fisheries counterparts from the US, the UK, France, Italy, Germany and Japan — with five minutes’ notice. Knowing I have the trust and respect of my superiors, and being given the responsibility to stand up for Canadian aquaculture issues, is incredibly humbling and rewarding. Since then I’ve continued to receive, and ask for, more professional challenges.

Initiative To Celebrate

As of today, 72 countries criminalize same-sex relationships, and those in them can be subject to fines, a life sentence or the death penalty. Knowing this criminalization is fundamentally at odds with international law and basic human dignity, the global push for greater recognition of LGBTQ2+ rights in 2018 has been inspiring.

At a national level, Canada — led by the Office of the Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Canada on LGBTQ2 Issues — has taken a number of steps to advocate for LGBTQ2+ individuals in other states and empower grassroots organizations. This includes increasing sponsorship for refugees claiming asylum based on gender identity through the Rainbow Refugee Assistance Pilot Program and co-developing the Equal Rights Initiative with Chile — the first intergovernmental network formed to promote and protect the human rights of gender minorities. It’s been encouraging to see this agenda reflected in the domestic context too.

Internationally, many countries and intergovernmental organizations have also taken up the mantle of equality. The United Nations’ Free and Equal initiative and the work of UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Victor Madrigal-Borloz has had a powerful effect in mobilizing international support in favour of LGBTQ2+ rights and moving the conversation forward. While many battles lay ahead, the dialogues taking place in today’s foreign policy forums inspire confidence that we may move towards an international order based on equality, justice and freedom for all.

Words Of Wisdom

Working in and around foreign policy we’re often led to believe that our contributions are only as great as our age. This is not true. Don’t let impostor syndrome hold you back in taking a leadership role. Your experiences are assets, your ideas are valuable and the space you occupy is valid. Be confident.

Don’t wait for opportunity to come to you, forge your own path. Use every tool at your disposal to find new roles, new networks and new experiences that help you grow personally and professionally.

Given the current economic climate, finding meaningful work can be difficult, so when there’s no seat at the table for you, go out and build your own.

Wisam Salih

Age 31

Trade Policy Analyst, Softwood Lumber Division (Litigation Unit), Global Affairs Canada

Education & Internships

Degrees: Master of International Trade, Johnson-Shoyama School of Public Policy, University of Saskatchewan. BA (Political Studies), University of Saskatchewan.

Internships: Global Affairs Canada, Trade Commissioner Service, Regional Office; Ministry of the Economy, Investment Attraction Division; Global Affairs Canada, Invest in Canada Bureau; Global Affairs Canada, Investor Promotion.

On The Job

In the Litigation Unit, we work to advance the interests of Canadian softwood lumber companies through the World Trade Organization and NAFTA’s dispute settlement mechanisms. Softwood lumber production and export represents a significant industry in Canada. Canadian exports to the United States are not only important for Canadian jobs, but also domestic US homebuilding and other industries. Our economies are intertwined. Holding the United States to account at the WTO and under NAFTA’s Chapter 19 dispute settlement mechanism is essential to defending Canadian softwood exports to the United States.

One of the best aspects of my job is engaging with the major softwood lumber producers, as well as the little guys too. Understanding their concerns and learning about their operations is fascinating to me. Having worked in the public service for almost 10 years, I find that we often get caught up with the numbers and spreadsheets. These interactions provide me with an opportunity to understand the industry from their perspective, which allows me to have a tangible sense of the impact of my work.

Memorable Moment

A short while back, I was able to travel to the heart of international multilateral institutions: Brussels. I was a part of the Canadian delegation, representing Canada at a handful of policy and technical committee meetings. Seeing the inner workings of a major multilateral organization was incredibly interesting to me. I was able to watch the Canadian delegation in action and participate in formal bilateral meetings with Canada’s key allies. In the evenings, I attended informal meetings with Canada’s “Five Eyes” Brussels-based attachés. The backroom discussions and exchanging of views was an extremely memorable experience for me.

Underreported Foreign Policy Issue

Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition has launched a senseless and barbaric war against a mostly defenceless population, causing a humanitarian disaster that rivals Syria. While the plight of Syrian refugees and displaced people rightfully received enormous media coverage, mainstream media have barely scratched the surface of the conflict in Yemen. In April of this year, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres explicitly stated, “As the conflict enters its fourth year, more than 22 million people — three-quarters of the population — need humanitarian aid and protection. Some 18 million people are food insecure; one million more than when we convened last year. And a horrifying 8.4 million of these people do not know how they will obtain their next meal.” For me, this is the single most underreported story of 2018.

Words Of Wisdom

My best advice for folks wanting to get into the Government of Canada/international affairs arena is to get out there and meet as many people as possible. Informal “networking” can go a long way. In my experience, there is a massive gap between hiring managers and qualified candidates. Ottawa is a relatively small city, so it’s not very difficult to get your name out there if you attend events and get out of your comfort zone. Patience, persistence and meeting the right person at the right time will certainly lead to an interesting and rewarding career in the field of your choice.

Jonathan McAuley

Age 34

Senior Government Relations Officer, Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC)

Education & Internships

Degree: Bachelor of Social Science in Public Administration (specialization in Public Policies Analysis), University of Ottawa.

On The Job

At CCC, I develop and maintain partnerships with provincial governments, other federal departments or agencies, and industry associations. Working closely with our partners, my goal is to demonstrate how CCC can support Canadian exporters seeking to sell to foreign governments. As part of marketing and strategic business development, I provide strategic external relations advice, and act as a point of contact to the greater international trade network. I facilitate training for our partners, participate in panels and outreach activities, and collaborate on policy development to ensure CCC’s perspective is considered at the table.

Few people, including within the Government of Canada, have heard of CCC. This increases the importance of my role clarifying how this small crown corporation punches above its weight. For those who don’t know, we report to the minister of international trade, and we help Canadian companies export to foreign government entities through international bilateral commercial agreements that we call government-to-government (G2G). The terms and conditions are then flowed to a Canadian company to deliver while the government provides a guarantee that the project will be delivered on time and on budget.

How does CCC tie in to Canada’s foreign policy goals? Simply put, Canada’s export-based economy relies on mechanisms to help Canadians bring their products and services to markets. CCC offers its services where access, risk mitigation and competitiveness could benefit from a G2G contracting approach. For projects of national importance, G2G contracts increase bilateral relations, bringing two nations closer and opening the door to further collaboration down the road. Last year alone, CCC was active in 78 countries worldwide, working with 182 leading companies in Canada.

Memorable Moment

To provide a full view of the international trade portfolio to exporters, I represented CCC on a cross-Canada road show with our partners. These seminars were an opportunity to raise awareness of services available for exports to Canadian companies from the Atlantic provinces to the Prairies and BC. From this experience, I was able to create new links with our provincial partners in international trade and other important partners that aim to help Canadian companies toward their exporting goals. Now these partners have a better understanding of what options exist to sell Canadian solutions abroad.

Initiative To Celebrate

Canada is a world leader when it comes to efforts against corruption and bribery. Canadian exporters consistently face these challenges in markets abroad, particularly when dealing with states that are considered less stable, countries with dysfunctional or failing bureaucracies, or when dealing with non-democratic states with complex political and commercial circumstances. An unpredictable political and business environment and ineffectual procurement organizations can result in a risk profile that many Canadian exporters are hesitant to tackle alone. There is no question these are complex markets to navigate.

What’s not commonly known, and is also an initiative to celebrate, is that CCC specializes in markets where the business environment is less predictable and where Canadian exporters require the additional support of a Government of Canada partner to achieve success. Governments at every level use the G2G contracting approach to reduce their acquisition risk. CCC’s extensive integrity compliance, technical, financial and managerial capability and due diligence process demonstrates that the Canadian exporter is able to deliver on the contract, and that all parties will demonstrate ethical business practices. Governments who deem the risk of bribery and corruption or the risk of a failed tender to be sufficiently high look to Canada and CCC’s G2G contracting mechanism as a proven procurement strategy to deliver projects of national importance.

Words Of Wisdom

After a decade of working in various Government of Canada departments and agencies, the best advice I could give is to keep an open mind. Learn from others and use every opportunity at your disposal to develop your skills and to keep increasing the quality of your work.

Work with others; venture beyond your immediate team. Build your network and don’t be afraid to break down silos. You’ll be surprised by the many interesting and knowledgeable individuals out there and what you can learn from them.

Kateryna Sherysheva

Age 26

Policy Analyst, International Assistance Envelope Management, Global Affairs Canada

Education & Internships

Degrees: MA International Affairs (specialization in International Development Policy), Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University; BA Joint Honours in Political Science and International Development Studies, McGill University.

Internships: Junior Analyst, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (FSWEP); Junior Development Officer, Asia Pacific Branch, Global Affairs Canada (co-op).

On The Job

I work in the International Assistance Envelope Management division at Global Affairs Canada. My focus is on financing for development and official development assistance policy. Through my main deliverable, I have been conveying to Canadians the important results achieved via Canada’s official development assistance of $5 billion. I have produced the last three reports to parliament on the Government of Canada’s official development assistance. This is a legislatively mandated whole of government product; as such, I work with 20 government departments that have official development assistance activities. I enjoy bringing innovation to the work that I do, like moving the report to a dynamic website to make it more engaging.

Memorable Moment

My most memorable moment was representing Canada at the annual board meeting of the Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21st Century (PARIS21) at the OECD in Paris. I was managing a statistical capacity development project with them. The board meeting was attended by both donor and recipient countries. It was exceptionally valuable to hear how the work of PARIS21 has benefitted developing countries from the recipients themselves. It was also interesting to engage with other donors and influence change. The part that I would never forget is, after the chair adjourned the meeting, the first thing she did was come up to me and my colleague from Statistics Canada. She gave each of us a warm hug and said, “Thank you Canada!”  

Underreported Foreign Policy Issue

Early and forced child marriage in refugee camps has been an underreported and rising issue. While early and forced child marriage is a global problem, prevalent in many regions around the world, in emergency and crisis situations, the risk of early marriage increases and affects predominantly girls. The situation is especially dire in refugee camps due to increased vulnerability and economic pressures faced by girls. In order to address this issue, it is important to advocate for the implementation and enforcement of laws prohibiting child marriage; provide economic support and incentives to girls and their parents to facilitate self-sufficiency; rally parents and community members on the negative impacts of child marriage on a girl’s health and future; empower girls with information, skills and support networks to refuse unwanted marriage; and consult girls and women on appropriate infrastructure placement for a safer environment.

Words Of Wisdom

Take initiative and challenge yourself to grow. When I was doing my first term as a co-op student, I asked to be a project team lead. I was given the opportunity to manage a women’s economic empowerment project for the Myanmar program through the assessment, approval and contribution agreement stages. When I joined the International Assistance Envelope Management division and noticed our team had a lot of deliverables coming up while we had limited human resources, I asked to hire students. I ended up supervising two students per year for the past three years. These responsibilities were challenging at first, but they allowed me to grow and develop new skills. The thing is, I wouldn’t have necessarily been given these opportunities had I not asked for them. If there’s something you’d like to try, ask.

Aaron Joshua Pinto

Age 27

International Trade and Investment Associate, Government of Ontario, Consulate General of Canada in New York

Education & Internships

Degrees: MA in Politics and Security, Academy of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Kyrgyzstan; BA in International Relations, University of Western Ontario, Canada (exchanges at l’École de Langue Française de Trois-Pistoles, Quebec; Radboud Universiteit, Netherlands; and l’Université François-Rabelais de Tours, France)

Internships: United States Commercial Service, Consulate General of the United States of America in Toronto; Jaimie Anderson Parliamentary Internship, Parliament of Canada; AIESEC Russia community development internship in the Bashkir Republic, Russia; Junior Team Canada trade and development mission to Panama and Colombia; volunteer and field experiences in Canada, South Africa, Ukraine, etc.

On The Job

The Canada-US relationship is the most multifaceted relationship of any two countries on the planet. Working for the Government of Ontario’s International Trade and Investment Office (TIO) in New York City, I am able to do my little part in supporting the extensive bilateral economic relationship. This entails enabling cross-border foreign direct investment and export promotion for companies operating in the burgeoning strategic sectors of fintech, biotech and artificial intelligence.

My work translates into a mix of day-to-day activities on the ground to primarily assist companies in the northeastern US who have their eyes set on establishing or expanding their operations in Ontario. This investment-related piece includes providing tailored guidance and counsel on tax, government and permit procedures, location options, immigration and business solutions in the province, as well as introducing Ontario to potential investors through various ways, including networking at conferences and organizing familiarization tours.

At the same time, I also fulfill the trade piece by strengthening the competitiveness of Ontario companies by helping them tap into the northeastern US market, whether by facilitating meetings between Ontario suppliers and relevant US buyers or partners, and delivering opportunities, through trade shows, missions or other programming. The work I do essentially means that I take on the roles of consultant, facilitator, connector and helper all in one package; supporting businesses who seek to meet the cross-border exporting and investment challenge. From CETA to NAFTA, we always hear how international trade and investment form a great pathway for businesses to “create jobs,” “attract capital” and “grow the economy.” These are habitual and rather nebulous phrases which for a long time never allowed me to truly understand the hard work that goes on behind all of this — that all changed when I began my role with the Ontario TIO.

Memorable Moment

From Midtown Manhattan to Newark, New Jersey and beyond, I have attended several key conferences, such as Tech Day NYC, New York BIO and the Future Labs AI Summit, where I gained insights into the challenges and opportunities related to up-and-coming technologies and sub-sectors including blockchain, machine learning, genomics, and more.

Recently, I headed to Toronto and Waterloo, where I met with Ontario’s minister of international trade, received briefings from Toronto Global and the Waterloo Region Economic Development Corporation, explored the Catalyst137 construction site, and toured Communitech’s co-working space and the University of Waterloo’s Velocity Garage. These visits have helped me convey to US companies the new developments, funding, and program opportunities that exist in the province.

As part of the job, I have also helped organize a foreign direct investment mission to Ontario for several US investors and put together a panel in New York to showcase Ontario’s evolving fintech scene from a comparative Canada-US perspective. Along the way, I supported the planning of a visit by the Ontario minister of finance and another by members of an Ontario Mayoral delegation. What makes this job truly enjoyable is that it always seems to take me out and beyond the office, and consistently entails learning on the go and meeting highly motivating and enterprising people.

Initiative To Celebrate

Similar to Lyndon B. Johnson’s Cold War counsel on the space race, Vladimir Putin last year alluded to the next great technological race of artificial intelligence, saying, “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.” While a bit of a hyperbole, there is considerable truth in Johnson and Putin’s understanding of technology’s power. We have seen how digitalization and supercomputers have produced a vast quantity of data flows over borders that is being used to power AI. Despite the fact that the AI opportunity (and challenge) is one that is truly global in nature, it is striking that it is almost absent from the foreign policy agenda. Currently, the United States and China are competing to dominate big data in the global marketplace. China has launched a multi-billion dollar AI development plan to lead the world in the technology by 2030.

That said, despite the duopoly, other countries, including Canada, have ramped up investment in the field. Domestically, for example, Canada has launched a national Innovation Agenda; invested to support business-led innovation superclusters, including AI; is in the process of forming a pan-Canadian AI strategy; will soon host a G7 AI roundtable; and is pushing for other developments. On the international trade front, the momentum is compounded with trade policymakers in Europe and North America linking AI to trade with explicit language in bilateral and regional trade agreements. Without question, positioning domestic economic interests in global AI markets, as well as AI-inspired development programs will be important objectives for foreign policy leaders now and in the future.

Words Of Wisdom

First, while unpaid internships can be inequitable, they are an important path to getting hired. Unpaid internships are still a reality for many organizations, and supply and demand essentially enables this in many cases. These internships are competitive and lucrative, and for those lucky enough to get selected, it will mean tightening belts and seeking financial assistance. In the end, however, interns can be chosen for entry-level positions. If not this, then there can be an opportunity to tap into powerful networks. And at the very least, you will still have the experience to carry you forward to your next position.

Second, whether you are in search of a job or internship, or looking for an opportunity to collaborate or partner, sometimes all it may take is sending out a simple email or message on LinkedIn. Just try your luck. Even if you send out messages to 100 people, the reality is only a few, or one, will respond back — but that one person who does respond could very well introduce you to a new, unforeseen prospect and may even change your thought trajectory. Take a chance!

Third, if you are into international development, field experience is a must, but in general international experience is something always good to have under your belt in IR. Enrol in a co-op program; do an exchange or work abroad; try participating in activities with Cuso, WUSC, UNAC’s international development and diplomacy internship; or volunteer for or become a member of a campus or local club with an international bent, whether Young Diplomats of Canada, the Royal Commonwealth Society, Global Shapers, Model UN, a policy or idea lab that is of interest to you, etc. Attending international conferences can also be vital as these will help you tap into valuable international networks and opportunities that you may not even have known about while at home. It also provides a powerful cross-cultural and foreign language learning experience.

Fourth, network, network, network. Diplomacy is a field of communication. By being yourself and connecting with likeminded people, you are more likely to open doors for yourself and make good friends along the way. Not only this, networking is also a great way to identify and speak to those individuals whose jobs you might want one day, thus helping you get a sense of the work they did to get there and knowing what the day-to-day job entails.

Fifth, pursue a master’s degree when you truly know you are ready; there is no need to rush. When you have worked for a while, you actually start to learn how policy and development works in its true essence, not merely theory. Practice and experience is immensely important for employers now more than ever.

Sixth, on the topic of degrees, you may want to consider choosing a technical degree — no one says you actually need a degree in IR to be a diplomat. In fact, engineering, economics and science graduates are the most sought after candidates by top intergovernmental agencies precisely because they seek more individuals who are specialized on issues such as climate, oceans, cybersecurity, health, atomic energy, etc. Having this background can give you an edge and unique value proposition. But, while you may specialize, it is also important to try to be someone who dabbles in a little of everything, keeping in mind there is room for growth in your well of knowledge.

Seventh, the UN and these larger intergovernmental organizations are hard to break into and can certainly put your idealism to the test. Do try of course, but it can be onerous — the competition is certainly tough, and these organizations now increasingly rely on temporary contracts. That said, bear in mind there are other ways to try working for these organizations: UN Volunteers, observation missions, research and reporting work, getting involved and remaining connected with programs and councils run by these IGOs, etc. There are many ways to also engage in IR without the traditional route of joining the foreign service. There is also a vast pool of think tanks, international trade and investment offices, NGOs, etc., and they all offer a host of learning, volunteering and employment opportunities.

Finally, be strategic about your focus area in IR. Today’s problems are actively being solved, but tomorrow’s problems are those that need solving: space, future energy, tech, artificial intelligence, defence 2.0, data analysis, Africa, Central Asia, etc. If you can dive into these field genres, you will be well placed in the future to make expert commentary and analysis on the subject.

Sid Rashid

Age 31

Counsel, Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Section, Department of Justice Canada

Education & Internships

Degrees: JD Common Law (International Law specialization), University of Ottawa; MA International Affairs (Conflict Analysis and Conflict Resolution specialization), Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University; Bachelor of Science (pre-medicine), Political Studies minor, University of Manitoba.

Internships: International Center for Transitional Justice (New York), Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (Washington, DC), United Nations Development Programme (Beirut), Canadian Center for International Justice (Ottawa), and United Nations, Human Rights, and Economic Law Division at Global Affairs Canada (Ottawa).

On The Job

As counsel, my day-to-day work consists of advancing a variety of files involving the possible complicity of individuals in genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes, otherwise known as mass crimes. Our office has jurisdiction over such files pursuant to Canada’s Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act. On any given day, depending on the stage of a particular file and the remedy sought, the role of counsel varies and includes: evaluating initial allegations, gathering evidence, requesting legal assistance from other states or UN bodies, interviewing potential witnesses, analyzing and assessing evidence on file, providing legal advice on questions of law, drafting reports or court documents, and supporting litigation and prosecution (civil and criminal).

Despite the variety of challenges that exist in this line of work, nothing is more rewarding than working for justice, to uphold respect and integrity for Canada’s laws, to keep Canadians safe, and to seek truth and accountability for mass crimes. On tough days, I need only remember the victims of a particular crime, the stories of their families and witnesses, the often-unimaginable events that transpired, and it becomes easy to find the strength and determination to push on. The Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Program reflects the Government of Canada’s commitment to international justice and human rights by denying a safe haven to persons believed to have committed or been complicit in crimes against humanity, war crimes or genocide, and by contributing to the international fight against impunity.

Memorable Moment

A memorable moment on the job was my first mission overseas to visit crime scenes and proof witnesses for one of my files. Upon arrival, I will never forget stepping out of the plane and onto the tarmac, gazing into the distance, smelling the air, and immediately thinking about the thousands of lives that were lost on that soil many years ago due to mass crimes. My file was ultimately born out of a few of those heinous crimes. The lessons I would learn on the ground in the days that followed from senior co-counsel, prosecutors and investigators were priceless.

Underreported Foreign Policy Issue

One foreign policy issue that deserves more attention is the prevention of and early response to mass crimes. In 2016, the Government of Canada adopted policy recommendations from my 2013 publication with the Canadian Foreign Policy Journal and devoted an unprecedented $450 million to Global Affairs Canada’s new Peace and Stabilization Operations Program to focus on early warning, conflict prevention, mediation and peacekeeping. Such action should be applauded as a positive step. Effective preventive diplomacy and mediation rarely receive the recognition they deserve, as peaceful stability is often maintained or restored and mass crimes averted, so the headlines rarely reach the eyes of the world.

Putting an end to impunity for mass crimes, transitional justice and post-conflict rebuilding are all essential for international peace and security and critical for societies ravaged by mass crime. However, these areas of expertise are also full of challenges, extremely expensive, take decades to accomplish, and do not reverse the blood that has been shed, bring back loved ones, care for the wounded and displaced, rebuild the fabric of societies, or reverse the destabilizing events and their consequences. In today’s globalized world, where upheaval on one side the world (take Syria for example) has an impact across the globe, prevention of these destabilizing events must be a focus. Canada is ideally situated to be a voice for early warning, prevention, mediation and peacekeeping as the way forward for international conflict resolution in the twenty-first century.

Words Of Wisdom

Dare to dream. And then have the courage to follow those dreams. Take the courses, go to the conferences, network, read, volunteer with organizations you’re interested in, pursue internships and co-ops, seek out guidance and mentors, keep positive, work hard and stay focused. There is no one right path to get to your destination, so don’t be afraid to be a trailblazer and chart your own.

Paul Zorn Pink

Age 31

Policy Analyst, Creative Marketplace and Innovation, Canadian Heritage

Education & Internships

Degrees: JD, Osgoode Hall Law School (articled in copyright branch of Canadian Heritage); Dual Major in Art History and Communications from Simon Fraser University.

On The Job

At Canadian Heritage, I work to provide departmental input on various multilateral and bilateral agreements that relate to copyright law. This includes providing technical expertise on existing Canadian copyright to support the Intellectual Property Trade Policy Division at Global Affairs in its various trade negotiations such as NAFTA and the CPTPP, and with other trading blocs such as MERCOSUR and the Pacific Alliance. We also represent Canada in various multilateral fora such as the World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva.

The most challenging and rewarding thing I get to do is support the team that represents Canada at negotiating tables, as that is where you get to participate in some interesting discussions and get a firsthand view of some amazing negotiators at work. The trade community on intellectual property is a real fountain of knowledge and, as a young professional, it has been an amazing experience to learn and work with them on these agreements.

Memorable Moment

Generally, it is always a challenge to work with negotiating text and to think of all the ways that a particular agreement translates into Canadian law and policy, as well as how it affects Canadians and our stakeholders at Canadian Heritage. The negotiation process is endlessly fascinating, especially when you have two parties (or sometimes three or more) sitting down to try and agree on the meaning of a few words. However, coming to a conclusive agreement on terms that parties can live with is always rewarding.

Initiative To Celebrate

The renegotiation of the CPTPP during the fall of last year was a really big landmark for Canadian leadership on trade. The work done by Canada with the remaining 10 countries to get a deal done was to me the most significant development in foreign policy this year, as it sent a clear sign that comprehensive regional trade agreements are still possible.

Words Of Wisdom

For those hoping to work in this area, I would advise that you look for work that translates from your interests as a student. Intellectual property and copyright was always a focus for me in law school and pursuing that has now led into my career. Getting an articling position and then a permanent position at the copyright branch at Canadian Heritage really felt like a continuation of my student interests; work always feels less tedious when you are learning about something that interests you!

Nika Moeini

Age 22

Junior Gender Equality Policy Analyst, Social Development Division, Global Issues and Development, Global Affairs Canada

Education & Internships

Degrees: Currently pursuing MA in International Affairs (specialization in International Economic Policy), Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University; BA in International Affairs, University of British Columbia.

Internships: Development Finance Research Analyst, CARE Canada; Intern, Gulf States and Iran, Global Affairs Canada; Strategic Research and Analysis Intern, BC Council for International Cooperation; Fellow, The Mosaic Institute; Volunteer, The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade.

On The Job

I support the gender equality policy team and the gender equality specialists team to provide a gender lens analysis to various policies and initiatives conducted by Global Affairs Canada. I get to provide input on new and innovative approaches and policies to tackling gender equality on an international level, and work on initiatives that directly support Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy.

Memorable Moment

During my second week on the job, I had the amazing opportunity to hear from Mary Robinson, former and first female prime minister of Ireland and former high commissioner for human rights. She spoke on climate financing, and I had the opportunity to ask her how she sees gender taking a transformative role in financing initiatives. I also got a photo with her afterwards and had a quick chance to speak with her!

Initiative To Celebrate

On May 25, 2018, Canada’s minister of international development, Marie-Claude Bibeau, launched a call to action to philanthropists, the private sector and investors to join Canada in a new innovative partnership to mobilize unprecedented levels of resources to support gender equality and women’s rights in developing countries. She announced that Canada will launch consultations on the creation of this unique partnership and will contribute up to $300 million to this new platform. This is very exciting as we engage in discussions on new ways to leverage financing for development, an area which I am particularly passionate about and which aligns directly with the goals of the Feminist International Assistance Policy.

Words Of Wisdom

Read “Careers in International Relations: Gen Z’s Guide to Global Citizenship,” which I co-authored! It highlights opportunities to take advantage of in your undergraduate degree, how to choose a graduate program, opportunities to go abroad, and opportunities in different thematic areas of international relations. It will give you a great overview of what you need to know about pursuing a career in this field.

Also, reach out to others who are on a similar career path that you’re interested in. Don’t be afraid to send LinkedIn connections and meet new people! Make sure you are developing your personal brand through platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter. Only through connecting with and meeting others can you gain a deeper understanding of what certain careers and professionals are truly like.

Mallory Bikinas

Age 28

Policy Analyst, Global Health Security, Office of International Affairs for the Health Portfolio

Education & Internships

Degrees: MA in Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa; BSocSc in Conflict Studies and Human Rights, University of Ottawa

Internships: Rural development NGO in Uttarakhand, India; HIV, Health and Development team at the UNDP’s Europe and Central Asia office in Istanbul, Turkey; co-op placement at Public Safety Canada in the National Security Policy Directorate.

On The Job

As an analyst on the global health security team, I provide the international perspective on any health security related files across the health portfolio. From Canada’s engagement in world health governance, to bilateral meetings between the minister and her counterparts — if there’s a health security angle, it’s my job to make sure Canada’s positions are consistent and reflect the broader global health security context. I also support Canada’s engagement in the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), an international initiative that aims to strengthen national and global capacity to prevent, detect and respond to human and animal infectious diseases threats. Canada is a member of the GHSA steering group, so a lot of my work involves collaborating with my counterparts from other steering group countries to help shape the strategic direction of the initiative.

Memorable Moment

In January, I had the opportunity to represent Canada at a GHSA steering group meeting in Rome. Sitting behind a “Canada” placard and making interventions on behalf of our country was such an amazing experience!

Initiative To Celebrate

Something to celebrate: the 70th birthday of the World Health Organization (WHO)! Since its inception, the WHO has had a hugely positive impact on global health. On health security in particular, the WHO’s recently established health emergencies program aims to prevent outbreaks from turning into epidemics, and will help the international community respond better and faster to humanitarian emergencies.

Words Of Wisdom

Collaboration is always better than competition. Don’t be possessive of your files or hoard intel — you’ll be more effective in your work and more valuable to your team if you open up and share information. More often than not, someone you talk to will know something you don’t, or offer a new perspective. You’ll end up with a more comprehensive understanding of your files and how best to advance them.

Sara Marshall

Age 25

International Development Officer, West Bank & Gaza Development Program, Global Affairs Canada

Education & Internships

Degrees: Pursuing an MA in Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa; BSocSc Honours in International Studies and Modern Languages, University of Ottawa.

On The Job

I work with my colleagues in Ramallah on development projects that focus on fostering the economic empowerment of women and youth. My job also involves working on humanitarian assistance projects that help address the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable on the ground. My duties involve supporting and leading the development and management of a portfolio of projects, including the assessment and selection of project proposals. I assist in shepherding projects through the approval process, in negotiating financial instruments, and in monitoring reports during project implementation. Throughout my work, I provide advice and recommendations to senior management, including perspectives on budgeting and policy implementation.

Memorable Moment

Travelling to the field in February 2018 was an incredibly enriching experience for me. It made me realize just how much of an impact Canada’s work can have on the ground and how important it is that we focus on meeting needs while taking context into account. Direct discussion with stakeholders and beneficiaries helped enhance that sense of context, widening my perspectives on the progress we are making and the directions we need to take.

Initiative To Celebrate

In May 2018, Canada announced that it will dedicate $300 million of international assistance funding over the next three years to support a coordinated response to the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh. I believe that this is a significant commitment to improve a dire situation and that a human rights-based approach will help mitigate the negative long-term consequences of this humanitarian crisis.

Words Of Wisdom

Be proactive, take initiative and don’t be afraid to be creative and innovative. Propose alternative ways of doing things while taking advice from those around you, especially those with different perspectives. Demonstrate leadership in areas where you shine, keeping in mind that being a good follower is just as important as being a leader. Your managers need your support, and your team will advance as you address your collective goals. Provide fearless advice to your management based on your best knowledge. Focus on providing the most reliable information available in order to aim for best results. Then take “fearless feedback” in stride while continuously trying to meet your team’s goals. Remember, your contribution is essential, and the lack thereof may put your team’s efforts in peril. When it comes to international development and humanitarian assistance, focus on how needs can best be addressed on the ground, since this allows for optimal results in the lives of those you are trying to help. Finally, working on complex files where you want to help make a difference sometimes means putting in a significant amount of mental and physical effort. Taking care of yourself is important, too. Don’t forget to take a break when you need one — it will help put things in perspective!

Djordje Vidovic

Age 35

Trade Commissioner and Second Secretary Commercial, Embassy of Canada to Argentina and Paraguay

Education & Internships

Degree: BComm, Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University (specialization in Finance and a minor in Hispanic Studies).

Internships: Spending two years with a touring equestrian show (or a circus, as some like to call it) in Canada, the US and Europe exposed me to the realities of working abroad, in small tight-knit teams delivering projects with considerable time-constraints, while having to adapt quickly to new work environments and colleagues.

On The Job

As the trade commissioner responsible for the agriculture and education sectors for the Argentine and Paraguayan markets, my role is to provide information, contacts and advice to Canadian agricultural companies and educational institutions that are interested in exploring new opportunities in Argentina and Paraguay, two relatively new and little-known markets to most Canadian exporters.

In more practical terms, this means assisting an Ottawa-based summer language school in finding a local agent to promote its services to high school students in Argentina. It also means helping a Saskatchewan-based exporter of large agricultural machinery understand import procedures and factor that into its export strategy. This work ties directly into the advancement of the Canadian international trade agenda, one client at a time.

In addition to working with private sector clients, another aspect of my role is to look for ways to further the Canada-Argentina-Paraguay relationship in the agricultural and education sectors, which often means working with public institutions and universities in Canada and Argentina or Paraguay to identify mutually beneficial collaboration areas.

Memorable Moment

Being able to influence the course of action of Canadian exporters, either through advice that helps steer their strategy and avoid certain mistakes/obstacles or through support that leads to concrete commercial outcomes, remains the most meaningful aspect of the job.

Picking one specific memorable moment, I would have to say that helping a Canadian company resolve an 11-year-long commercial dispute, which had the potential to cause millions of dollars in revenue losses, probably tops my list. It was an effort that spanned months, involving close coordination with the company and other government departments, writing letters and leveraging various high-level meetings, which successfully contributed to protecting Canadian commercial interests.

Initiative To Celebrate

Argentina assuming the G20 presidency in 2018, being the first ever South American nation to host the G20 summit, is definitely a very important undertaking regionally but also carries a very strong international resonance. Argentina has been working proactively to re-engage on the international scene over the last few years and is looking to strengthen the region’s important perspective and voice when it comes to global economic and political cooperation.

Words Of Wisdom

In my opinion, there is no single degree, internship or job that can prepare you for a career in international affairs. It is a sum of experiences — be they educational, professional or personal — through which one learns what it means to be flexible and adaptable, be able to deliver under time constraints, to serve clients, work in teams, develop and maintain relationship, etc.; all essential skills that will turn into valuable assets when the time comes to seek out a career in international affairs. Do not underestimate the value sports, community work, travel, etc., can provide, and, it goes without saying, continue to seek out these experiences, further to the professional and educational ones.

Ahmed Hussein

Age 26

Desk Officer, Southern and Eastern Africa Relations Division, Global Affairs Canada

Education & Internships

Degrees: MA from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa, including a research course in Malmö, Sweden; BSocSc in International Development and Globalization with a minor in Economics, University of Ottawa, with research in Nairobi, Kenya.

Internships: Political Officer at the Embassy of Canada to Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan; Cape Town Refugee Centre in South Africa; FSWEP positions with Elections Canada and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.

On The Job

As a desk officer in a geographic division my responsibilities include: advocating for Canadian priorities; promoting democracy, peace and prosperity (bilaterally and through multilateral institutions); facilitating meetings with interlocutors; and developing strategies to improve cooperation. In my current position, I have led on developing the policy for Canada’s new engagement strategy with Sub-Saharan African countries, particularly Somalia. My work includes analyzing national, regional and global developments, including making policy recommendations on how to advance Canada’s international presence through our Feminist International Assistance Policy. As part of these efforts, I liaise with country officials and colleagues at Canadian embassies, prepare briefing material and remarks for senior officials, facilitate tracking and reporting for ministerial visits, write memos, produce Question Period notes, background notes, and country specific research for senior officials, including the deputy minister and minister.

The most rewarding aspect of my work is knowing that our efforts contribute to making a positive impact.

Memorable Moment

Two moments come to mind: Following the horrific terrorist attack on October 14 in Mogadishu, Somalia, which claimed the lives of over 500 people, I was fortunate enough to have coordinated a solidarity event in collaboration with the United Kingdom high commission and the Somali-Canadian diaspora community. The event was an opportunity for our deputy minister, the UK high commissioner and a representative from the diaspora community to share their thoughts, sympathies and condolences for the lives lost in the tragic attack. This powerful event, like many others across Canada, was another opportunity to stand in solidarity with Somalia.

A second moment was supporting Canada’s ambassador to Turkey as we sent off the first flights of Syrian refugees leaving Turkey to Canada as part of our commitment to resettle Syrian refugees. It was an especially memorable moment since I continue to interact with Syrian newcomers in Ottawa.

Initiative To Celebrate

On January 30, 2018, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the Government of Canada will officially recognize the International Decade for People of African Descent. This will be an opportunity to highlight and celebrate the important contributions people of African descent have made to Canadian society.

The International Decade for People of African Descent, proclaimed by UN General Assembly resolution 68/237, began in 2015 and will be observed until 2024. It provides a solid framework for the United Nations, member states, civil society and all other relevant actors to join together with people of African descent and take effective measures for the implementation of the programme of activities in the spirit of recognition, justice and development.

The objectives of the International Decade include promoting respect, protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of people of African descent, as well as encouraging a greater knowledge of and respect for the diverse heritage, culture and contributions of these communities to societies around the world.

Words Of Wisdom

My advice to those pursuing a career in international affairs is to broaden your horizons, as many government departments, non-profit organizations and private sector opportunities have international elements to them. Work abroad, gain diverse experiences, find positive mentors and stay optimistic because the journey for everyone is different, so enjoy yours.

It is important to note that while travelling for work is incredibly appealing, a lot happens behind the scenes when preparing for a trip, and most of the time only senior officials attend internationals visits. Always exude professionalism and enthusiasm. Do the work to make a difference and not to get a seat on the flight or recognition. With that said, good work does not go unnoticed.

You can definitely make a difference working in this field. However, it is important that when we strive to work on the international sphere, promoting Canadian values to improve the lives of those least fortunate abroad, we must reflect on the vulnerable communities within our borders — especially our Indigenous communities.

Lina Alvarez

Age 25

Consular Policy Officer, Corporate Strategy and Integration, Global Affairs Canada

Education & Internships

Degree: BA Latin American Studies (minor in management and environmental field study semester at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute), McGill University.

Internships: Regional Manager Latin America at Wishpond (Vancouver); Marketing and Communications Intern at UIO Airport (Quito, Ecuador); Junior Commercial Officer at the Embassy of Canada to Argentina and Paraguay (Buenos Aires, Argentina); Environmental Research Intern at Parque Natural Metropolitano (Panama City, Panama); External Communications Student at Export Development Canada (Ottawa).

On The Job

I work as a consular policy officer at Global Affairs Canada headquarters. Canada’s consular service helps Canadians prepare for safe travel abroad, access services such as passports and citizenship documents outside of the country, and offers assistance in situations of emergencies or distress.

I work at HQ with the Consular Policy and Programs bureau in Corporate Strategy and Integration. Our team is the touchpoint for the branch liaising with internal and external stakeholders to roll out our programs and policies. My work includes everything from coordinating consular audits and evaluations, developing internal communications products for the consular network, working on our going digital transformation, and developing the new consular strategy with our bureau colleagues.

I love how dynamic my job is. One week I might be drafting talking points for an appearance at parliament, while the next I could be doing research on travel trends, or coordinating and planning strategy workshops. I consider myself to be a people person, so getting to interact with so many people throughout the department is the highlight of my day. Travelling is also one of my greatest passions, and knowing that the work we do helps Canadians make the best of their experiences is extremely rewarding.

Memorable Moment

I began my job when our team was working on the report of the auditor general to parliament on consular services to Canadians abroad. We had tight deadlines to meet and were coordinating with a variety of teams and officers. I had never worked at Global Affairs Canada headquarters or in consular policy before so I had to learn quickly and get myself organized. During my second week, my manager was travelling for work and she assigned me as her back up. Having that early vote of confidence from senior leadership felt awesome, and that trust allowed us to keep making progress on our work without the trip slowing us down. You always remember the people you work with, and I feel extremely lucky to work with leaders that trust, challenge and support me.

Initiative To Celebrate

With Canada taking on the G7 presidency this year, there have been fantastic initiatives such as the creation of the G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council. This council aims to ensure that gender equality and women’s empowerment are integrated across all themes, activities and initiatives of Canada’s G7 presidency. Investing in the rights of women and girls has the potential to make a huge difference in the world, and we should feel proud that Canada integrates this focus into many initiatives and activities.

Words Of Wisdom

My advice is to share your ‘whys’ and connect your dots. For every internship or job opportunity I have been considered for, I always share my whys for wanting the position. I share which aspects of the role align with my personal goals and how the experience will contribute to future steps in my career. Zoning in on my ‘why’ has also helped me focus on positions that I am passionate about and filter out those that might not lead to what I want to accomplish.

I have been fortunate to have very diverse jobs and gain a ton of knowledge, but sometimes it can be hard to see how it all comes together. When pursuing opportunities, connect your skills and experiences. How did one lead to the other? What benefits do each of them bring to the opportunity you are pursuing? Consider things that you’ve done outside of a professional setting too. It might not be very clear at times, but everything you've done fits together and makes sense!

When I think about my own work history, I think about how I worked as a flight attendant, at an international airport, at a travel tech start up, and at Canada’s embassy in Argentina. All of these experiences were so different, but they all touch on travel or living internationally. This unique mix helps me bring a different perspective to the consular world.

Chantal Martin

Age 30

Defence Policy Officer, Directorate of Strategic Analysis, Department of National Defence

Education & Internships

Degrees: MA in International Affairs, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University; BA (magna cum laude) with a double major in International Relations and French, University of Southern California.

Internships: Two co-op positions at Global Affairs Canada in the geographic bureau responsible for bilateral relations with countries in Europe.

On The Job

I recently began a new position at the Department of National Defence in the Directorate of Strategic Analysis. Since arriving, I’ve been pulled into various projects, such as working on economic security matters related to the Investment Canada Act and providing analysis on Canada’s defence relationship with countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. It’s been very interesting so far to see how the work that is done at DND complements what other departments are doing on the same files.

Memorable Moment

Last summer I was lucky enough to have been sent on temporary duty for six weeks to Canada’s embassy in Budapest, Hungary, which is also responsible for Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Having previously been GAC’s political officer for Hungary and Slovenia, it was immensely gratifying to be on the “other side” of the job working as the foreign policy and diplomacy service program manager. Being on the ground and engaged with the local community, such as officials from the foreign ministry and resident NGOs, really brought my experience working in a geographic full circle.

One particular highlight while working at the embassy was travelling with the ambassador to Slovenia for meetings in Ljubljana and to attend the Bled Strategic Forum. I went to a number of panel discussions at Bled featuring high-level European officials such as Frans Timmermans and Federica Mogherini. Given the crossroads Europe is currently facing, some of the discussions became rather heated. Of course, getting to write the visit report afterwards was an added bonus!   

Underreported Foreign Policy Issue

One area that’s been gaining a tremendous amount of traction in recent years but which hasn’t been getting much attention for its foreign policy/security nexus is the rise of blockchain and cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.

While understandably there are concerns about the new national security challenges that blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies might present, there is a lot of notable work that’s being done to use this emerging technology to respond to challenges facing the international community, such as facilitating humanitarian aid distribution to refugees and internally displaced people, or enabling more women to become active in the global economy. It will be very interesting to see how the field continues to develop and whether (or how) governments around the world might leverage this new technology to address their countries’ foreign policy priorities.

Words Of Wisdom

Don’t be afraid to take risks — challenge yourself by taking on projects or added responsibilities that will help you to grow and develop. I know this may sound trite, but many of the accomplishments I’m most proud of so far in my career came as a result of pursuing opportunities that pushed me (far) out of my comfort zone.

Nadine Khoury

Age 33

Second Secretary (political and public affairs), Canadian Embassy in Brasilia

Education & Internships

Degrees: MA in International Politics, University of Sherbrooke; BA in Political Studies and Law, University of Sherbrooke.

Internship: Office of the Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States in Washington, DC — with the support of the Ministry of International Relations and Francophonie of Québec.

On The Job

I have worked in the political and public affairs section of the Canadian embassy in Brasilia since the fall of 2018. Our team analyzes and reports on the political situation and key areas of interest (foreign policy, human rights, gender equality, Indigenous issues, etc.) and we also promote Canadian foreign policy objectives and values in Brazil. This entails a wide range of activities making our day-to-day work most interesting and diversified — those can include discussing foreign policy questions with our colleagues from Brazil’s foreign ministry, helping Indigenous women leaders from Brazil and Canada connect and share their experiences, or participating in events promoting women’s entrepreneurship in disadvantaged areas. We help forge strong ties between Canada’s and Brazil’s governments, businesses, academics, civil society organizations and Indigenous communities; those are at the core of the rich bilateral relationship between our countries.

It is a very exciting time to be working on political issues in Brazil. After a tumultuous period of political upheaval and economic recession, Brazil will hold presidential and general elections this coming October. Many foresee it as a turning point for the country, bringing hope for greater political stability, economic rebound, and improved living conditions for Brazilians. In this context, a strong and rich bilateral relation is essential to help Canada remain well positioned in this evolving context.

Memorable Moment

One of my first assignments with Global Affairs Canada was with the Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force (predecessor of Canada’s Peace and Stabilization Operations Program), which promoted justice and security system reforms and human rights in fragile states. Our team developed a program in Guatemala aimed at strengthening rule of law and increasing access to justice in the country. A key component of the program was to support Guatemalan justice and civil society institutions working towards ending impunity for crimes committed during the Guatemalan civil war (1960-1996). I met with very inspiring Guatemalan jurists dedicating their lives to advancing flagship cases of human rights abuses, with the hope of bringing justice to the victims’ families and survivors of massacres that happened during the war. With the help of Canadian civil society partners, Guatemalan jurists established the first legal office dedicated to human rights cases in the country. In the following years, historical court decisions established long-awaited precedents by the families of the victims. These advances are important, as they demonstrate that no one is beyond the reach of the law and contribute to building a stronger and more accessible justice system in Guatemala.

Initiative To Celebrate

2018 will see numerous elections taking place in different countries of the Americas. While their outcomes will no doubt make the headlines in the media, we shouldn’t forget the importance of the electoral process itself. Free, fair, inclusive and participatory elections are at the core of healthy democracies. Countries can help and learn from each other through different mechanisms including election observation missions. Those help deter fraud and strengthen voters’ confidence on Election Day, and provide concrete suggestions for improving future processes. Our region has solid experience in this area, and I believe this is something we should be proud of.

Words Of Wisdom

First, be fluent in both French and English, then learn other languages relevant to your particular interests. When working abroad, speaking the language of the country will help you to connect in a unique way with your colleagues, be more efficient in your work, and create long lasting friendships. Work and life benefits of speaking multiple languages are undeniable, and are worth every hour you invest in your language skills.


Illustrator: Garth Laidlaw