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

By: , /
May 18, 2016

The millennial generation — generally considered to encompass those aged between 18 to 34 years old — is often castigated in the media as entitled, unengaged in the world around them and at risk of having to settle for a life less comfortable than the ones lived by their parents. But the young people working behind the scenes of Canadian foreign policy in Justin Trudeau’s government tell a different story.

Here, we feature some of the best and brightest working in global affairs — highlighting their greatest achievements, the past experiences that got them to where they are today, and their advice for fellow young professionals seeking a similar career path.

From working through the night in Paris during COP21 to drafting high-level remarks for Canada’s foreign minister to aiding with policy initiatives on ground in Mozambique, Afghanistan and Morocco, these Canadians are putting their generation on the map.

For how the Canadian government can better engage its millennials, see Wisam Salih's accompanying piece, 'Welcome to a hipper, younger, capable Canadian public service.'



Peter Wright

Age: 30

Program Analyst, Middle East, Stabilization and Reconstruction Programs Division, Global Affairs Canada

Education & internships

MA in Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa; MDiv, Ambrose University; BA in Political Studies, Queen’s University

My first internship experience was a volunteer opportunity in Niamey, Niger in 2009-2010 with a small, community development organization. It was a fantastic way to experience another culture, build practical skills and challenge my preconceived notions of international development work. At that time, Niger was in a state of political turmoil, and in early 2010, organized protests in the streets gave way to a military coup d’état. I was walking to work only a few kilometres from the presidential palace when it started. Suddenly there was machine gun and artillery fire and attack helicopters flying overhead. I went back inside my apartment, and as I called my family on Skype, my building was shaken by the aftershock of an explosion and all the car alarms went off outside. After a very tense 48 hours, it was over, and the military was in charge of the city. It was a scary experience, but also encouraged me to study and better understand international relations and political transitions.

On the job

I manage a $9 million portfolio of Middle East programs with the Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force (START). Day to day, I review proposals and reports from organizations, help them to design and plan more effective projects, and provide support to them throughout the implementation of those projects. I also provide advice and recommendations to senior management on policies and strategies for programming in my countries of focus, and on how Canada can better help people living within fragile and conflict-affected states.

Mentors

I have been incredibly fortunate in all of my immediate supervisors. That includes professors at the University of Ottawa like David Petrasek who have encouraged me and helped connect me to practical implementers in my field. In the federal government, I have had managers like Brenda Yates, Yannick Lamonde, Catherine Fleming and Sean Fraser who have mentored me and went out of their way to teach me the ropes, build my technical skills, highlight my work to senior management and help identify other opportunities in the department.

Words of wisdom

If you are a student and looking to work in the federal government, consider a Bachelor’s or Master’s program in a school with a good co-op program. It is an excellent way to get experience in the government and can lead to a lot of other opportunities. Practical field experience is also a great help in developing your perspective and building credibility on international issues. There are lots of opportunities with good organizations globally in relief and development, but you have to be flexible (I lived in a mud house in Kenya for six months, and a tent outside of a refugee camp in South Sudan for 18 months). Finally, always be grateful for correction because it makes you better, and try to take a serious interest in whatever work you’re given, because you will produce better results, and people take notice.

Anne-Maryssa Poitras-Fortier

Age: 29

Consular Case Manager for Southeast Asia, Global Affairs Canada

Education

BA, International Studies and Modern Languages, University of Ottawa; Master’s in Disaster Management, Copenhagen University in Denmark.

On the job

Every day I work on cases of Canadians who have lost their loved ones while living or travelling abroad, who have been arrested, or who are at the hospital. My role is to assist and guide these individuals to find solutions to the problems they are facing. For example, I help families making funeral arrangements and liaise with local authorities to bring back a deceased to their family in Canada. This type of work can be quite heavy emotionally and it is important, although sometimes challenging, to not ‘bring home’ the heavy feelings and emotions related to the work I do.

During my few years working for Global Affairs Canada, I have also had the opportunity to work at Canadian missions abroad and in hardship environments where security and emergency management were at the centre of the activities. My assignments included Damascus, Beirut and Kabul as First Secretary and Consul.

Memorable moment

One recent example that made me feel that I was making a difference was bringing back an individual who had been assaulted and hospitalized in Asia. As his hospitalization lasted for several months, the costs quickly escalated and his health care coverage or insurance did not cover these costs. I was able to help the family find ways to raise some funds and eventually, once he was stable enough, to organize a transport with escort for this individual to be brought back to his family in Canada. I was very glad to be able to help this family get reunited after facing such a difficult situation.

Mentor

Glenn Davidson, former Ambassador to Syria and Afghanistan, worked with me during my assignments, and helped me learn and grow. Despite my age at the time of my first assignment (24), he trusted me to run the emergency management activities of the embassy, such as writing the emergency response plans and conducting emergency management exercises. We worked very closely together when we shut the Embassy of Canada in Damascus, and I always admired how he saw the ‘big picture’ and ran such an organized operation. He also cared very much about all his employees, Canadians and local Syrians, and was open to listening to everyone.

Words of wisdom

I would definitely recommend this field of work to anyone who wants to make a difference. It requires a strong ability to remain calm when dealing with difficult situations and the ability to let go of stress and heavy emotions after a work day. It is important to have a good capacity to listen, and to become creative in finding ways to solve problems.

Rory Morrison

Age: 30

Project Manager (Consultant), High Commission of Canada to Mozambique

Education & internships

BA (Honours), Political Science and International Development, University of Guelph; MA, International Affairs, International Trade Policy, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University; MA (Collaborative), African Studies, Institute of African Studies, Carleton University.

I completed internships at the North-South Institute, the Embassy of Guatemala to Canada, the MacDonald-Laurier Institute, Canada Among Nations, and Undercurrent: Journal of Development Studies, among others.

On the job

I am leading a Canadian High Commission initiative, in partnership with the largest financial institution in Mozambique, to establish a technology accelerator and entrepreneurship platform called HUB258. This is the first of its kind in Mozambique and, with the active support of key private and public sector stakeholders, promises to become a leading centre in Mozambique's fast growing economy for micro, small and medium-sized enterprise development, particularly in the IT sector. I am tasked with providing counsel to the High Commissioner, liaising with private and public sector partners, and project management.

Memorable moment

Receiving a high-five from a high-level official after successfully concluding a difficult meeting. I’ve received my fair share of conventional ‘pats on the backs’ and straight-laced ‘good jobs’ from senior officials, but never a high-five.

Mentors

Adrian Norfolk, Ambassador of Canada to the State of Qatar, has always been willing to listen and help me arrive at my own conclusions without pushing me in a particular direction. Everyone, regardless of their discipline, should take a course with Professor Ian Spears at the University of Guelph. Aside from his course objectives, Professor Spears teaches each and every student to value their perspective and, more importantly, to value the perspectives of others. He also views the Talking Heads and Led Zeppelin as supplementary teaching aids, which works for me. Ambassador of Canada to Mozambique Shawn Barber’s ability to move from problem-focus to solution-focus, and shepherd group discussions to productive ground, contributed to an exceptional learning experience during my time at the High Commission of Canada to Mozambique.

Words of wisdom

Every individual you meet and every job, internship and class you take has the potential to improve you as a person and advance your career. The key is to be open, take advantage of every opportunity, nurture your relationships and never compromise the quality of your work.

Ben Rankin

Age: 28

Economist, Finance Canada

Education & internships

BA in Political Science, International Development and Economics, McGill University, with a year abroad at the University of Ghana; MA in Public Policy, Harvard University. Summer placement advising an MP on parliamentary procedure and public policy issues; Ghana’s Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice.

On the job

I work in Finance Canada’s International Finance and Development Division. Among other things, I am currently working on Canada’s response to international climate change. I work closely with colleagues in Global Affairs Canada, as well as Environment and Climate Change Canada, advising on how Canada can help developing countries reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. I also work on issues related to the government’s international financial exposures.

Memorable moment

Working through the night in Paris to help reach a global agreement on climate change last December will always stand out!

Words of wisdom

Working for the government has proven to be an incredibly rewarding experience. No other organization provides the same mandate and opportunities to make a difference – both here in Canada and around the globe. I joined the public service through the Advanced Policy Analyst Program, a professional development program that recruits recent university graduates. The government’s website lists current public service jobs and has information about the various recruitment programs. Also, never hesitate to ask a public servant about their work and opportunities to contribute!

Katharine Cornish

Age: 29

Second Secretary (Development) at the Canadian High Commission to Mozambique

Education & internships

BA in International Development and Globalization, University of Ottawa; MA in Conflict, Security and Development, King’s College London. A trip to Guyana with Youth Challenge International; placements at the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) on the Sudan Program; research internship with the Democratic Progress Institute in London, UK.

On the job

Currently I’m on post at the High Commission in Mozambique working on our development assistance to Mozambique in the education sector. I’m a field-based development officer, so I’m doing day-to-day project management, but also a lot of field level coordination and monitoring of our programs out in the provinces. As a sector team, my colleagues and I review new proposals and think strategically about where Canada can make an impact through its development assistance. In any given week I might have a mix of meetings and workshops to attend, reports and studies to read, memorandums to write, and corporate requests to respond to, so it’s a very dynamic environment and there’s a lot of variety in my day to day.

Working in a new language is definitely one of the most challenging aspects of my job. It can be frustrating to feel as though you can’t express yourself as eloquently or diplomatically as you would like because you lack the vocabulary to do so. It can also be hard to know if you’re reading a situation properly when you’re not sure if you’re picking up on the nuance correctly. Fortunately, I have Mozambican colleagues who are able to support me in this regard while my Portuguese improves! I think the Department recognizes this challenge for development staff, and is increasingly providing training solutions to ensure we’re prepared for our jobs at post.

Memorable moments

Work travel has given me unique life experiences. Travelling with Global Affairs Canada has found me eating fish with the local chief along the Red Sea coast in Sudan, dancing with South Sudanese women only a couple of months after independence, and serving up school lunches with volunteers in rural Mozambique. But what these experiences really represent are projects in coastal livelihoods, adult literacy for women, and school feeding that Canadians can be proud of.

Words of wisdom

1)  Seek out relevant work and volunteer opportunities while you study. Hopefully we will see an increase in paid internships in development, which will make it easier for students to address their financial pressures and still gain relevant work experience. In my case a co-op program made a huge difference.

2)  Spend time developing your second official language, and if it’s available to you, hone your skills in another ‘UN’ language. Bilingualism is a necessity for a long-term career in government, and when you’re overseas, it really gives you an edge to be able to interact with people in their first language. For myself, this is one of my professional gaps I’m trying to address.

3)  Break the millennial stereotypes! Demonstrate humility, a willingness to learn, and a genuine dedication and commitment to the work. Avoid overtly self-referential conversations with the people who can influence your career; genuine interest and curiosity in your field will leave a much better impression.

4)  Lastly, always be kind and build good rapport with the people you encounter along the way. You never know who might turn out to be your next hiring manager.

Laurence Beaulieu-Morency

Age: 27

Advocacy Resources Administrator, Mission Support and Geographic Coordination, Global Affairs Canada

Education & internships

BA in Sociology and International Development, Université du Québec en Outaouais (semester at Universidad de Guadalajara, Mexico); MA in International Public Administration, École nationale d’administration publique du Québec. United Nations Online Volunteering Service; Junior Analyst at the Canadian International Development Agency (now Global Affairs Canada); Research Award Recipient at the International Development Research Center.

On the job

I provide support and share best practices and advice to Canadian Foreign Service Officers abroad related to their advocacy work. I also administer a fund which can serve to finance these initiatives.

Memorable moment

While working as a researcher at the International Development Research Center in 2013, I was given the opportunity to travel and meet foreign governments’ representatives as well as local development officers in Tanzania. The discussions were very constructive and I got to experience some of the challenges that foreign workers face daily. This adventure was enough to convince me to pursue a career in international affairs!

Words of wisdom

Diversify your skill set at the beginning of your career and make the most of every opportunity you are given. Although a position may not seem relevant to your chosen career path, you will grow and learn from every single one of them.

Neil Krell

Age: 29

Trade Commissioner, Oil and Gas, Prairies and Northwest Territories Regional Office, Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, Global Affairs Canada

Education & internships

Simon Fraser University, BA International Studies. Student Border Services Officer, Canada Border Services Agency; Trade Commissioner Assistant, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.

On the job

This role requires me to wear many hats, but my primary responsibilities are working directly with oil and gas companies on developing their export strategy and helping them leverage the services we offer through Canada’s worldwide network of trade commissioners. I am part account manager and part advisor to Canadian firms that are looking to expand abroad. By virtue of my proximity to the industry, I also have a role to play in ensuring that my colleagues in Ottawa and abroad are informed about developments in the industry.

My work is impacted by the rapidly shifting economic landscape of the oil and gas industry, so I have to make sure I stay relevant and adapt to the changing needs of Canadian exporters. I’ve learned that managing expectations and being flexible are two major keys to success in this job.

Memorable moments

What is most memorable to me are the times we’ve helped small businesses that are new to exporting take the next step in their corporate growth. There are many entrepreneurs and small Canadian companies that have developed world class products and services but don’t necessarily have the resources or experience to undertake strategic international expansion. Small businesses truly are the lifeblood of the Canadian economy, and it’s extremely satisfying when the assistance we provide to a company helps them step out onto the international stage.

Mentor

Tracy Diehl was my first supervisor when I started as an intern at [what was then] the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and I consider myself fortunate to have had such great mentor so early in my career. I worked closely with her for the better part of seven months, and her professionalism, work ethic and passion motivated me to bring my best every day. The most important things I learned from her are to focus on delivering value to clients and providing excellent service. I feel if I’m doing these two things, I’ve got my priorities right.

Words of wisdom

My first piece of advice is very simple: work hard, learn as much as you can and say yes. I’ve found that work ethic and a willingness to learn have been far more important in my career than knowledge or formal qualifications. My second piece of advice would be to keep an open mind about how your skills can be used in public service. I always had an interest in international affairs, but I was open to doing internships that weren’t directly related to what I’m doing now. Those experiences helped me get the job I have now, and I’m sure that there are things I’m learning now that could lead me down a completely different path in the future. The last comment I have is that millennials belong in the public service. A healthy public service is reflective of the society it serves, and we need the talents, perspectives and energy that millennials bring to the table.

Emma Bell-Scollan

Age: 24

Policy Analyst, Development Relations, Global Affairs Canada

Education & internships

BA, McGill University (exchange at Sciences Po); MA, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa (Hebrew University, Jerusalem, summer exchange). Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation; Embassy of Canada to Vietnam in Hanoi.

On the job

In February 2016, I joined a small team managing Canada’s engagement on G20 sustainable development work. At present, our work is focused on implementing Canada’s role coordinating the production of the three-year G20 Development Comprehensive Accountability Report. We collaborate closely with other G20 members and representatives from international organizations at the working level on this work. The other key element of the work our team does is strategic planning for the Minister of Development.

Crafting Canada’s interventions for the many formal and informal negotiations on G20 development issues is a true exercise in diplomacy; I sometimes spend hours drafting and redrafting messaging that strives to advance departmental and federal priorities, while cultivating bilateral relationships and supporting the value-added and impact of the work the G20 is doing on sustainable development issues.

Words of wisdom

If your interest lies in the world of foreign affairs, I would stress the importance of getting out of Canada, whether by traveling, studying or working abroad. These experiences allow you to increase your intercultural awareness and broaden your knowledge of the work that exists outside of Canada.

Madeleine Sourisseau

Age: 27

International Development Officer on the West Bank and Gaza Development Program, Global Affairs Canada

Education & internships

MA in Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa; BSocSc Honours in International Studies and Modern Languages, University of Ottawa. Two co-op placements with the West Bank and Gaza Development Program at CIDA.

On the job

As an international development officer, I work with my colleagues in Ramallah to assess how Canadian development funding can assist Palestinians in ways that meet their needs and provide value for money and sustainable results. I look at issues such as the ability of families to put sufficient nutritious food on the table and initiatives to improve the capacities of Palestinian justice sector institutions. This work includes reviewing project proposals, looking at past results and how organizations intend to provide assistance. I also review audits and evaluations and work with specialists in finance, gender equality and governance to make sure that proposals are valid. Once projects are up and running, I follow project results reporting, manage ongoing developments and keep in contact with field officers who visit the projects and meet with the implementing partners.

Memorable moment

Although it was incredibly challenging – professionally and personally – working on the West Bank and Gaza Development Program during the summer 2014 Gaza crisis is a memorable moment. As the crisis unfolded, we followed events, analyzed humanitarian needs, and planned responses in an atmosphere of urgency and pressing demands. On a professional level, it was rewarding to be in the thick of fast-paced work that responded to urgent needs. On a personal level, while it was difficult to be exposed to the constant reports of suffering, through our work we were informing decision-makers to take steps to alleviate that suffering.

Words of wisdom

For those not yet in university or those considering further education, pick a program with a co-op placement component. For those already working, be sure to express what you’re interested in working on to your managers. Often, if someone knows you’re particularly interested in a certain subject or project, they’ll support you being involved and you may get some ownership, recognition or develop a specialty in that area that you can use later. No one can read your mind, so speak up.

Nicholas Harper

Age: 27

Trade Policy Officer in the Trade Controls Bureau

Education & internships

BA in Political Science and International Relations, University of British Columbia; MA in Global Political Economy, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University. Trade Facilitation Office Canada; the Embassy of Canada to Argentina and Paraguay; the Embassy of Canada to Uruguay; various divisions in the Trade Policy branch and the Latin American geographic desk in the Americas branch of Global Affairs Canada.

On the job

It can be challenging to tailor-write pieces containing the same essential information for different purposes. It is an acquired skill in government to know what level of technical detail is appropriate for each context, and harder still to explain a complicated and multi-faceted issue while staying within the page limits.

Mentors

In university, Professor Maxwell Cameron sparked my interest in Latin American politics that endures to this day. By his example he taught me that language skills are just the first step towards a more fulsome understanding of another country’s society. In government, Ambassador Claire Poulin, Darren Smith, Christina Préfontaine and Joanne Hamilton have all been very helpful mentors at different points in time, whose career paths within the Public Service are inspirations for my own.

Words of wisdom

It can be a tough road to make a career in international affairs. This may be obvious to some, but it bears repeating that it is not the norm to graduate and be hired instantly into a full-time position. My peers and I have all gone through a series of different short-term contracts over a period of a few years, which led to feelings of job insecurity and to doubts about having chosen the right path.

However, looking back, my peers and I realized that we benefitted immensely from the flexibility provided by this period of instability. For example, I was able to establish a much broader network within the Department and understanding of its activities than would have been the case otherwise. I met several mentors instead of a few. I learned about varied and interesting policy areas. I travelled overseas to work for eight months while immersing myself in a new culture and learning a new language. Had I been hired shortly after graduation, I may not have been pushed to experience any of this.

Chelsea Sayers

Age: 28

International Development Officer, Maghreb and Regional Commercial Relations Division, Global Affairs Canada

Education

MA in International Affairs, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University; BA, Major in Political Science and Minor in Spanish, Carleton University.

On the job

I am responsible for the management and coordination of a program initiative focused on Women’s Economic Empowerment in Morocco, Egypt and Jordan. In the fall of 2015, I successfully managed a $45 million call for proposals.

Memorable moment

My most memorable on-the-job moment was when I spent a month in the field, traveling to Morocco, Jordan and Egypt. During these field visits I attended Steering Committee meetings, which afforded me the opportunity to participate in a meaningful way and to present my findings, and also participated in field visits to monitor operational projects.

Mentor

Professor James Milner at Carleton University inspired me to pursue my graduate degree at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. His ongoing support during my academic and, more recently, professional career has enabled me to feel confident in my abilities and to succeed. The successes I have had thus far are owed in large part to the enthusiasm, motivation and support he provides to his students.

Words of wisdom

The best career advice I ever received (which came from Professor Milner) is to understand what your end goal is, learn what qualifications you need to mold yourself into the ideal candidate for that position, and visualize these skills as tools to fill your toolbox. For example, if your goal is to work for the United Nations, then understand what qualifications are necessary for a position with the UN. Your ‘tools’ may therefore consist of learning a new language, gaining experience abroad (work and/or volunteer), gaining experience with research analysis, project management, etc. Ultimately, the message is to know and understand what tools you need to build yourself into the most qualified candidate for the position you’re pursuing.

Andrei Marinescu

Age: 30

Trade Policy Officer

Education & internships

International Affairs at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University; History at Carleton University. Co-op student in the Tariffs and Goods Market Access Division (TPG) at Global Affairs Canada; co-op student in the Official Language Community Development Bureau at Health Canada.

On the job

I analyze trade and tariff data (e.g. Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement, etc.), research market access conditions and prepare summaries and briefing notes.

Memorable moment

Collaborating closely with my TPG team to provide high-quality inputs and materials for Canada’s negotiators ahead of each round of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.

Mentor

Professor Norman Hillmer (of Carleton University) has been an incredible mentor and friend to me since 2010, when I first met him as an undergrad student in his courses on Canadian nationalism and foreign policy. Professor Hillmer’s constant guidance, support and passion for promoting, protecting and advancing Canada’s national interest are what brought me to where I am today.

Hilary Jensen

Age: 29

Policy Analyst, Program Coherence and Effectiveness Division, Global Affairs Canada

Education & internships

BA in Political Science and Economics, McGill University; MA in Public Administration, Carleton University. Parliament Hill; United Nations Assistance Mission to the Khmer Rouge Trials in Cambodia.

On the job

In my current role, I look at how Global Affairs Canada plans and implements its international assistance programs, and whether new tools or processes would help ensure that efforts to promote social and economic development, provide humanitarian assistance and strengthen international security are well coordinated.

Memorable moment

I worked at Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada in the summer of 2006, when Canada evacuated thousands of its citizens from Lebanon due to conflict in the region. As a volunteer in the consular affairs office, I communicated information on the evacuation process to Canadians in Beirut as well as to their relatives and families in Canada. I was moved by how much Canadians value the safety and security their country offers, and felt privileged to be able to help citizens in distress.

Mentors

I spent about three years at the Department of Finance, where I had the opportunity to work with several women who had a remarkable ability to quickly understand complex policy issues, conduct effective briefings with very little lead time, and maintain their sense of humour in stressful situations. I draw on the skills they taught me on a daily basis!

Words of wisdom

Don’t focus too much on a single end goal, but be open to pursuing diverse internship and work opportunities that will give you new skills and perspectives.

Paige Gouin

Age: 23

Policy Officer, Defence and Security Relations Division, Global Affairs Canada

Education & internships

BA in Political Science, University of Windsor; completing MA in International Affairs, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University. Local non-profit; a co-op position at Global Affairs Canada.

On the job

I am responsible for coordinating and managing the relationship between the Department of National Defence and Global Affairs Canada on security and defence issues related to Africa and the Middle East.

The biggest challenge in my current position would have to be adjusting my academic writing to fit into a government context. On a given day, I can be simultaneously drafting a highly technical briefing note at the working level, speaking points for the Minister, and media lines for public consumption. Being able to switch up my writing style and finding my own voice across the things I work on has been a challenging (but great) experience.

Memorable moment

During my first placement, I helped to organize and execute a meeting related to a top foreign policy priority for Canada with dozens of participant countries. As one of the policy leads for the meeting, I drafted some of the remarks for the Minister of Foreign Affairs. After weeks of hard work, sitting in the meeting room with dozens of countries at the table and listening to the Minister present what we had written for him was a surreal but very gratifying experience.

Words of wisdom

In my experience, what I’ve found is that the best opportunities are the ones that might not have been your number one choice. Getting experience in government is key to establishing networks and connections; once you have those, you can then reach out to find managers in your area of interest. As well, I think it’s really important to be a well-rounded candidate. Processes for jobs in government are highly competitive, but in almost every process I’ve been in, it was extra-curricular activities or research interests that helped me get the job, not my GPA or previous experience.

Sean Jellow

Age: 30

Project Analyst, Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force, Global Affairs Canada

Education & internships

MA, International Public Policy, Wilfrid Laurier University, Balsillie School of International Affairs. Embassy of Canada in Washington, DC; Security Governance Group in Waterloo.

On the job

I'm currently responsible for coordinating and managing international projects in fragile and conflict-affected states.

Memorable moment

While I was in Nepal with the United Nations Development Programme, I worked on very long term projects, and got to meet many of the people who were directly affected by the changes the projects were implementing. I was able to take a few trips where we would drive and hike for hours just to access small remote villages in the mountains, and another to the dry, flat plains near the border, both with vastly different peoples and cultures.

Words of wisdom

Persevere. And learn French. It’s very difficult to get a job with the federal public service now. Take advantage of alumni networks, and learn about the various employment options like co-ops, the Federal Student Work Exchange Program, casual contracts, and employment ‘bridging’ within two years of graduation. These are the most effective ways of getting your foot in the door, and will open up more doors for you to pursue different jobs and subsequent contracts.

Ashley Heideman

Age: 31

Policy Advisor, International Affairs Branch, Environment and Climate Change Canada

Education

Master of International Public Policy

On the job

I support the management of Canada’s implements of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, in particular the management of the cooperative work program of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. I am also the lead Policy Advisor for Canada on the Trilateral Monarch Butterfly Working Group.

It has been interesting to challenge myself and to see teams around me challenge themselves to think and act differently after almost 10 years of the same government. As this is my first time going through a change in government, I find it really interesting and challenging to examine issues from new angles and ask more questions about why things are done the way they are. A lot of change has happened in a very short amount of time, and there is likely a lot more to come. Particularly since I work on files with the United States and Mexico, it sounds like there will be many new and exciting challenges coming up in the near future.

Memorable moment

On a work trip, I had the amazing opportunity to visit the Piedra Herrada Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Valle de Bravo, Mexico, while the Monarchs were overwintering there. The delegation was given a demonstration on how the World Wildlife Fund measures the size of the population (it’s nearly impossible to count each individual Monarch so they have to measure by occupied surface area!), but it was just incredible to watch the millions of butterflies fly around. That beautiful image will be hard to forget.

Words of wisdom

Government is a great place to work that provides many opportunities to make real differences in people’s lives and the world. It might not always be glamorous or seem like you’re making a difference, but hang in there and it always gets better when you least expect it. There are so many opportunities in the federal government, so don’t get too hung up on a particular job title or offer if it’s not exactly what you studied or where you think you should be. Most importantly: be nice to everyone, everywhere, all the time! Especially in Ottawa: it really is a small town and you never know if that stranger on Elgin Street or in the airport on the other side of the world will be your next boss or in your next meeting.

James Clark

Age: 27

Economist – Multilateral Institutions, Department of Finance Canada

Education & internships

Master of Public Policy, University of Toronto; Honours Business Administration undergrad, University of Western Ontario. Strategic Policy Division of the Treasury Board Secretariat.

On the job

I think the scope of my job is the most challenging aspect for me. On a given day, I can find myself giving comments on a specific project in a borrowing country and the next reviewing a proposal for how the World Bank should be structured in 2030. Our work is a mix of day-to-day governance issues combined with big picture strategic work. I sometimes find it challenging shifting between these two points of view, but I work with a great group of colleagues with complementary skillsets. One of the underlying themes of my work is whether multilateral development banks are development institutions or banks – the answer is that they are both, but this is an ongoing tension in the governance role we play on multilateral development bank issues.

Words of wisdom

I would recommend that people interested in international careers have something that stands out on their resume. Resumes are about selling a package of experience and education, and people in this field have generally taken similar courses and done similar internships, so having something on your resume that is unique definitely stands out to an employer. In my case, I served in the Canadian naval reserve during university and I benefitted immensely from the rigorous training and camaraderie that this experience developed. So not to say you have to join the military, but having a unique experience definitely stands out when an employer is sifting through a pile of generally similar looking resumes.

Lynsey Longfield

Age: 25

International Development Officer

Education

Bachelor of Social Sciences, Joint Honours in Political Science and Philosophy, University of Ottawa; MA, Globalization and International Development with specialization in Environmental Sustainability, University of Ottawa.

On the job

I work at Global Affairs Canada in the Innovation for Development Unit (officially launched in October 2015 and therefore quite new). One of my responsibilities is to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and ideas among stakeholders, networks and communities of practice. Secondly, I work to promote a culture of learning and collaboration by providing Global Affairs colleagues with best practice guidance for policy, programming and partnerships related to innovation for poverty reduction. Finally, I engage with the wider innovation ecosystem, both within Canada and internationally, to gather best practices and ideas in order to better understand and transfer knowledge and competencies around the application of innovation processes within Global Affairs’ international development work.

Mentor

Though I have many mentors, one of my key mentors in the federal government is Nikita Eriksen-Hamel. Nikita brought me into the public service through the Federal Student Work Experience Program (FSWEP). Since then, I have worked for a variety of different teams with different managers, but have looked to him for advice and leadership on a variety of issues related to my career.

Words of wisdom

1) Network, network, network.

2) Don’t be afraid to dip your toes in something foreign or unknown to you; you’ll most likely gain valuable transferable skills!

3) Find mentors in the federal government who you trust and can rely on; having these people in your corner will be extremely important throughout your career development.


Illustrator: Garth Laidlaw
Development: Natasha Scott, Alex Myciak
Interaction Design: Frank Flitton
Design: Som Tsoi