Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Happy 10th Anniversary 110th!

As of this month, Ian has been part of the Foreign Service for 10 years.  Two years in Manila, Philippines (Cons/EAP)... 1 year in Lome', Togo (Cons/AF)... 3 years in Chennai, India (Cons/SCA), 3 years in DC (HR/WHA) and so far 4 months in Amman, Jordan (Cons/NEA).

Starting college, kids pick a major. Lots of them go Undecided, try out a few things, and eventually pick a line of study that matches their interests.  In the Foreign Service there is no Undecided period.  Following his journalism work history and his degree in Political Science, he chose Public Diplomacy.  The face of the FS, the ones out there talking to the press, releasing statements, doing stuff that makes us look good.

There's a twist.  Every new officer has two directed tours, and one of them has to be a Consular rotation.  Everyone puts in time at the visa window.  Everyone.  And so Ian's first position was at the window in Manila.  Manila is ranked pretty high in the interview numbers.  It was normal for each officer to do 70-100 interviews a day, and there were a dozen+ officers on the line.

It didn't take long for him to realize that Consular interested him far more than PD, and he began the difficult steps to change his Cone (because changing anything in any government is more painful than it should be).  The Cone is equivalent to a college major.  Within your Cone are certain expectations.  Most Cones strongly encourage a concentration in one of the world zones (Africa/AF, South Central Asia/SCA, Europe/EUR, Western Hemisphere/WHA, East Asia & Pacific/EAP, Near East Asia/NEA) and that makes sense.  If your Cone is Political, it behooves the Department to get you all trained up in matters of that area, and then keep you there.  The Political atmosphere of Amman is far different than that of Manila, and the two really have no interaction, but Amman and Israel and Syria and Lebanon have a lot of issues that cross over.

Consular is different.  Applicants have small differences around the world (in Togo it was heavily lottery related, in Manila there were a ton of K/fiancee' issues), but the process and the interactions are the same.  There's a book that has all the rules in it.  Rules are good.  And when a rule is a little fuzzy you use your brain and your gut to make a decision. There's no flip-flopping, no over-ruling.  For many, Consular is a challenge.  Having that sort of power over the lives of individuals can be intimidating, and some don't cope with it well.  Ian has a great ability to separate the case from the person when needed and make a decision supported by law, because he's memorized most of the FAM and what he hasn't memorized he knows where to find or who to ask.  It's part of what makes him a great Consular Chief.

He's also an out-of-the-box thinker which suits Consular work well.  If you know anyone who is part of the Foreign Service or even part of the State Department, most any question can be answered with "It Depends."  Because Cons works with thousands of individuals around the world daily, each with unique stories, varied qualifications, assorted goals and unusual histories, there are always applicants that don't fit the  rule book, and there are the other cases that Consular works with too.  American Citizen Services doesn't just deal with the tourist who loses a passport, it works with American deaths abroad, kidnappings, child abductions, and lots of other things from the nasty side of life.

He's good at it and he feels his work matters, as it certainly matters to the folks on the other side of the window.  Having a Consular Chief who is passionate about his work, about getting things done in a timely manner, and about doing it legally and honestly, is what makes him so good at what he does.

He should be proud of the past 10 years, and I know he's looking forward to starting at least another 10.


  1. Congrats Ian, or, perhaps it's the FS that should get the congrats? For the privilege of getting to keep a guy like you around for 10 years?

  2. What an interesting post. As a non FS person, I don't know much about FS life. I really like FS blogs because I get so many great travel ideas. I guess I know who will be helping me should I have a problem on one of these vacations! Thanks for explaining more about your interesting life abroad. And congratulations on ten years.

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