On a Mission: Foreign Service Specialist

The U.S. Department of State is the nation’s leading foreign affairs agency, but surprisingly, many individuals, especially African-Americans, are unfamiliar with what the agency does.

And Chimere was no different. Read on and see how this dynamic engineer discovered the U.S. Department of State at a career fair, and changed the trajectory of her life.

EBONY: How did you begin your journey with the U.S. Department of State?

Chimere: I was recruited straight out of college, but it’s an interesting story. With about two months to go until graduation, I found myself without any job prospects—despite my good grades and internship experience. Since I had been an active member of Clemson’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), I knew that the organization had a career fair coming up in late March.

So, I traveled across the country to Anaheim, CA hoping to secure employment at the career fair. There were more than 200 companies and government agencies there, but after walking the aisles for hours, I realized that the need for computer engineers wasn’t as strong as I had hoped. And as I walked away, my optimistic feelings began to take on a more somber tone.

But just as I was about to walk back to my hotel room, something (I call it my guardian angel) told me to walk down the last aisle. I’d passed it before, but had dismissed it because I didn’t think any companies would be setup in such an obscure location. But walking down that last aisle changed my life forever.

There was a booth that had a poster with the words “computers” and “hacking” on it and I was immediately intrigued. Now, I knew it wasn’t computer programming, but I figured that it was worth looking into! I spoke with the Diplomatic Security (DS) recruiters at the booth, and they told me about the chance to travel worldwide, live abroad, obtain a security clearance, and represent America – all with a federal government organization of which I had never heard, the U.S. Department of State.

After receiving more information and chatting with the recruiters at the booth a bit more, I agreed to be interviewed by a now fellow Security Engineering Officer (SEO). I was given a conditional offer at the interview and came on board as an SEO with the Department of State six months later. I’ve been happy ever since.

[WATCH] I’m a Foreign Service Specialist

I’m a Foreign Service Specialist

EBONY: Were you nervous about the prospect of living overseas?

Chimere: Granted, I was a little nervous at first. Remember, I’m a country girl from South Carolina so, you know, I had only traveled distances maybe two or three states over, stayed for about a week or so. But I’d never been that far apart from my family before. But depending upon where you’re posted you can keep in touch with your family pretty regularly via emails and such. Plus, when you work for the Department of State you’re never alone. There’s always someone watching out for your safety.

EBONY: What is your title and where is work located?

Chimere: I’m a Foreign Service Specialist, serving as a Security Engineering Officer with a focus on technical security policy. I’m currently posted in Washington, D.C.

EBONY: What does the U.S. Department of State do exactly?

Chimere: (Laughs.) I get that question a lot. The Department of State is the leading U.S. foreign affairs agency. We have over 265 diplomatic locations around the world including embassies, consulates, and missions. Our primary purpose is to maintain diplomatic relations with most countries in the world, including quite a few international organizations, while shaping a freer, more secure, and more prosperous world that protects American interests abroad. Whew!

EBONY: Wow, that’s quite an answer. Is that all that the DOS is known for?

Chimere: Oh, no. We’re responsible for promoting peace and stability in areas of vital interest to America, including helping developing nations establish stable economic environments. We also have a number of domestic and international locations where we provide information and services to U.S. citizens traveling abroad, including issuing passports. And, we also issue visas to foreigners wishing to visit the United States.

EBONY: Oh, so you don’t have to live abroad to work for the U.S. Department of State?

Chimere: Not at all. There are a number of domestic and international positions available. Foreign Service Officers and Foreign Service Specialists work abroad, while Civil Service professionals work stateside. We also have internship and fellowship programs for students, and executive development programs for professionals.

EBONY: What does your particular job as a Foreign Service Specialist entail?

Chimere: Well, it can pretty much run the gamut. I’m part of a team that repairs and installs alarm systems and cameras at U.S. embassies internationally. I can travel as a part of the advanced team for the Secretary of State doing inspections overseas. I also inspect the network at various Department of