Foreign Service people are badass… They casual travel around the world, promoting US interests and helping to protect the American people through diplomacy. I happen to know a YOUNG WOMAN ( yes you heard that right ), who went into the foreign service. She was in my sorority with me and ALL of us looked up to her. She graduated #1 in her business school, went to graduate school, took the foreign service exam, attended the Forbes 30 under 30 Summit, met her HOTTIE husband ( the ken to her barbie ) in Mexico, and moved to ISLAMABAD where she championed peace & positive relationships. What a badass right?! I definitely want to be her when I grow up…. Here’s a quick interview with her so you can learn a little more about her badass career and what makes her tick 🙂
SBA: When you were a little kid, is this the type of job you dreamt of? What made you want to
join the foreign service?
I think the first job I ever wanted as a kid was to be a teacher. I didn’t know that something
like the Foreign Service existed until probably my freshman year of high school. And once I
found out that there was this amazing job where you could serve your country and travel the
world, I was hooked. I focused everything on the path to becoming a diplomat from there
on out. From heading to Washington, D.C. for college to studying abroad in Cairo and
Madrid as an undergrad, my goal was to obtain the skills and experiences necessary to be a
successful Foreign Service Officer. I wanted to join the Foreign Service because of the
mission. Every day my job boils down to these three guiding principles: promote peace,
support prosperity, and protect American citizens while advancing the interests of the U.S.
abroad. That mission is what makes me excited and proud to go to work every day.
SBA: What is your day to day like?
The best part about my job is that every day, and every post, is different! I’m still getting
settled in Prague so a lot of what I’m doing right now is learning: who are the important
players, what are the important issues, how can we strengthen our economic relationship
with the Czech Republic, how can we promote democratic values? That means getting out
of the office and meeting people. One day I will deliver talking points on endocrine
disruptors or brainstorm with colleagues our plans to commemorate the centennial of U.S.-
Czech relations (coming up next year in 2018!). And the next day I will write reports back to
our headquarters in Washington about economic issues and trends or give a speech at an
Embassy-sponsored Venture Summit to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation. If you
asked me just four months ago (when I was still in Islamabad) the same question, I would
have a completely different answer, and that’s what keeps this job exciting and fun!
SBA: Tell us about the Forbes 30 under 30 event!
I was at the 30 Under 30 Summit in Boston in 2016 and it was absolutely amazing! I flew in
for the weekend from Islamabad and it was a whirlwind experience networking with other
inspiring 30 Under 30’s and learning from some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the
world, like Jessica Alba from the Honest Company and Jennifer Hyman from Rent the
Runway. I left feeling empowered and confident in the ability of our generation to effect
real, positive change in the world.
SBA: What is your favorite moment professionally? Did you ever have an experience where you
knew you had made a positive impact internationally?
I think my favorite moment was when I was recognized as a Forbes 30 Under 30 for my
work to support policy initiatives that would stem the flow of heroin from Mexico to the
United States. Heroin-related overdose deaths in the United States have more than
quadrupled since 2010. Meanwhile, increased drug use in the United States drives increased
violence in Mexico as cartels fight for their piece of the profits. I think my work in Mexico had a positive impact, although I by no means did it alone. I am so thankful to have worked with a great team to try to confront this issue.
SBA: Mexico City, to Islamabad, to Prague! Dang – that’s a lot of change. How do you deal with
transitioning to new cultures? What have you learned about human interaction through
witnessing such varied ways of life?
As glamorous as it sounds, it’s definitely not easy. At each new post, you have to start all
over again from scratch, not only in the sense that you have figure out your new job, but also
in the sense of basic things like learning how to take the tram or pay for groceries or even
find the groceries that you need for your favorite recipes. Even making friends – such a huge
challenge I think for all of us post-college but especially when you don’t have a network at
your new post it can be really hard. This assignment has been extra tricky because I didn’t
get Czech language training, so not being able to communicate in the local language has been
a challenge. But with time, everything gets easier. And from these experiences I’ve learned
that, while each country has its own unique customs and culture, you can always find a way
to relate and find similarities between yourself and your neighbors. And not to be afraid to
put yourself out there and try something new!
SBA: I’d imagine having a “trailing spouse” can be tough at times – what qualities about Irving
and your relationship have helped see you through? Have you met other women along the
way who also have husbands following their careers?
I am so thankful to Irving for joining me on this crazy adventure! I think we have managed
to survive all of these changes because he is so flexible, outgoing, and resilient. Together we
support each other through all of the moves and changes, comfort each other on the sad
days and embrace the happy ones. This career can be quite lonely. We’ve spent Christmases
away from family, missed weddings and funerals. But with him, home is not a place, it is a
feeling, and no matter how strange or new or foreign our surroundings might be, we’ll
always feel at home together.
Luckily, I have met some women who have husbands following their careers, but it’s still not
the norm in the Foreign Service. Like almost every other industry, we still have a long way
to go before the gender balance and the racial balance in the Foreign Service matches the
demographics of our country.
SBA: Where do you hope this career will take you?
I hope this career continues to take me to places that are challenging and interesting, where I
can continue to learn and positively contribute to the world around me. If you would have
told me four years ago that today I would be living in Prague after tours in Mexico City and
Islamabad, I wouldn’t have believed you. I feel like I have grown so much through my past
two assignments. In some ways, my path has been quite serendipitous, and I’m excited to
see where I’ll end up next.
If you’d like to follow Ariel’s story, check out her INTSA and give her a follow 🙂 @arieljahner.
- Antigone xx