Q: What skills did you develop at Williams that have been most impactful in your careers?
Pablo: You may not be the best at something or the star of something but you can help other people get where they need to go and you can build your own skills and character. Teamwork and Group work are so important and I credit Williams for allowing me to develop that skill set.
Both Justin and Amy spoke to the importance of writing and communication skills that they gained from Williams, including the important ability to craft an argument well to best get your point across.
Doug: Sharpen your pencil. An entire idea may require ten pages to fully develop; however, distilling your idea into a succinct paragraph is a skill that you learn at Williams which can be applied in your career.
Q: A lot of you have talked about working within the government. How receptive do you find the government to be to diverse thoughts and change or alternative views?
Justin: The Government is really big, and it has a lot of parts and pieces. There are always going to be parts of the government that are incredibly resistant to change, but there are also pockets of the government that are super interested in change. One of the biggest assets of our democracy is bringing in a new administration every four to eight years that will always provoke change and new ways of thinking.
Amy: I started in the State Department under Madeline Albright and she did a lot to build and empower women to be front and center in decision-making on Foreign Policy in the US. A lot of my former colleagues from this time are now working in the State Department under the Biden Administration and they are continuing to try to promote enhanced diversity. It is a work in progress to promote not only the diversity of people, but of ideas.
Being part of the process is the way to bring in diverse views. All of us have different ideas of what priorities we should act on, but what is so encouraging to me is seeing so many of my colleagues being energized because it feels like it is their time to make change. These people go in, roll up their sleeves, and do the work to bring new ideas. After college, you’ll find your time to make a difference as we think about domestic policy and foreign policy.
Pablo: Working at different embassies all over the world, I’ve learned that we must adapt to change at all times, acclimating to different lifestyles as we move from country to country. With different administrations you get different priorities and that impacts US Foreign Policy abroad and Domestic Policy and everything builds upon each other.
Today, there’s a chief officer working on diversity issues in the State department. Foreign Service officers are the face of America to the world, and the task of this office is to promote diversity to the fullest. That means a lot of things – bringing together people from different walks of life, different abilities, and different parts of the US. It also means bringing together people from different socio-economic, ethinc and experiential backgrounds. It is a huge effort and it is so important to be part of that process – every contribution matters.
Q: As you’ve experienced success, what have been some challenges or instances of things not working out that you learned from?
Doug: Early in my career, I was doing a lot of data visualization. I was really good at turning data into visuals for higher ups, but I also wanted to do other types of work – policy, for example.
Having the confidence in yourself to raise your hand and say, “I’d like to do something different, I have these skills.” Hopefully the people in your organization are going to give you the opportunity to further yourself in your career in new areas.
Pablo: In the difficult circumstances of a staff shortage, I stepped up, I volunteered to learn something A-to-Z that I had never learned before. You invest time and effort to learn what you need to know and to pull yourself together to make sure you are meeting the goals of the section of your team. In those really difficult moments it’s how you address them that helps move you to the next level.
Amy: You’re going to take a job you think is going to be great, and in a year you’re going to say ‘really? This is what I wanted to do?’ In my first job in the State Department, as part of the Intelligence community, I was working in a safe, because so much of the information I was working on was highly classified. It made me realize that what I loved in my education and what I wanted in my work was to be able to be in discourse about these topics. So I looked at what I wanted to do and I entered the foreign service to live and work in Shanghai. I could be doing that same job of highly interesting work, but I ultimately realized I needed more. There are always opportunities to change your path.