Graduate Trainee profile – Frédéric
I am a Desk Officer in the Pakistan Development Section. I work on Australia’s Aid Investment Plan and performance framework.
Other positions in the department:
Recent experiences include a three month short-term mission at the Australian Embassy to the United States where I covered the 2012 IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington DC. In 2011, as a member of DFAT’s United Nations Development Cooperation Forum (UNDCF) Task Force, I worked with United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) colleagues on joint analytical pieces to inform UNDCF discussions on sustainable development and development partnerships. I also spent six months working in the Humanitarian and Emergency Response Branch, where I provided emergency response training to Honiara Post and participated in the FRANZ emergency response simulation exercise in Nouméa.
Where did you live and what were you doing before joining the department?
Prior to joining the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as a graduate, I had accumulated five years’ experience working for the United Nations, aid recipient countries, and international civil society organisations. In 2011, I was contracted by the United Nations Development Programme to advise Government of Pakistan on its foreign aid policy and to assist the government and donors in reporting on aid effectiveness commitments. I have also worked for the UN Office of the Resident Coordinator in Laos and UNDP Cambodia. As a consultant, I have contributed analytical pieces on climate change financing, aid effectiveness and strengthening country public financial management systems.
What qualifications do you have?
In 2005, I completed a Bachelor degree in European Studies with a focus on political science, history and languages. I followed this up with a Masters in Development Studies from University of Sydney and am currently completing a Masters in Public Policy and Management from University of London.
Have you used your qualifications/experience during your time in the department?
In my current role working on the Pakistan desk, I draw on knowledge gained while embedded in Pakistan’s Economic Affairs Division in the Ministry of Finance, Revenue, Economic Affairs, Statistics and Privatisation.
Do you speak another language?
Yes. I speak French, Spanish and Italian.
Why did you apply for the graduate program in the department?
DFAT presents an opportunity for me to combine my interests in international relations, development and public policy with my desire to live and work overseas.
What was the most challenging aspect of the recruitment/selection process?
The duration of the recruitment process was definitely the most challenging. The overall process from application to start date is almost a year long.
Do you have any tips for applicants on how to approach the selection process?
Read through the Minister’s statements and be across current foreign affairs, trade and aid policies. Official communications are a good starting point, but do read more widely. Think tanks such as the Lowy Institute and Development Policy Centre at the ANU offer a variety of perspectives and positions.
Has the reality of working in the department differed from your perceptions of what it was going to be like?
Although I was aware that DFAT had a strong graduate training program, the reality has surpassed my expectations. The training opportunities have been numerous and the mentor role senior management plays has been invaluable.
What has been the highlight of your career with the department so far?
There have been many highlights including representing Australia at a series of development dialogues in Washington and leading capacity development sessions on humanitarian response across various posts.
How have you found the overseas posting experience?
The overseas posting has been a critical part of the training program for all graduates. Having worked with the United Nations and non-governmental organisations, the overseas posting experience was my first foray in representing Australia on the international stage.
As an economist/accountant/lawyer/development specialist etc, why would you recommend the department over other career options?
A career with DFAT is a unique and rewarding experience. It allows you to work across a range of sectors and to provide policy advice that shapes Australia’s response to global opportunities and challenges. As a development specialist, I have provided advice to senior management on a range of development policy issues including humanitarian responses, post-2015 development agenda and country program strategy. The graduate program acts as a spring board to give you unparalleled opportunities on the world stage.
How do you enjoy living in Canberra?
As most graduates come from outside of Canberra, you develop a very close knit network. You live within a 10 minute radius of friends and colleagues and the streets are quiet for cyclists – a welcome change to the chaos of SouthEast Asia. Canberra is also a good launch pad to the snow, beaches and the local wineries.
Have you any other insights for potential applicants?
The job is not always glamorous. Much of your career will be spent in Canberra developing policy and tracking the performance of development programs.
Also, don’t give up. If you didn’t make the cut this year, try again next year. The organisation looks for different profiles each year, so next year they could be looking for you.