Travel Diary: A Day in the Life of a "Line Officer"

Posted by Melissa Lan
May 22, 2010
World Expo Shanghai: Behind the Scenes With Melissa Lan
World Expo Shanghai: Behind the Scenes
World Expo Shanghai: Behind the Scenes at the USA Pavilion

Interactive Travel Map|Text the Secretary|Trip PageAbout the Author: Melissa Lan serves as a Line Officer in the U.S. Department of State's Executive Secretariat.

My friends and family often ask me what a Line Officer -- someone who works on the State Department's Executive Secretariat staff -- does. My Thursday schedule gives a good sense of what a Line Officer's typical day on the road involves.

4:00 a.m. I woke up in my hotel at the Shanghai Shangri-La, where I've been staying for the past week in preparation for the Secretary's upcoming visit to see the World Expo being held here in Shanghai. I'm still a little tired from yesterday's site visits. We toured 10 possible Expo pavilions for the visit! I checked emails on my Blackberry and got ready for the day.

6:00 a.m. I went over today's scheduled meetings and site visits over breakfast in the hotel restaurant.

8:00 a.m. I did a walk-through of the hotel ballroom where the Secretary will hold a "Meet and Greet" with consulate staff during her visit. I went through the whole program with the site officer for this event and the hotel manager.

8:30 a.m. My car took me to the Expo site, where I went to see the USA Pavilion again.

9:00 a.m. I completed a walk-through of the USA Pavilion presentation with the Shanghai Consulate's Control Officer and Advance Team Liaison Officer for this visit. We walked through the Secretary's movements and viewed the videos that are on display.

11:00 a.m. We took an Expo golf buggy to the other side of the Expo site (twice the size of Monaco) to do a walk-through of the China Pavilion. This is the largest and tallest national pavilion on the site. We met with the pavilion staff, who walked us through their proposed itinerary for the Secretary's visit.

12:30 p.m. We had lunch on the Huang Pu River with Chinese Expo officials.

1:30 p.m. We went to the Expo Center to prepare for the Secretary's bi-lateral meeting that she will hold. We discussed the participants, movements and topics for the meeting.

2:30 p.m. Afterwards, we returned to the U.S. Consulate to hold meetings with consulate staff about the press for the visit, as well as finalizing the Secretary's final schedule. Finally, I prepared for the final countdown meeting that we're holding later tonight with the consulate staff.

5:00 p.m. Final Countdown Meeting: Everyone at the consulate who is involved with the Secretary's visit attended this meeting to review the final schedule and talk through all of the movements of all other principals who will be coming for the visit.

7:30 p.m. I had dinner at a local Chinese restaurant to try some of Shanghai's famous soup dumplings.

8:30 p.m. I had several trip calls with decision-makers back in Washington. These calls covered several topics including the Secretary's schedule in Shanghai.

2:00 a.m. Finally went to bed!

Learn more about careers at the U.S. Department of State here.



Allan A.
California, USA
May 22, 2010

Allan A. in California writes:

Hello Ms. Lan. Thank you for sharing an insight to an important and challenging work that you do. Please tell me the entry-level position in the State for this type of work. Your posting inspired me! All the best to you.

United States
May 23, 2010

O.C. in U.S.A. writes:

Sounds like a really difficult job. I'd make a terrible line officer.

New Mexico, USA
May 23, 2010

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Melissa Lan,

I shouldn't ask you how you were feeling the next morning on 2 hours sleep, been there, done that in marathon recording sessions in studio.

I could tell you about the time I put in a hundred and one hours (billable) in one week painting a several million dollar home to get it ready for the client's Thanksgiving dinner party.

To which my effort was met with disbelief that such an effort was not humanly possible unless I was on drugs.

I said, "That's right, lots and lots of coffee, and I kept my word. It's done."

(168 hours in a week) I didn't get much sleep.

Nor do I need to remind you of all the university studies done on the adverse health ramifications of not getting your beauty sleep, or simply 6 hours on a regular basis.

But if I was your boss, I would have taken you off the job after 16 hours and ordered you to bed. I'd need you alert in the AM.

Your testimony here is something that Congress should think about when funding the State Dept.

Because that pace you're on dear is not sustainable, will ruin your health, and Congress should provide the funding to get you some help, since you're pulling the hours of two people's work day.

It's one thing to put out "maximum effort" for a short period at the expense of your basic need for sleep, but burning out because of it isn't an option I would allow if I was your boss.

I hope you get some "down time" after the expo and the Secretary's visit is done.

After all your hard work, you deserve that.


John P.
May 23, 2010

John P. in Greece writes:

Extremely nice and powerful post Mrs. Lan.

That’s why (a part of) DipNote was born: 2 make us know how serving is.

You are right. It's not exactly a walk in the park.

I wish you the best success madam!

Micah S.
May 24, 2010

Micah S. in China writes:

8:30 p.m. phone calls

2:00 a.m. bed

That's a lot of phone calls ;)

United States
May 24, 2010

Russell in USA writes:

@ Ms. Lan:

Wow, just wow! I sincerely hope you're able to get some much needed rest in the near future. You are definitely a shining example against the common, often media-driven, misconception that federal government employees are under-worked and over paid!


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