Finding Tech Talent to Support the Backbone of U.S. Diplomacy

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Five college students in business attire (3 women, 2 men) stand in a lobby, in front of glass windows with a row of flags above them.
The Inaugural Class of the Foreign Affairs Information Technology Fellowship, June 2017 at the Department of State.

Finding Tech Talent to Support the Backbone of U.S. Diplomacy

Apple released its first diversity and inclusion report last month. It showed that the company has made progress in attracting historically underrepresented groups in tech to their ranks, but, challenges still remain. This emphasis on diversity and inclusion resonates strongly with the Department of State. We are not immune from the challenges of attracting top-notch tech talent to the Foreign Service ranks that reflects the diversity of the U.S., but we are making it a priority. 

In 2016, to help attract representative talent in the IT field, we established the Foreign Affairs Information Technology (FAIT) Fellowship.  FAIT provides five Fellows (three graduates and two undergraduates) with tuition assistance, as well as mentorship and professional development to launch their careers in the Foreign Service. Specifically, the financial assistance supports undergraduate students’ junior and senior years or a graduate students’ pursuit of a two-year degree program in an IT-related field. Upon successful completion of the program, Fellows must commit a minimum of five years' service at the Department of State.

The program is a partnership between the Department of State’s Chief Information Officer, Chief Human Capital Officer, and The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars. We launched the program last year and are now in the midst of the pilot’s second year. Our goal is to recruit passionate and driven students who are interested in pursuing a tech career with the Foreign Service. The application period for the 2018 Fellowship is open now-- you can find the application and more information here. The deadline for submission is December 31, 2017.

I met our first cohort this past summer. Their enthusiasm for tech-enabled diplomacy, commitment to public service, and wide-ranging backgrounds inspires me. Many of the Fellows had already engaged with the Department of State through other internships and were thrilled to have the opportunity to combine their love of travel and adventure with their tech expertise. We are excited to apply their perspectives and experiences to our tech needs domestically and overseas!

A workforce comprised of diverse points-of-view enables innovation, collaboration, and mission success. Like Apple and other Silicon Valley giants, the Department of State is committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace. To learn more about the U.S. Department of State’s internships, fellowships, and careers, visit careers.state.gov

About the Author:  Jameela Raja Akbari is a Civil Service employee and leads Strategic Workforce Planning for the Department of State’s Chief Information Officer in the Bureau of Information Resource Management at the U.S. Department of State.

For more information on the Foreign Affairs Information Technology Fellowship, visit http://www.twc.edu/foreign-affairs-information-technology-fellowship-program.

Editor's Note: This entry is also published in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.