Dreams of A Diplomat: Bridging the Gap

by Juan Thomas
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“Please note that there will be few, if any, opportunities to take leave during training period prior to your departure to your first assignment” – My Career Development/Assignments Officer

As I noted a little over a month ago, I finished the Facility Manager Tradecraft course. The thing is I don’t start Spanish Basic for S-2/R-2 Skills until this coming Monday. Another thing is I technically can’t take annual leave during the training period. The popular solution amongst career development and assignments officers in these scenarios: filling in the schedule with gap training.

For me, we’re talking 6 weeks of filler training. Trust me, I would’ve loved to burn some of the annual leave I got stockpiled considering I haven’t used any since coming back from the week I took off in early August before I commenced my exit blitz out of the Department of the Interior. So, after working with my CDO—or mostly listening and being forced to accept her logic, whichever one of more politically correct—I had the following schedule to fill in the dead period…

SECURITY OVERSEAS SEMINAR. This was the 1st of 2 mandatory courses I had to take after tradecraft. In a nutshell, its purpose was to prepare me for the unique security challenges abroad. There were some very experienced subject matter experts that provided information and guidance on personal security, explosives, fire safety, hostage survival, and crisis management.

DATA ANALYSIS & VISUALIZATION. Initially, when I saw this course on my training ledger, I thought the CDO had lost her mind. But once I was in it, I actually found it to be very good. It was basically a glorified Microsoft Excel class and I learned a lot about that application in 3 days that I did the entire 22 years I had previous experience with it. Where I was once terrified of pivot tables and complex formulas, I’m not very intrigued by them. As a great deal of my work as a Foreign Service Facility Manager deals with analytics and metrics, Microsoft Excel as well as the business analytics software the Department uses will come in handy for me.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS COUNTER THREAT. This was the 2nd of 2 mandatory courses I had to take after tradecraft. I basically explained it here.

RESILIENCE LEADERSHIP. This was a bit of an unusual course. It was about fostering a culture of resilience amongst those on your team as a means of achieving objectives in a rapidly changing and highly complex environment. I’m no stranger to adversity but I didn’t think it was something that could necessarily be taught beforehand. My experience has been just taking your lumps with it and using your experience as an example for others to follow or avoid…this is otherwise known as “taking one for the team”. I’m not exactly sure if I got anything out of that course.

WESTERN HEMISPHERE REGIONAL OVERVIEW. This is basically the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs areas studies course. For a week, we gained a very detailed foundational knowledge about Latin America and the Caribbean. We also learned about the relationship of the United States between other countries in the Americas. There were lessons on politics, checkered histories, human and physical geography, economies, and social and cultural patterns. It was some fairly heavy stuff but it gave me somewhat of an understanding of what I may be walking into come July.

MANAGERIAL ESSENTIALS FOR OVERSEAS MANAGEMENT PROFESSIONALS. As a Facility Manager, I’m part of the Management Section at any post and I’m usually working alongside the Financial Management Officer, the General Services Officer, the Human Resources Officer, the Information Management Specialist, a health professional, and the Community Liaison Officer. We all work under the direction of the Management Officer—of at really important posts, the Minister Counselor for Managerial Affairs. The Managerial Essentials for Overseas Management Professionals course was just a really close look into the work and tough decision-making that happens in the section every day.

REDVECTOR COMPUTER-BASED TRAINING. Aside from the aforementioned Foreign Service Institute classes, I bridged the gap between tradecraft and language with RedVector online training and continuing education classes. I got a number of important courses in such as the OSHA 10-Hour Construction course, the Facility Management Essentials course, and the Smart Customer Service course. There were a number of courses on historic preservation that I took as well.

As of this afternoon, I am happy to report that I completed all of the gap training. Now I can turn my attention to the last piece of the training puzzle: language. I’m uber excited to get started with a full-time language training program.

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