First Secretary Technical, Australian Embassy, Washington DC
Other key placements including overseas assignments
As a Technical Officer working in the largest division of DFAT, the opportunity to travel extensively is a core aspect of the role. Given the global nature of the Department’s operations, I have been very fortunate to have undertaken no less than 80 overseas short term missions, to every region of the world, conducting a broad range of tasks associated with the installation, maintenance and support of Australia’s secure communications network. With such a diverse and politically sensitive agenda, Technical Officers are integral to the operations of all overseas missions, and particularly the Prime Minister, Foreign and Trade Ministers when they are travelling abroad.
What qualifications do you have?
In recruiting top calibre Technical Officers to the Department, technical aptitude and relevant competencies are the main skills sought to fulfil this role. Although I have formal qualifications in electronic engineering from RMIT, the multitude of tailored, advanced training courses and ‘on the job’ skills development is a continual and essential component of enhancing the broad specialist skills required by DFAT Technical Officers. Examples of the typical vendor certifications I have obtained while employed with DFAT are: Cisco, Microsoft, HP, Nortel, Juniper, Alcatel and Lotus. Other ICT management certifications obtained include ITIL, Prince2 and Cert IV, but the best skills have been derived from working as part of the dedicated team of experienced DFAT officers. In addition to enhanced network and IT skills, specific training is undertaken for project management, TSCM, IDS & ACS, and the deployment of proprietary systems. We even spend time with the Departments locksmiths.
What were you doing before you joined DFAT?
There are few organisations that offer a comparable range of technical opportunities and the opportunity to be involved in large scale operations. My former employment saw me undertaking similar roles within the Defence Signals Directorate, initially as a trainee. While developing specialist skills in TEMPEST evaluation and inspection of security related equipment, I also supervised 2 large scale ABCA classified projects. But perhaps the milestone of my career with DSD was providing technical and logistics expertise during the complex relocation from Melbourne. This experience was an attractive incentive to join the DFAT team in preparation for the similar exercise of relocating to the R.G. Casey building.
Why did you apply to DFAT?
Apart from the rare opportunity to be intricately involved with the opening of a new departmental headquarters, the opportunity to further expand my skills into a broader, more complex global environment, significantly influenced my decision to join DFAT. In hindsight, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Professional development aside, the wealth of life experiences and opportunities to contribute to the development of Australia internationally, are rewarding in themselves.
How have you used your technical training during your time at DFAT?
Opportunities to specialise in a specific area of ICT exist within Canberra in: Projects, Development, TSCM, LAN/WAN Communications, Software & Enterprise Hardware, PABX and Radio or as part of a dedicated maintenance support and repair facility. However, posted overseas as a Regional Technical Officer in an autonomous environment, there is an elevated expectation that you will be a ‘jack of all trades’ and be able to fix just about anything that has a switch, a lock, a wire or a satellite dish. This opportunity to further enhance technical skills and broaden career opportunities, while living overseas, is perhaps the most appealing factor of the job. The scope of the work available to DFAT Technical Officers is also unique in that they are managers, specialists, practitioners and advisors who one day can be using a screw driver and the next be producing detailed management reports or undertaking multi-million dollar tender evaluations.
What have been some of the highlights of your career so far with DFAT?
As testament to the interesting contribution Technical Officers make to the Department, I have been a team recipient of Secretaries Citations for contributions during Y2K, Network Operations, SATIN and the 2006 Kabul, Afghanistan Embassy opening. I also received a commendation for exemplary performance during the 2008 Kabul Embassy relocation, which probably had something to do with me installing a newly designed DFAT portable satellite communication system in a somewhat challenging environment.
I’ve also had the rather unique experience of opening the Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq while riding to work in an ASLAV. As part of the Government’s emergency response team, I visited Dili, East Timor during the initial crisis in 1999 to identify and survey possible locations for a new Australian Embassy. Other career enhancers have been as the project manager for the domestic roll-out of SATIN to other government agencies, and providing a portable secure communications capability to the Prime Minister and other senior Ministers, using ICT systems developed specifically by DFAT Technical Officers.
As a technical officer, why would you recommend DFAT as a career?
Since joining DFAT from the DSD in 1996, I’ve had a highly rewarding career with undoubtedly unique opportunities, providing extensive exposure to all aspects of a complex, innovative global ICT network. Whether it is being intricately involved in management, planning, development & implementation, acquisition & staging or even getting the multimeter out as part of an installation or IT support team. The opportunities and wealth of experiences are endless in the Department.
With the scope of challenging & rewarding work and the unique experiences of being posted overseas as a diplomatic representative of Australia, there is no comparison to the lifestyle and opportunities of a DFAT Technical Officer.