Q What would you tell a young adult growing up in today’s divisive climate?
Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Share who you really are with the world. Meet people who are different from you, and be open to learning from them.
Q Growing up in Illinois, did you always want to join the foreign services?
I definitely didn’t know I wanted to join the Foreign Service as I didn’t even know it existed! I grew up in a small farming town with 3,000 people where most adults were farmers or teachers and never left the country or even state. What the adults taught me was to always try your best and follow your dreams, and eventually that led me to FS.
Q Every American either favours your president or not, how does that fit in with the current scenario?
In my family, like in most American families, there are some who voted Republican and others who voted Democrat. This can make for lively discussions at Thanksgiving dinners! But at the end of the day, we’re all Americans trying to do the best we can for our families and communities. There’s a lot more that unites us than divides us.
Q What was Yale like?
My four years were probably the best four years of my life. Through both my classes and my classmates, I had the opportunity to explore how big, diverse, and fascinating the world is. I was able to spend time in Niger, Norway and South Africa, and these experiences ultimately led me to the career I have now.
Q As a mother, with so many different posts across the globe, how do you balance it?
I often get asked how as a mother, I manage to juggle my career and family. It’s interesting to me that my husband, also a diplomat, has never been asked this. The truth is that we both balance our responsibilities by helping one another. If I need to work, he will cook dinner and put our young sons to bed. If he has a busier day then I will take a few hours off for a parent-teacher conference. The advice I’d give to anyone worrying about balancing work and kids is not to try to do it alone! Expect and ask for help, — from a partner, another family member, a colleague or a friend.
Q The constant moves and different cultures, how was it?
I’m married to another diplomat, and we have two sons — a five and three-year-old. We have been in the Foreign Service our entire lives, we don’t know any other way! To be honest, it takes my husband and I more time to adjust to new cultures than our sons. As soon as they see other children, they run over and start playing. Play is universal! And even though we have only been in India a few months, both of my boys already like roti and chapati!
Q Fondest memories of work, the people who inspire you?
Young people trying to help those around really inspire me. Recently I was in Bangalore visiting an organisation Dream a Dream. A young student told me she dreamt of impacting other young girls’ lives by becoming a teacher, and to prepare, she would “teach” to a wall. People laughed at her, saying, “You’re wasting time! You can’t teach anything to a wall!” But she kept at it because she knew that she wasn’t wasting her time. By practicing, even with a wall, she was helping herself improve.
Q Advice to young girls?
To young girls, I would say: don’t worry too much about planning your entire future. I ended up in a job that I didn’t even know existed. Work hard at everything you do, be kind to those around you, and take advantage of opportunities that interest you when they arise. Eventually, you’ll wind up where you were meant to be.