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On the Job with Deanna from DFAT
Deanna Simpson is a policy officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and joined DFAT as a policy graduate in 2014.
In 2013 Deanna graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Philosophy) and Social Sciences (Development), from the University of Queensland.
Why were you interested in DFAT?
I was interested in foreign policy and international development, so the opportunity to work for the Australian government and gain experience across a range of policy issues appealed to me. The graduate program allows participants to experience a broad cross-section of the department’s work, including rotations in different areas of the department.
Where have you worked?
My rotations have been in the Africa Bilateral Branch, Resources and Energy, Development Policy and Corporate Management Division. We also undertake three months of full time training on courses led by academics and practitioners.
What have been the best aspects?
All of my rotations have provided interesting and rewarding work, but working in the Africa branch in 2014 when Australia was a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council was particularly exciting.
During my rotation in the Development Policy Division I travelled to London to attend the 2015 Behavioural Insights Conference where I learned about cutting edge policy and programming tools in international development and other fields from international experts.
What has been most challenging?
Keeping across the big picture during busy periods. Staying informed about the latest developments related to the government’s foreign policy priorities is an important aspect of being a good DFAT officer – being able to do so when you are also managing deadlines and completing responsibilities requires good time management and organisation skills.
Most surprising aspect of your job?
The multifaceted nature of the job has surprised me – no two days are the same.
I have been involved in initiatives and opportunities such as the DFAT Social Club, the Reconciliation Action Plan Working Group and the DFAT Innovation Exchange’s Ideas Challenge. I was a finalist in the Ideas Challenge and had the opportunity to present my idea to a panel of judges (including the Minister for Foreign Affairs!).
The scope of work and responsibilities also surpassed my expectations. I have written briefings for the trade and investment minister on commercial engagement with East Africa, contributed to preparation work for UN Security Council meetings on peacekeeping operations in West Africa, coordinated a review of the department’s Multicultural Action Plan, accompanied international guests on visits to Australian mine sites and more.
There are also educational and social events that I try to attend whenever possible, including lively policy discussions and presentations from internal and external leading thinkers.
Advice to current students?
Flexibility and broad experiences are increasingly valued by employers. Take time to volunteer, learn languages and undertake internships and work experiences that will expand your knowledge and skill set. University provides a really rich and diverse landscape of people to meet and learn from, opportunities to grab and flexibility for pursuing your interests – make the most of it!