NPSIA Summer Work Profile – Graham Allen, DFATD

This post is part of a profile series on NPSIAns and their summer work experiences. If you have any questions for the student profiled, please refer to their contact information at the bottom of this post.

Name: Graham Allen

Position title: Trade Policy Officer

Workplace: Trade Policy Branch – Department of Foreign Affairs Trade and Development (DFATD)

NPSIA cluster: International Economic Policy

Position obtained through the Carleton co-op process?: No.

Undergrad school(s): York University

Undergrad major(s): Anthropology/Economics


What is your commute to work like?

I’m in Centertown and I’m commuting to 111 Sussex – bus in the winter, bike in the summer. Both end up taking 20-30 minutes depending on traffic.

How would you describe the dress code at your work?

Suit and tie.

Are there many other NPSIAns at your workplace?

The Trade Policy Branch is packed with NPSIAns. Most obviously at the Junior Officer level, but the longer you’re here, the more you realize that we are EVERYWHERE.

What are the lunch options like nearby your work?

Not great. Just the cafeteria in the winter. In the summer you can take a run to the market but it chews up a lot of time and is not feasible if work is busy.

How many jobs did you apply to this summer?

When I first applied to my co-op position at DFATD, it was one of 5 applications. I chose to be a bit more selective, and that worked well for me, because I knew going into NPSIA that I wanted to work in trade policy, so my interest and my studies were quite tailored to the work that I am now doing. In absence of a clear sense of the actual position you are looking for, I would recommend a broader net with co-op applications.

111 Sussex Drive, DFATD - Trade headquarters

111 Sussex Drive, DFATD – Trade headquarters

What is your favourite part about your job?

The intensity of the busy periods are exciting and fulfilling. The diversity of the files is interesting, and there are some very dedicated and intelligent people that I’ve been fortunate to work with/for.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The technical nature of trade policy can sometimes make it difficult to link individual tasks to a “big picture”. Also, the HR situation at DFATD is difficult to navigate.

What is an average day like for you?

I work on 4 standard files, which I keep an eye on day to day: US “Buy America” policies in government procurement; the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations; Government Procurement-related issues in APEC; and the Canada-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement. Aside from that I am expected to take on a support role for other files as deemed necessary. Trade policy work tends to have considerable ebbs and flows. Some days will be relatively quiet and some tasks will have generous deadlines, while others will be hectic and demand overtime work with extremely short and high-pressure deadlines.

Is your workplace fully bilingual, or does it favour English over French (or vice versa)?

Most of the work is done in English here, but most teams, meetings, workshops are bilingual.

What are some exciting things happening in your workplace right now?

Canada is working on the negotiation and implementation of a number of large-scale agreements (Trans Pacific Partnership, Japan, Korea, EU), as well as a number of smaller agreements. Trade policy-related work in international institutions continues to be dynamic and interesting.

What surprised you the most about your workplace/position?

The speed and intensity of the work when important deadlines are established.

Are you also taking classes (NPSIA, language training, etc.) and/or studying abroad this summer?

I am taking 2 classes at NPSIA this summer: Asia Pacific Economic and Political Relations with Prof. Wright and The Political Economy of Modern Turkey with Prof. Mehmet.

Which NPSIA course best-prepared you for your position?

I took two courses with Phil Rourke and Don Stephenson (Politics and Institutions of International Trade and Comparative Trade Policy) that were the best preparation for my current work. Having said that, there are a number of honourable mentions (Prof. Wang – Advanced Trade Policy; Prof. Wright – Asia-Pacific Economic and Political Relations.

What sort of work experience did you have before this position?

I interned at Export Development Canada with the Clean Tech Sector Team prior to my first co-op with DFATD. I have then worked two co-op terms with DFATD and with Natural Resources Canada prior to my current position.

What are your hours like?

9-5 normal days. Some days I will come in early, and on some days I am required to stay later.

What is some advice you’d give to a student hoping to get hired/intern at your workplace?

Take a course with Phil and Don (see above). Before going into an interview, take the time to research the area of work that the division does (i.e. services, goods, investment, procurement), Canada’s interests in the area, DFATD’s mandate and federal government priorities and how they are linked. This is a useful link to get started: 


Have any questions for Graham? 

You can send him an email at and check out his LinkedIn profile


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