NPSIA Summer Work Profile – Julia Cieslukowska, 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:Julia Cieslukowska

Julia speaking at the University of Ottawa

Julia speaking at the University of Ottawa

Position title: Junior Advisor to the Chief Development Officer and Liaison Officer for the DFATD-CIC Coordination division.

Workplace: I work for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD) at 125 Sussex as part of two teams. My primary responsible is as Junior Advisor to the Chief Development Officer (CDO), where I advise the CDO on questions related to development across the department. My second team is the DFATD-CIC Coordination unit, where I act as a Liaison Officer between DFATD, CIC and CBSA mainly on Immigration-related issues.

NPSIA cluster: Conflict Analysis & Resolution

Position obtained through the Carleton co-op process?: Yes.

Undergrad school(s): University of Ottawa

Undergrad major(s): International Development and Globalization


What is your commute to work like?

I live in Aylmer Gatineau, and bussing to 125 Sussex from Ottawa is already a pain, with only the 9 bus going down Sussex. As a result, I made a private arrangement with a woman in the area for parking near work, and drive to work everyday. When I work 7am – 3pm, it takes me about 30 minutes to drive, park and walk to work from the time I leave my home. When I work 9am – 5pm, I get stuck in rush hour traffic, so it’s about 60 minutes from my house to my cubicle.

How would you describe the dress code at your work?

It’s definitely very professional at DFATD, but I enjoy adding colour to my wardrobe by wearing colourful pants or skirts, colourful blazers and floral patterns or a pop of colour in a nice pair of heels. Professional clothing doesn’t have to be boring.

Are there many other NPSIAns at your workplace?

Definitely. There are at least 15 other NPSIAns that I know of in the building. We frequently eat lunch together near the cafeteria tables. There are some students from uOttawa GSPIA program as well, but it doesn’t seem that there are as many as NPSIAns.

What are the lunch options like nearby your work?

I usually bring a lunch for two reasons: money savings, and because the cafeteria downstairs kind of sucks. I used to work at DFATD but at the 200 Promenade du Portage, where there is an incredible food court with tons of excellent and varied options and many restaurant options on the street as well. In comparison, 125 Sussex is not as good, and the Byward Market is a 20 minute walk away — not worth it. But I’m glad in the end because I save my money for other more important things.

I usually bring a lunch to warm up in the microwave, such as rice with fish or a sandwich, and a couple snacks to eat at 10am and 3pm — mainly fruit and nuts.

How many jobs did you apply to this summer?

Because I had done 4 COOPs in my undergrad, FSWEPs, and a Casual contract, I am bilingual, and already had Secret Security Clearance before starting my Master’s, I knew I would be more competitive compared to some NPSIAns who lacked any government experience, or only spoke English and/or lacked clearances. As a result, I was fairly selective in applying to jobs and applied to only 8 — all of which I would be very happy to work at. Despite my experience, I only got 3 interviews, so I would definitely encourage future students to apply to as many jobs as they like, especially if they lack government experience, since most of the jobs are federal. In terms of strategy, I would definitely have a professional or the COOP office look over your resume, and I would definitely create practice questions and answers in advance for each interview. That way you are as strong as possible on both fronts. For those who found it fairly easy to get their 4th COOP job in undergrad, I must say, competing against NPSIAns was significantly more difficult than getting my 4th undergrad COOP, since NPSIA has so many incredible students, so do take the process seriously even if you do have undergraduate federal work experience. To compare, I only applied to 4 jobs in my last undergrad COOP, and got 3 interviews, so when competing against Master’s students, apply to more jobs for sure.
Flags in the lobby of 125 Sussex, Lester B. Pearson Building, where Julia works

Flags in the lobby of 125 Sussex, Lester B. Pearson Building, where Julia works

What is your favourite part about your job?

I enjoy both teams very much, and work more often on the CDO side, however I must say that the CIC Liaison stuff is very high-level and incredibly interesting. For instance, right now we are assisting CIC in screening athletes who want to enter Canada for the Pan-Am Games but for whatever reason, may have difficulty doing so. This work is obviously very important and our decisions have direct implications on the Games. I also enjoy learning about Canada’s relations with other countries, and how we use trade, diplomacy and development together to maximize Canadian influence abroad..

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Because the CDO I work for is also the Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) for the Americas, working for such a high-level employee of the public service definitely raises the standards for timeliness and quality of work. We directly advise the CDO on development related issues, and in doing so, work around his schedule to make sure he is informed and debriefed before important events and meetings. Similarly, on the CIC Liaison side, we support ADM-level and Director General (DG)-level meetings between the two departments, and assist in briefing and informing the DFATD side before these meetings. Because this is all relatively new to me still, I am still learning the ropes, but am confident that once I’ve gone through the process several times, I should be good to go.

What is an average day like for you?

My days always vary. Some days I work exclusively on the CDO side and other days on the CIC Liaison side. There are many team-level meetings, and occasionally branch-wide meetings. I take minutes and type them up as necessary, and assist in the preparation of responses on behalf of the CDO. Any questions that are sent to the CDO often get delegated to me, for which I must call around DFATD and compile a response in a timely manner.

Time given varies depending on the task. Usually we know fairly in advance that an event will be happening, and so we’ll have at least 3 business days to prepare something before sending it up for approvals, but we must keep in mind that each level of approval needs a certain number of days for review, so we take that into account when timing our response.

In terms of managing my time, I have a To-Do List / Table that I update almost every day to stay on track for tasks from both teams. This helps me not forget what I need to do and also informs my managers from both sides on what the other team has assigned me to do.

How much is your hourly wage?

Master’s level students are paid based on Treasury Board guidelines when working at DFATD:

Students can be paid anywhere from $17.92 to $22.54 per hour. These figures change usually every January to accommodate inflation, so check the TB Student Rates of Pay every year.

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

For the most part we are supposed to work fully bilingually, however much of it depends on who your seniors are. For instance, because the CDO is anglophone, we draft almost everything in English for him, but his speaking notes at events must be bilingual.

On the CIC side, my manager is francophone, but with the team we work in both official languages, unless we meet with the Director who is also francophone, then it is more in French.

Frequently, the senior people are the ones talking at meetings, so their preferred language will dominate the language used in meetings. On several occasions, I have had to draft bilingual emails and take phone calls in French. Functional French I would say is definitely important in the job I work in, or else you could miss a lot of information, especially in bilingual meetings.

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

Both these teams were just recently created out of the amalgamation from former CIDA and former DFAIT two years ago, so they are fairly new. As a result, we do some promotions through events to educate DFATD employees on the development stream in the department, and on the existence of the CIC Coordination unit, for any divisions needing contacts from CIC. These events often include video conferencing with field staff from missions all over the world. I assist in developing the posters, setting up the equipment and preparing speakers for these promotional events.

What surprised you the most about your workplace/position?

Originally, I only applied to work as a Junior Advisor to the Chief Development Officer. After I knew I had the job, but a couple weeks before I started, I received a call from my manager saying that they want to split me between two teams, so I’ll also be working on the CIC Liaison team. I didn’t expect that, but it was a nice surprise because I really find the work on both teams completely different and very interesting. It’s also given me the opportunity to learn more about DFATD’s role in Immigration related issues, which I love.

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

No. I took a fourth class in my second semester of NPSIA so I wouldn’t have to worry about paying tuition fees and studying while doing COOP this summer and fall. I plan to finish my last three classes in Winter 2016. This decision saved me a lot in tuition and lets me enjoy my summer fully when off-work.

Which NPSIA course best-prepared you for your position?

Definitely the mandatory Policy 101 course. My job on the CIC Liaison side relates directly to Memorandums to Cabinet (MCs), The Policy class helped me understand the policy process in Cabinet, how Foreign Affairs decisions are made and how MCs are proposed and approved.

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

  • I did 4 COOPs in my undergrad.
  • My first was in Internal Audit at Canadian Heritage.
  • I then extended this COOP for 4 months through FSWEP working on a nearby Evaluation team in the same division.
  • My second COOP was at the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT).
  • My third COOP was in the former CIDA at the Portage buildings in the Global Health Team. This was an amazing opportunity to finally work on international development, which was my field of undergraduate study.
    I extended this to a part-time FSWEP for 4 months, and stayed in this same position for my 4th COOP. As a result, I ended up being in this job for 1 year.
  • Then I searched for a new FSWEP in the department, and got a job on the Afghanistan Health Team during my last semester of undergraduate study. After finishing my classes, I stayed on with an extended Casual contract after that. In total, I spent 1 year with the Afghanistan program.
  • I then worked as a TA during the first year of my Master’s before beginning my 1st Master’s level COOP.

What are your hours like?

Originally, I was told 9-5, but many government jobs have flex hours, so I asked to work 8-4 most days, and 7-3 Thursday, which is fine with both teams. Most people in my division work 9-5, but meetings almost never run past 4pm, so I rarely have to stay longer than that. Also coming in early allows me to reduce my morning commute and lets me get off work early so I can play sports in the evenings.

Looking back, is there anything you wish you would’ve done differently in your job search?

No. I think I applied to the jobs I could really see myself growing in and doing well in, and I did the best I could in interviews, eventually landing this job which on the one hand, is in a department I want to be in and am familiar with, but on the other hand, has also been an excellent learning opportunity with new taskings. It’s been the best of both worlds really.

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

Begin the clearance process early since DFATD requires that everyone have Secret clearance and it can take many months (there are businesses that can get you this clearance I believe), and get federal work or internship experience as soon as possible. Any government experience, but especially experience at DFATD, will assist a student in getting a job here.


Have any questions for Julia? 

You can send her an email at and check out her LinkedIn profile.


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