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: Manal Al-Ayad
Position title: Junior Officer
Workplace: Gulf States Relations Division | Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD)
NPSIA cluster: Conflict Analysis & Resolution
Position obtained through the Carleton co-op process?: Yes.
Undergrad school(s): University of Toronto
What is your commute to work like?
I carpool or take a bus to work. My commute either way is around 30 minutes.
How would you describe the dress code at your work?
Are there many other NPSIAns at your workplace?
There are several other NPSIAns working for the Department.
How many jobs did you apply to this summer?
I applied to a total of nine summer co-op positions and three summer internship positions. Applications tend to be time-consuming, which presents challenges to students enrolled in school full-time and in some cases, working part-time. This is the situation I found myself in, so I opted to be more selective with my applications.
What is your favourite part about your job?
What I enjoy most about my job as a Junior Officer is constantly being kept busy and being given a variety of job duties. Given the volatility of the Middle East region, everyday on the job is different, which is providing for a very rich learning experience. I also regularly receive verbal and written feedback on the documents I’m updating and preparing for circulation within the Department, which is allowing me to hone and develop my analytic, research, and policy-writing skills.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is staying up-to-speed with political and socio-economic developments in several countries around the Middle East.
What is an average day like for you?
My day-to-day varies quite a bit given the reactive nature of the job. My responsibilities vary quite a bit, but include things like preparing standard briefing material for the official travel of DFATD ministers, parliamentary secretaries, and deputy ministers; liaising with department and other government departments’ and agencies’ contacts to ensure whole of government collaboration on the Middle East; responding to ministerial correspondence; and developing various products including reports, press statements and Qs&As. I am not always given a lot of time to complete tasks but the way that I manage my time is by prioritizing my tasks and collaborating with colleagues.
Is your workplace fully bilingual, or does it favour English over French (or vice versa)?
My workplace is fully bilingual although most people communicate in English.
What surprised you the most about your workplace/position?
I was most surprised by the level of responsibility that comes with a Junior Officer position. I was also pleasantly surprised by how enthusiastic/willing members of the Department are to share their knowledge/experiences with co-op students.
Which NPSIA course best-prepared you for your position?
I refer quite a bit to my notes from Policy Process and International Affairs (INAF 5011), which cover the Canadian international policy process.
What sort of work experience did you have before this position?
Prior to this position, I had never worked for the government.
What are your hours like?
I work a standard 7.5 hours a day. There is some flexibility around when I come in/leave for the day. I prefer to arrive early and leave early to avoid rush hour traffic.
What is some advice you’d give to a student hoping to get hired/intern at your workplace?
Demonstrating your willingness to work hard and your enthusiasm for the job during the interview is the best way to leave a lasting positive first impression and increase your chances of being hired.
Have any questions for Manal?