Shaki Kar, born in Dhaka, Bangladesh and raised in New York City, entered the FAIT Fellowship program as he started his master’s degree in security studies with a concentration in cybersecurity and information technology at Pace University. He successfully completed the Fellowship and is now a Foreign Service Information Management Specialist.
Why did you decide to pursue the FAIT Fellowship program?
I studied Public Policy, International Affairs. In my school, they instilled in us a value to serve your country and give back to the community at the city, state or federal level. I decided to pursue it on the federal level, so I interned twice at the State Department before going to grad school. The State Department was the perfect place to serve my country, so I decided to apply for the Fellowship. I studied South Asian national security, so it was perfect to get into the State Department through the Fellowship.
What advice do you have for students thinking about applying?
My advice for students working on their applications is to reach out to your college scholarship office. Speak to a scholarship advisor. They’ll be able to assist you with your essay, so make sure that you’re in current contact with the advisor and that you have a draft essay that you can work on with them. Keep working on the draft daily or weekly. I worked on it with the Syracuse University advisor, and she was able to look at my essay and really give her honest opinion.
Tell us about your internship in Washington, D.C. – what did you value most about the internship?
One of the things that I valued most at my internship in Washington, D.C. was the projects part of the job. I was able to work on cloud computing and cybersecurity projects with the State Department’s IRM Bureau. We wrote policy position papers on what we needed to do to implement a certain cloud computing project. The most rewarding part of it was being able to speak to different stakeholders who we were interviewing, speak to the different contractors in the office that were doing the research, and push out a policy on the cloud computing project and service provider. It was a huge project that I was able to assist with, and that was really rewarding.
Where was your internship abroad and can you share your most memorable experience during that internship?
My internship abroad was at the U.S. Embassy in Canberra, Australia. It was a completely memorable experience because being in Australia, gave me the opportunity to see all the wildlife. But besides that, it was working with the Information Management Officer, the Information Program Officer and the Information Systems Officer on every day IT duties. I was working with the political office, the economics office, and the executive office, which is the Ambassador’s office, on solving a variety of issues such as application issues, infrastructure issues and security issues, as well as doing the diplomatic pouch. I also worked with the Information Management Specialists to make sure all the patches came and helped with the huge coordination between the embassy and other U.S. Government counterparts. On the customer side, I worked with the political officers, making sure that their computers and their networks were working, so that they were able to do their diplomatic work in the field.
Thinking of overall FAIT Fellowship program experience over the past 2 years, can you describe how the program has affected you either personally or professionally?
The program affected me personally through my interest in cybersecurity. It’s such a huge topic now in the government. At the State Department, there’s so much that needs to be secured within the field and within the work that the diplomats do. I studied national security in my undergraduate program, and I got more of a focus in my master’s program in cybersecurity, where I was able to get real hands-on experience. This is an amazing subject to learn about in general, and to understand how networks work. Through the FAIT Fellowship, I was able to take my personal interest and develop it into a professional career doing cybersecurity in the Foreign Service.
Would you have any closing words of advice that you’d like to share with a student who is thinking about applying to the program?
There are many things that you can do at the State Department. The work you can do as an IMS [Information Management Specialist] will have a big impact at the State Department because they need more techs in the field to enable the mission of diplomacy. Helping our diplomats do their jobs in a more innovative, efficient way is huge. If you want to make a difference, you can as an IMS. You can implement all the technologies that you want by working with the other counterparts within the embassy. It’s not impossible. Compared to the private sector where there are many tech people [in a tech company], in the State Department there are limited techies. So if you can be a tech in the State Department, you’ll be able to help the mission of diplomacy on the political, econ, management or consular side.