Akville Kiskis, born in Lithuania and raised in Chicago, Illinois, completed the Foreign Affairs Information Technology Fellowship in 2019. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Information Technology and Management, and her master’s degree in Cyber Security and Forensics, from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Akvile sat down with us for this Q&A video shortly after completing the program. 

Why did you decide to pursue the FAIT Fellowship program?

I decided to pursue the FAIT Fellowship program because I saw a brochure about it, and as I was reading through it, I said [to myself], ‘okay,  so you’re telling me I can travel for my job, I can make a global impact with what I do,  and it’s technology-related.’  I didn’t know the job existed until I read the brochure and as soon as I read it I was sold. It was very simple for me.

Do you have any advice for students who are applying?

The advice I would give for students applying is to look at the Foreign Service Dimensions, which is on the state.gov website. Look at how those tie in with the experiences that you have. They don’t necessarily have to be technical. Technical experience is great, but the application reviewers know that you’ll be technically competent when you graduate. They also know that you’ll go through training that will teach you all the stuff they need that you need to know for the job. So what they’re really looking at is who you are as a person, how would you fit in, are you a creative problem solver. If you ever had some sort of IT problem and you found a creative way to solve, that’s really great too.

What did you value the most from your Washington, D.C. internship?

My internship in Washington, D.C., was kind of unconventional. I managed to work for a different office in my last few weeks there, so I worked with Diplomatic Security. I was part of the “red cell team” and that’s when I found out that you could get paid to do ethical hacking. You’re actually helping people. Those days at work just flew by, I got to learn so much, and that was really a highlight for me – because if I didn’t have that internship I’m not sure when I would have figured out that I really liked to do that and I have a skill for it.

Where did you intern abroad, and what was your most memorable experience there?

My internship abroad was in Frankfurt, Germany, and actually, the most memorable part about it was on my first day. My boss takes me to the office and I actually got to meet one of the local staff right away. And she was the one that was gonna help me get my badge, help me settle in, and she even offered to take me to Aldi. I don’t speak any German, so she was a huge help to me. Basically, we get to Aldi and we don’t have one of those coin things for the cart so she ends up taking a bin, like a cardboard box, and she was just holding all my stuff. I felt so bad because she’s carrying all my stuff and she wouldn’t let me carry it.  We just met and she was just so kind to me. When we came back to the office, she helped me set up my SIM card, and that kind of set the tone for me. The rest of the local staff were also fantastic, and I felt like part of the team. That’s the way my boss introduced me – he said, “This is Akvile, she’s going to be joining our team for the next ten weeks.” Not, ‘this is Akvile, this is the intern that we have temporarily for ten weeks.’ I think that’s what made it so memorable – how welcoming everyone was, and the fact that my boss was the one that really fostered that right away.

How has the FAIT Fellowship program affected you, personally and professionally, over the past two years?

The FAIT Fellowship program was fantastic for me both personally and professionally.

Having that financial assistance gave me room to pursue other career interests. For instance, at my university, I was able to start the Women in Cybersecurity student chapter, and we had workshops, speakers come in, and we actually had 10 students go to the Women in Cybersecurity national conference. They got to do job interviews, leadership development talks, they got to network with women in cyber, go to technical workshops where they learned new skills. I would not have had the time to do that because I would have been working and focusing on school. More recently, I published an article in an academic journal that was about SQL injection, in the International Journal of Hyperconnectivity and the Internet of Things. Publishing my research was a dream of mine and it takes time to do that too, so just having that sort of [financial] assistance let me do other things that I really wanted to do, that I probably would have never had the time to otherwise.

Do you have any closing words for students thinking about applying?

If you like to travel and you want a really unique job in IT where you get to immerse yourself in different cultures and meet a lot of different people, then I highly recommend the FAIT Fellowship.