It’s a great question if you’re thinking about applying for the Foreign Affairs Information Technology (FAIT) Fellowship program. As a FAIT Fellow, you’ll be on a track to become a Foreign Service Information Management Specialist (IMS). After you earn your I.T.-related degree and successfully complete the Department of State requirements, you’ll become a Foreign Service IMS and be assigned to your first post at an embassy or consulate overseas.

Job responsibilities of a Foreign Service Information Management Specialist

As a Foreign Service IMS, you would be responsible for the State Department’s Information Resource Management (IRM) programs and Information Technology (IT) systems worldwide. Your assignment may be at any one of more than 270 posts overseas, in Washington, D.C., or elsewhere in the United States. Your duties would vary, according to the size of the post and the requirements of the specific diplomatic mission.

You can view video interviews in which we asked each IMS to describe a typical workday. Their responses were that there are no “typical days” in the life of an IMS. The interviews demonstrate the wide variety of duties in this role.

Job responsibilities of an IMS may include:

Customer Service Skills:

  • Provide assistance to users of information management services (for example, by configuring and optimizing software).
  • Train users in the use of new software applications, providing guidance and assistance with new or amended IT-related policies and procedures.
  • Promote end-user involvement in technology and technical decision-making.

Information Technology Skills/Problem solving:

  • Administer computer systems and manage system performance; set up networks; start up, operate, and shut down systems.
  • Manage user access; train new personnel; identify and resolve problems; report, track and research incidents; counsel users; set up customer equipment; and replace equipment and parts.
  • Manage and operate classified and unclassified client/server solutions, desktop systems, messaging solutions, web-based technology, database solutions, and virtual servers to support LAN/WAN.
  • Manage telecommunication network services.
  • Manage communications equipment; install cabling; provide circuits; support video conferencing; manage communications flow; coordinate with host country officials; and manage wireless communications and Wi-Fi programs.
  • Manage voice communication services; coordinate equipment provision; manage the telephone and radio programs, the personal mobile device program, and VoIP convergence devices.

Information Management Skills/Problem solving:

  • Implement IT projects gathering requirements, designing solutions and assisting with development.
  • Acquire IT products and services, test solutions, deploy products, and maintain IT procurement and inventory.
  • Manage cloud requirements and support collaboration tools and IT Shared Services efforts.
  • Manage pouch programs, diplomatic post office, and telephone operator program.
  • Supervise locally employed staff system administrators, mailroom employees, telephone technicians, radio technicians and switchboard operators.
  • Manage work assignments and individual performance.
  • Serve as part of the embassy or consulate management team and perform additional duties outside of normal information resource management activities, as determined by embassy or consulate management, or as dictated by special circumstances.
  • Support emergency planning and response and manage emergency wireless communications.
  • Ensure emergency destruction capability.
  • Maintain alternate processing site.
  • Manage emergency digital communications.
  • Keep current with specialty, gain and maintain certifications.

Information Security:

  • Maintain internal controls on Department of State automated information systems.
  • Protect classified documents and classified communications equipment and workspace.
  • Promote communications security.
  • Update security settings, manage physical security, monitor security, and network security, etc.
  • Manage telephone system security.
  • Manage the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) program.

On entering the Foreign Service, all new specialists receive initial training in Washington, D.C. An IMS is usually assigned to two consecutive overseas tours, each two years in length, directed by the Department. After the initial two tours, assignments will be for periods of one to three years overseas or in the U.S.

Foreign Service Information Management Specialists have access to training and career development programs; health and medical coverage; federal retirement benefits and generous paid leave. Overseas benefits include paid housing or a housing allowance, and paid education for dependent children in grades K-12.

As you can see, IMS’s have many different responsibilities – and this is just a snapshot of what you would be doing in this exciting role to support diplomacy around the world.

Read articles written by IMS’s in our Stories from the Field series published in Diplomatic Roots.