Christian Manriquez successfully completed the Foreign Affairs Information Technology (FAIT) Fellowship in 2022 while earning two undergraduate degrees in Management Information Systems and Finance from Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Texas. His first post in the Foreign Service  is the U.S. Embassy Bogota, Colombia. Since this interview, the Information Management Specialist (IMS) role has evolved into the Diplomatic Technology Officer (DTO) role.

What inspired you to pursue the FAIT Fellowship program?

What inspired me to pursue the FAIT Fellowship program was twofold: it was because I come from a very low-income community and background. And because I wanted to make my family proud, to be the first diplomat in my family and to be able to travel the world like no one else in my family has been able to.

What advice do you have for individuals working on their application or preparing for the application process? 

My advice for individuals working on the application process is to obviously look at all the material online that we have available and to really make it about you. Make your application represent who you are because at the end of the day, if you get picked, that’s going to be the job you’re going to have for the foreseeable future.

What was a typical week like in your first summer domestic internship in Washington, DC? What did you value the most?

My first domestic internship was online. In a typical week, after the trainings and such, I was doing data analysis for the Enterprise Server Operations Center (ESOC) team. There were a lot of meetings and data analytics with contractors and with Federal and with Department of State direct hires. It was really interesting to see how the government interacted with third-party contractors and how they use those services the government cannot get directly.

Where was your overseas internship and can you share your most memorable experience?

My overseas internship was in the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, Hungary. My typical experience was in user account management and network management. The most memorable memory that I have from that summer was when we had to reinstall wires for one whole week because something happened to the wires, and we wanted to tier one troubleshoot it. So, my internship went from dressing up all day, every day, to being in the attic and running some wires.  It was pretty interesting; it was pretty fun. The internship was a broad range of work.

Thinking about your experiences over the past two years, can you describe how the FAIT Fellowship has affected your life personally and professionally?

The FAIT Fellowship affected my personal life tremendously. Before I received the fellowship, I was working three part-time jobs just to sustain myself and to pay for full-time student tuition. The FAIT Fellowship allowed me to pursue selfish, passionate goals I had in my personal life by allowing me to spend time with my family, fully focus on my academics, join organizations in my school/community, and the opportunity to study abroad. Professionally, it affected me by allowing me to focus on IT full time and by providing me with a network of lifelong professional connections.

Where is your first post in the Foreign Service and how do you feel about it?

My first post as a [Diplomatic Technology Officer] is in the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia. I am really excited; I was raised in Mexico so I’m really happy to be going back to a Latin American country and retouch that part of my life again. I’m just happy it worked out that way.

What part of the training you’ve received at FSI has been most interesting or valuable to you?

The most interesting training I’ve received at FSI aside from the various IT trainings that we had was the management training. I have had other positions before, other internships, but I’ve never been a manager, so getting to experience that aspect of the job and being thrown into an environment where you have to lead people is new to me.  I’m glad I received that training and perspective from other professionals from all walks of life.

What are you looking forward to most as you embark on your first assignment and start your career with the Department of State?

What I look forward to the most once I start my career in the Department of State is to just take it day by day, enjoy my time in the country and at work, and see where it takes me.

Do you have any closing word of advice for those who are thinking about applying?

My advice to people pursuing the FAIT Fellowship program is that it’s a really great program and you should really look into it. It brought me opportunities and the chance to meet people that I would have never met otherwise. It’s amazing!