Steven joined the Civil Service as an Executive Officer, assigned to the Consular Directorate in the Department of Foreign Affairs. He tells us about the range of experience he gained in the Executive Officer role, from working in the Honorary Consuls Unit overseeing and reforming Ireland’s global network of Honorary Consuls to taking up a temporary assignment as the ‘Pathfinder’ to manage the project to open a new Consulate-General of Ireland in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany. He has subsequently been promoted to Higher Executive Officer, working in the Project Management Office of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Tell us a little about your career path from Executive Officer to your current role?
When I first joined the Department of Foreign Affairs as an Executive Officer, I was assigned to the Consular Directorate. In the Consular Directorate, I worked in the Honorary Consuls Unit overseeing and reforming Ireland’s global network of Honorary Consuls. At that time, I was responsible for over 90 Honorary Consuls based in more than 60 different countries.
After this, I had the opportunity to take up a temporary assignment as the ‘Pathfinder’ to manage the project to open a new Consulate-General of Ireland in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany.
Upon returning to Ireland, I took up a role in the Protocol Division as the diplomatic clearances manager, responsible for ensuring permissions for incoming and outgoing official state aircraft, naval and research vessels, the security teams of VIPs, and the rotation and supplying of Ireland’s overseas peacekeeping operations.
I then took on the role of being an acting Higher Executive Officer in the Department’s Human Resources Division, managing the team who deal with the administration of all types of leave and queries relating to matters such as pensions and increments.
Building on this experience, I was successful in an interdepartmental Higher Executive Officer competition and joined the Project Management Office of the Department of Foreign Affairs. My current role is to support project management and innovation within the Department.
What opportunities did the Executive Officer role provide you with?
The Executive Officer role provided me with plenty of opportunities to train, upskill and get involved in a variety of areas outside of my day-to-day activities. I was able to take training courses on topics such as project management and people management. I also got to avail of German language lessons and had the chance to work overseas. During my time as an Executive Officer, I also got to participate in VIP visits, crisis response, conference organisation, and in working groups on departmental strategies.
Can you tell us about a highlight from your career in the Civil Service?
The highlight of my career to date has been my role as the project manager to open a new Consulate General in Frankfurt. I had the opportunity to work with colleagues from many different areas of my department, learning about what they do and how all their work comes together supporting our network of embassies and consulates. As part of this role, I was based for several months abroad and was responsible for the full set up of a new office from scratch. It was very satisfying to see the difference in the offices between the first day I arrived in them and what they had grown into by the time I returned to Ireland.
Why did you choose a career in the Public Sector?
In joining the Public Sector I was looking for somewhere that I could have a long-term career with possibilities for progression, rather than my previous experience outside the Civil Service of working on short-term contracts that didn’t provide opportunities to develop.
What advice would you give someone thinking of applying for Executive Officer role?
Think about your previous experience in regards to how the skills you gained transfer to the Executive Officer role, and consider the experience you’ve gained in voluntary roles as well as in previous jobs. Volunteer experience can provide some really good examples to use on your application form and in the interview.