You’re a counsellor at the Romanian Embassy in London. What does it entail?
I’ve been working as counsellor at the Political Section of the Romanian Embassy in London since summer 2009, but now I am about to end my posting here, after five splendid years. The London posting is what we call a bilateral diplomacy posting, and it is in the hands of the diplomats from the Political Section of an Embassy to carry on with the relationship between the two countries, trying to enrich it. My portfolio is quite mixed, including both internal and foreign affairs, political and technical.
What do you do on a “typical work day”?
There is no such thing as a “typical working day” in diplomacy. You rarely experience one day similar to another... I barely remember one in my 11 years of diplomatic experience.
Sometimes, I want to work in a more predictable environment, to come to the office knowing exactly what I need to cover for that day. But, that’s not the case for a job in diplomacy. I have my daily agenda shaped by national (UK and Romania) and international events.
But, in the end, that’s what I love the most about my job. I don’t have time to get bored. Everyday my intellect is challenged by something. We are living in a world when in every second something is happening and it can have consequences for your country. So, you need to be permanently alert. And in this mood of alertness, you need to develop lots of skills, but I fully enjoy this provocation that life offers me daily.
I used to say about myself that I am a ‘permanent student’. Every day I feel the need to learn something new, and my job gives me this opportunity.
How did you get to your current job?
Simple and hard in the same time... I had to pass an exam (written and oral) to get into the Romanian Diplomatic Corps – which I did in 2003 – and since then I have held various positions within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Government.
After getting in, it was my own designed path, trying to accumulate as much experience as possible in various diplomatic fields. And to come to London, I had to pass another exam...
What did you study at university, and how do you use it in your current job?
I studied Law in Romania at the oldest Romanian university, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi. It is famous among British diplomats. I recently read a news article about HE Mr Paul Brummell, Her Majesty's Ambassador to Romania, who studied Romanian language in Iasi (an academic city in the North-East part of Romania, very close to the borders with Republic of Moldova and Ukraine). He said he had a great time in this friendly city. I felt proud to hear this because Iasi is my native city.
Coming back to my university studies – I got into Law School wanting to become a prosecutor. I was always obsessed with words like “truth”, “fairness”, “justice & just”. I wanted, with my 19-year-old teenager’s mind, to bring justice in the world and punish all the evil. The shift happened in the second year, when I studied public international law. I became fascinated by international organisations, inter-state relationships etc. So, I decided to move to the capital and apply for a job in diplomacy, which I did three years after my graduation when this opportunity arose.
All these studies on international law and international relations helped me to inculcate a strong “bag of theoretical knowledge” which I definitely apply in my daily job.
What are the most and least rewarding aspects of your job?
The most rewarding is the mere thought that, in this job, you cannot be selfish; you are forced to think of others, of the destiny of a country and of this world... That’s why you take a public job. And when you can do something good and improve the lives of others, you can say at the end of the day, you haven’t lived that day for nothing.
The least rewarding is the financial aspect. Even though they need brilliant people in this job, governments cannot afford to pay them as much as would be necessary. That’s why, after a while, some leave the job for a better salary in the private sector, and thus, governments lose some of their best people.
What advice would you give to somebody who would like to do a similar job?
If you like spending your working day in an intellectual challenging way, if you are curious enough to learn more about this world systematically, and if you have good ideas for the benefit of many, apply for a job in diplomacy...
What are the key skills that make you good at what you do?
“Key skills” in diplomacy? I don’t want to cite from any diplomacy book, there are many on the market... But, for me, to be a good diplomat means to be a very knowledgeable generalist, good at foreign languages (you cannot understand the country you are in without speaking its language), to stay curious and to be alert enough not to miss opportunities, and also to be flexible and respectful. If you imbibe and apply these qualities, you can be a very good diplomat.
What is the toughest lesson you have learnt?
The toughest diplomacy is inside your own government, not with others. I know that this could sound hard or strange for the outsiders, but this is still a reality for me. I spend as much time convincing those inside the system as those outside it. But, this is also diplomacy, isn’t it?
What is the mistake you wish you hadn’t done?
I don’t recall a mistake that I’ve done and really mattered in my 11-year diplomatic career. Definitely, I did make some errors, but not intentional mistakes. Lucky me!
But, your question reminds me of another aspect of diplomacy... You aren’t really allowed to make mistakes. If you do, this can cost the destiny of a country or more. So, it’s a hugely responsible job, you cannot afford not to pay full attention of any moment of the day. Of course, this can sometimes be stressful.
What has been your biggest challenge and how did you tackle it?
Every day, diplomacy is a challenging job. Every day, you get your piece of adrenaline and once a challenge is passed, you are forced to forget it while another one is coming... so, it’s hard for me to classify my daily challenges. All are challenges, which require or trigger a particular skill and knowledge, or a lesson to learn.
What achievements are you most proud of?
Being a responsible and self-respected human being. By that, I mean always keeping my self-respect (inside me) while interacting with others out of good wishes. It took me 37 years to get here and still have some work to do...
Do you have a role model and, if so, who and why?
I’ve met lots of people on my life’s path (diplomacy is a social job) who left me with beautiful - and some less beautiful - memories, but from all of them I’ve learnt lessons that helped me to grow.
Every day I am inspired by the authors that I read, by the people with whom I am listening or talking to, by the things that I am observing while passing around - but any piece of information and knowledge that I come into contact with I churn it for myself, and only then I place the ‘applicability stamp’ on it.
The above interview represents Simona’s personal views and does not represent those of the Romanian Government.
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