We got to interview Kimberly Phillips, a Counselor at the Embassy of Canada to the Czech Republic. She specializes in the field of Political, Economic and Public Diplomacy. We discussed what it is like to work in the Czech Republic as a diplomat and what diplomacy means to her.
It can be hard to imagine the job description of a Counsellor for Political, Economic and Public Affairs. What does your usual workday look like?
For me, the best thing is that there is no “usual” workday; every day brings new challenges like meeting new people / connecting with established contacts, attending a cultural event, hosting an outreach activity to promote and advocate for Canadian values and interests. There is, however, a variety of routine tasks that need my attention daily, such as checking in with my team to see if they need my assistance or support with any of their action items, ensuring that our budget is up to date, and responding to emails from Ottawa to update on our local activities and initiatives.
Have you noticed any differences between the Czech and the Canadian political culture?
In Canada, we do not currently have a coalition government, and we have a different political system. Our Prime Minister is the leader of the political party that has the most votes from all 338 ridings throughout the country. And we don’t have a President; in Canada, the Governor General exercises the powers and responsibilities of the Head of State, His Majesty The King (King Charles III). As such, the governor general is non-partisan and apolitical.
What are the advantages of working at an embassy in a smaller country – such as the Czech Republic?
The best advantage is being able to travel extensively within the country and to easily visit many regions. Czechia has an impressive network of trains.
In what situations do you realize you feel fulfilled doing your job?
I am happy when my team feels that we have accomplished something together and our hard work is recognized.
Is it difficult to find a good work-life balance?
It is not difficult if you make finding a good work-life balance a priority. There are some days when it is necessary to work long hours, however, that can be balanced by making self-care a priority when not working. As well, I find that the more I can plan and prioritize tasks in advance, the easier it is to avoid unnecessary overtime. I really love living in Prague, and I take every advantage to enjoy it, e.g. walking home through the Old Town and discovering new places on the weekends.
Do you think there are certain personality traits a good diplomat needs to have?
In my personal view, I think a good diplomat should be outgoing, friendly, dependable — and, of course, diplomatic!
What would you recommend to our delegates who are considering pursuing a career in diplomacy?
I would recommend speaking to other Czech diplomats, both at the junior and senior levels, about their experiences to date and their advice. If there is a possibility, I would also recommend seeking an opportunity to job shadow for a day.
Interviewed by Barbora Trčková, Chron editor