In this edition of our “Behind the Scenes” Interview Blog Series, we chat with Valerie Dickson-Horton, former Senior Foreign Service Mission Director and current Senior Advisor for the Office of Human Resources Afghanistan and Pakistan Division.
Ms. Dickson-Horton reflects on 24 years in Foreign Affairs for USAID, and offers advice to those interested in a Foreign Service career.
Q: What inspired you most about being in the FS?
The hope that USAID provides to the host country nationals for improving the quality of lives.
Q: Why did you decide to join the service?
I had applied to medical school, was working as a recruiter for Peace Corps and USAID was my backup if the medical school option did not pan out. The rest is history. I joined USAID, had a fabulous 24 years and had perhaps only four bad days during my entire career.
Q: What did you like most about your work?
Helping people, seeing the world and learning how important it is to put human upliftment above politics!
Q: What did you like least?
Whenever we would lose sight of how powerful our global standing becomes when we sincerely extend a helping hand to anyone who needs it regardless of who they are.
Q: Where have you lived and do you have a favorite post?
Botswana, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Swaziland. Sudan was the most professionally fulfilling and demanding job but I loved working in all of these countries and loved my work.
Q: What advice would you give to a person interested in becoming FS?
Start learning either Spanish, French, Arabic or Portuguese and consider joining the Peace Corps, becoming a UN volunteer or seek work with an international non-profit organization. Working overseas is an eyeopening experience that will serve you well, for it gives you a much deeper appreciation about what the world has to offer and it allows you to grow into someone with a broader understanding of the human race. Keep exploring life and living!
For more information on the Foreign Service and other careers with USAID