Subtitle: Confessions of a Freshman OMS
Today was an anniversary of sorts: it has been exactly 12 weeks since I first took my seat in the Economic Section at Embassy Bogota. It has also been about two months since I came home and cried in frustration, feeling like a total idiot for not knowing what the heck I was doing. So I'd like to take this time, if you don't mind, to celebrate some really tiny victories that came to me today. I will do this by way of before and after descriptions:
1. Task: Boss says, "Find me that cable I drafted in either 2009 or 2010 that had the words 'US Company' in the title."
Before: Stare at him blankly. Consult deepest darkest memory from OMS training (last April) about running advanced searches on our cable system. Start to hyperventilate when search result turns up 43,671 hits. Try not to cry.
After: Repeat same steps above with blank stare replaced by confident nod, and with only minor frustration at seeing the number of hits. Blame stupid search program instead of stupid self. Recall that previous OMS cross-referenced all cables since 2009 in handy Excel sheet; actually locate said Excel sheet and in one minute, find the requested cable. Print and send electronically to boss, feel like hero deserving of medal.
2. Task: Invitational traveler who we are bringing to Colombia for a conference will not divulge the personal information necessary for me to make hotel and airline reservations and arrange for electronic funds transfer for her travel advance.
Before: Panic. Pester co-workers with questions and start to hyperventilate (again) as they describe one possible Herculean work-around after another for my predicament.
After: No social security number for her new travel account? We'll make one up!
No bank account information? We'll bring her to the embassy cashier for a cash advance when she arrives!
No visa card number? We'll use her co-worker's to hold her hotel reservation!
Bring it on sister - is that the worst you can throw at me? Ha!
3. Task: Co-worker is out sick and that important letter from Secretary Clinton and corresponding Diplomatic Note (aka DipNote) have to go the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Before: Look terrified at boss as he casually lobs the task into my court. Frantically search office for other possible victim to assist and realize I'm the only one in today. Panic (again).
After: Feel - but don't show - terror (bosses can smell fear; this deception is an art you must master quickly). Consult electronic files of previous DipNotes for samples; realize that none match the requirements and start to sweat. Remember the nice lady from Protocol who I met months ago who does these things all the time and beg for help with the very, very formal and traditional formatting and wording. Semi-stifle a few "argh!"s as the formatting goes haywire, and by five minutes to five - have her return my latest version with only "a few small changes." Remember that these need to be sent via courier with a returned proof of delivery. Relish the knowledge that I know how to request a courier via eServices and how to say, "proof of delivery" in Spanish.
4. Very Big Deal Conference coming in three weeks needs interpreters for complicated technological topics for multiple days and in two cities: Bogota and Medellin.
Before: Consider new line of work and pull suitcase off shelf.
After: Breathe in. Start to break huge task into small chronological steps on notepad. Remember how to use ARIBA procurement system that made me cry just two months ago (there's a lot of that going around!). Write very detailed notes in ARIBA to overworked procurement staff regarding our needs (first, smile in the knowledge that we HAVE procurement staff and that I know their names and where they sit), attach funding information, list dates and technical requirements. Enjoy sense of relief knowing that when I have to contact these interpreters to finalize the details... they will be bilingual!
All these things happened today, and I'm still here alive and willing to share them all with you. In fact, most of them happened after lunch. I must admit that I still feel trepidation starting up the computer in the morning, wondering what fire will need to be put out, or what nasty knot in need of untangling will pounce on me via a casual e-mail. There are a LOT of things I do not know how to do still. A LOT. But there are now a few things I do know how to do, and that's what I'm happy about today.
Wish me luck tomorrow.