By Jennifer Robinson, Romina Rajaonah, and Sedera Raliniainjanahary
Department of State’s administrative professionals operate behind the scenes to keep the Department running, using unrivaled institutional knowledge and capabilities. To acknowledge the value of this work, Mission Madagascar recently launched an innovative administrative professionals support network which fosters closer cooperation, and provides a network of professional support. The impact of this network has since spread far beyond Embassy Antananarivo.
In April 2021, during the height of COVID-19 lockdowns, Mission Madagascar’s office management specialists decided to celebrate Administrative Professionals Week by expanding interagency administrative assistants’ capacity through a week of virtual training sessions. The initial goal was to share information and insights on front office operations, but as the planning progressed, enthusiasm grew. Some of the individuals among the 33 interagency participants offered to conduct their own information sessions, and as leadership throughout the Mission pledged their support, a sense of cohesion and camaraderie grew among the members of the group.
The participants created a professional support network through which they could nurture productive contacts and friendships, share information, and call on one another for support. They discussed broadening their goals to include their administrative professional contacts outside the Mission—in other embassies, government offices, and international and local organizations. Many were critical contacts they had never met in person, but only through phone calls and emails.
By September 2021, physical and social distancing was no longer required in Madagascar. With support of the Mission’s leadership, the group hosted a cocktail reception at an official residence for their key counterparts throughout Antananarivo. They christened their newly formed cohort: the Antananarivo Administrative Professional Corps.
“This is the first time that I have been able to meet face-to-face with my U.S. embassy contact after five years,” said one attendee from another diplomatic mission who attended the reception.
This past April, the group organized another week of activities for Administrative Professionals Week. Events included a “show and tell” exhibition by administrative professionals from each section at the embassy, hands-on training, a luncheon, and a guest lecture by a renowned Malagasy professional life and career coach, Rija Rajemisa. The group also launched a private Facebook page to facilitate continuing contact with counterparts throughout Madagascar, April 2022. The Mission’s members also recently joined the American Society of Administrative Professionals, allowing them access to new resources.
Through this network, the Mission’s administrative professionals are improving their people skills, confidence, knowledge, and capacity to support the embassy in achieving its objectives, particularly through collaboration within the Mission and with external counterparts.
Jennifer Robinson is an office management specialist for the ambassador at Embassy Antananarivo. Romina Rajaonah is a protocol assistant at Embassy Antananarivo. Sedera Raliniainjanahary is a translator at Embassy Antananarivo.