For those who don’t know this already, the U.S. diplomatic mission to Mexico is huge: an embassy and 9 consulates. Almost half of all entry level officers will do their first or second tour in Mexico and we process a huge percentage of the worldwide workload of visas. So earlier this year when the announcement came down from the Embassy that we were going to try to manage shifting workloads “in-house” I wasn’t surprised. Basically this means that instead of getting temporary help from Washington or from other posts overseas, we’ve been sending officers from posts in Mexico to other posts in Mexico to help with demand when numbers are high. This is why I was sent on two temporary assignments earlier this year.

But because our presence here is so large, it’s sometimes hard to feel like a single, cohesive unit. At my level (so basically as low as you can possible be) there is virtually zero interaction between posts. At least, there was until earlier this summer. Someone in the Embassy had the brilliant idea of doing what I like to call Life Swaps of entry level officers within the mission. The goal is to have officers who work in different parts of the country swap jobs and houses and cars for a period of time to get a better feel of Mexico as a whole and of how we operate here. I LOVE traveling within Mexico and my two temporary assignments were eye-opening, so I jumped at the chance to swap lives with someone.

We had to get management approval, of course, and had to write a little blurb about what we wanted to learn and what we could bring to another post. Then those who were selected were matched with someone and left to agree upon dates and work out the details. I got paired with an officer from Monterrey, which if course I was thrilled about, and we worked it out to do the swap for 3 weeks starting in mid-September.

It was fantastic to get to do a temporary assignment with a specific goal in mind and I learned a lot about scheduling, process flow, and training. I came home with what I think are some good ideas that I hope to be able to incorporate into our procedures in CJ. I don’t know how prevalent swaps like this are in other large missions, but I hope they become popular. They’re a great way to exchange ideas, to standardize procedures, and to make friend.