WITI Recap: Fireside Chat with British Consul General of New England

Erin Horiuchi

August 22, 2020

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Parna Sarkar-Basu, the founder of Brand and Buzz Marketing, recently spoke with Harriet Cross, British Consul General of New England as she was preparing to leave for her new assignment in Trinidad and Tobago.

Parna began the fireside chat by commenting on her unique background -- a non-political diplomat to co-owner of a brewery -- and asked Harriet to share her career journey. Harriet said she attended a state school in East Yorkshire in northern England and had a love for travel and language and that she studied French and Politics in college. As she was nearing graduation and was uncertain about her future plans, one of her friends suggested she take the civil service exam. Harriet completed the entrance exam and assumed she would be placed at a desk job. Instead, it was the beginning of her 20+ year distinguished career, leading up to her current promotion -- the British High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago.

"I could be myself a bit more than if I was trying to be the person I thought they wanted me to be. That's something that I've carried through my whole diplomatic career. It does make me, maybe a bit quirky or you know, a slightly unusual diplomat. But I've stayed true to myself." expresses Harriet.

Parna said oftentimes the public only sees a very narrow piece of a diplomat's life, yet their responsibilities range from diplomacy to technology, innovation, and business. Parna asked Harriet to discuss the role of a diplomat and how she helps drive innovation?

According to Harriet, a diplomat's job can be defined by 3 main duties:

- Safeguarding national security -- including what diplomats are doing at the UN, NATO, Brussels, Geneva, Vienna, the World Trade Organization, multilateralism work, counterterrorism and making global partnerships work in order to protect ourselves nationally.

- Prosperity related to creating jobs in the U.K. that is facilitated by global outreach, global trade, and international free trade agreements, and protecting and developing national jobs

- Protecting British citizens abroad, issuing emergency passports, and helping people, should they get put in prison, for example. And dealing with crisis - natural or political.

Harriet said she enjoys being a diplomat because -- "I'm a real generalist. You can drop me in any job and I can do it. Diplomats need to be agile. It's a massive job, but it is so diverse and you can jump into many different roles."

As an advocate of STEM and inclusivity, Parna asked Harriet to share some examples of how she supports women entrepreneurs and business leaders:

- Networking is so valuable. The U.S., in general, creates a very supportive networking atmosphere, but Boston is unique and people are willing to go the extra mile to help you and connect you to someone they know in their network.

- Influencing people is important and Harriets explains, "Diplomacy is about getting other people to do what you want them to do without them knowing that they're doing what you want them to do. That's the kind of trade secret for you all there. And if you can do that, effectively, you're going to be a really good diplomat."

- Negotiating is an important skill set for women to develop. "Women are successful at negotiating on behalf of somebody else because they don't feel that they're being selfish or demanding. Don't be afraid to ask for what you want or what you need."

To view the rest of Harriet's tips and the full recording of the event, go here. Bon voyage, Harriet!

Erin Horiuchi is a marketing specialist for Brand and Buzz Marketing and WITI Boston volunteer.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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