Life After the Foreign Service

Here are stories—and tips!—from three retired diplomats who found success and fulfillment after careers in the Foreign Service.

The Nonprofit, Environment Route


Ladd Connell with villagers near Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, December 2023.
Courtesy of Ladd Connell

Ladd Connell (right) with BIC partner Geoffrey Kamese at the equator in Uganda, December 2023.
Courtesy of Ladd Connell

A longtime State Department colleague, Robin Delabarre, was fond of saying that virtue is its own, and sometimes only, reward; but for me, working for environmental causes in the nonprofit sector, the rewards have been multiple. First, I’ve learned a tremendous amount. Retiring out of the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs’ Office of Development Finance at the end of 2008, at 53, I was hired by Conservation International (CI) as director for multilateral relations. While I had had some prior experience in conservation, my expertise was development finance and multilateral institutions. But CI had a large cutting-edge science team, which held regular brown-bag lunches to share their work.

I learned about natural capital accounting, marine areas management, and rapid biodiversity assessment. CI overseas country staff also presented their work in places from Suriname to South Africa and from Cambodia to Kiribati. I then applied this learning in promoting CI’s work and advocating for policies and programs to advance its goals.

At the same time, I was able to share my expertise and contacts, so that CI staff were empowered to work directly with the World Bank, other multilateral development banks (MDBs), and the trust funds they operate. We had success as CI was chosen to implement a World Bank program for sustainable management of tuna fisheries and a global grant program for Indigenous peoples, among others.

I left CI after more than eight years, as CI shifted the focus of our office purely to fundraising, and I preferred the policy piece. Through contacts from my CI years, I landed first at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, consulting on World Bank safeguards, and in early 2018, at the Bank Information Center (BIC) as environment director.

Although small, BIC is able to “punch above its weight” thanks to its focus on MDBs, its location close to the headquarters of two banks (World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank), and its close contact with U.S. government staff involved in MDB policies and programs. This includes a monthly meeting, known as Tuesday Group, with the interagency staff and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). BIC also serves as the MDB expert in several NGO coalitions, such as one devoted to ending public finance for fossil fuel development.

I may be on the opposite side of the table from where I sat before; but many of the values we promote as diplomats are ones that the NGO community promotes, as well.

Looking back on 15 years of post-FS life, I’d say I’ve enjoyed multiple rewards:

• Financial—NGOs pay less than government or the private sector. But with my annuity, I came out ahead in total income, compared to what I’d have earned staying in the Service.

• Family—I never had to be separated from my family; we were able to stay in our home; and my wife was able to continue her career as a real estate agent without interruption (also important financially!).

• Values—I’ve been able to work for organizations where my values and theirs are fully aligned, and the work further informed my commitment. Learning about and advocating for policies and programs critical for our planet has been important.

• Travel and contacts—Although in leaving the Foreign Service, I gave up the chance to be posted overseas, I have enjoyed significant travel. Work has taken me to Ecuador, Peru, Brazil (twice), the Philippines, Madagascar, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Togo, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (three times), Tunisia (three times), Morocco, Dubai, and multiple European capitals (Madrid, Rome, Brussels, Paris, and London). And when not traveling, I’m still in touch (via Zoom and WhatsApp) with colleagues and counterparts around the globe.

• Change and continuity—Serving as an advocate for people and places underrepresented by their governments, I may be on the opposite side of the table from where I sat before; but many of the values we promote as diplomats are ones that the NGO community promotes, as well. I’m able to point to these shared values when I meet with U.S. government colleagues.

Contacts from State Department days have often been helpful, whether still serving in the department, or at embassies, or in post-FS positions at the MDBs.

In this post–Foreign Service journey, I’m glad that I started young enough to make what I consider a full second career, building on contacts and knowledge gained in my 22 years at State. They continue as important foundations.

Ladd Connell was a Foreign Service officer from 1986 to 2008, serving overseas in Zagreb, Bermuda, Bangui, and Casablanca, and domestically on the Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Haiti country desks, as well as in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs and on the staff of the under secretary for economic growth, energy, and the environment (E).

From Diplomatic Security to Corporate Security


John Rendeiro at the border crossing into Ukraine at Vysne Nemecke, Slovakia, on March 12, 2022.
John Rendeiro

It is rare to hear anyone who has spent a full career in the United States Foreign Service complain about it, and I am no exception. My years of service included full tours of duty in the USSR, Switzerland, and Russia, plus a number of assignments of shorter duration in several other countries. I served at the Department of State in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), heading up the offices of Special Investigations, Intelligence and Threat Analysis, Antiterrorism Assistance, and finally serving as assistant director of DS for international programs. I was also privileged to spend a full academic year at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, studying instruments of national power with U.S. and foreign military colleagues.

Retiring from the Foreign Service in 2006, I accepted a position as vice president for global security and intelligence at International SOS, the world’s largest provider of security and medical assistance for travelers, expats, the U.S. Department of Defense (e.g., TRICARE Overseas Program), and pretty much anyone else in need of risk management services. While it was not an easy call for me to leave the department, it turned out to be a good move—more than 17 years later, I’m still contributing here and maintaining ties with DS through our participation in the Department of State’s Overseas Security Advisory Council.

Another huge plus of my job is that I’ve been able to stay in touch with many former government colleagues in their private sector roles. This would be my first bit of advice to Foreign Service officers approaching or at retirement eligibility: “Be flexible!” Keep your feelers out, know what your areas of interest are for a follow-on career, and adequately prepare yourself to explain what you can bring to a company, nongovernmental organization, academic institution, think tank, or any other organization you may want to join.

While the transition to the private sector was complicated, my new organization was very supportive. And it helped that we were doing a lot of the same things we did in DS: threat analysis, preparation of travelers going outside their comfort zones, implementing security programs, and following up and responding to travelers and expats with particular needs, both in everyday situations and emergencies. And, just as in DS, it has always been necessary to keep up on current events and be aware of what is happening throughout the world.

It is important to create a self-inventory of skills, interests, and particular capabilities, with an eye toward explaining exactly what these skills can do for your prospective organization.

It is important to create a self-inventory of skills, interests, and particular capabilities, with an eye toward explaining exactly what these skills can do for your prospective organization. Think of foreign area expertise, foreign languages, crisis management, analytical research, oral/written communication, leadership/organizational management, and other valuable skills that you may possess that are practiced in the Foreign Service—they could prove very valuable to a prospective organization.

Much of my work at International SOS has mirrored what I did at State. For example, I’ve had the privilege of working with extremely capable and highly motivated people, who also have foreign area and language knowledge and a genuine passion for what they do to help people and save lives. There has never been a dull moment in my time with the company, and I’ve learned so much from my colleagues. Our network of 26 global assistance centers and thousands of medical and security providers worldwide has a true global reach.

A couple of my most memorable moments with International SOS include entering Georgia via Azerbaijan with the help of one of our providers in Baku in 2008, joining our team in Tbilisi to support local clients. Another was venturing into Haiti after the earthquake in 2010, again working with a provider and our medical team in Santo Domingo, both overland and by helicopter, to reconnoiter routes and extract clients. In both instances, my Russian (thank you, FSI and Embassy Moscow!) and French were of value, and our missions were a success.

In the end, most of my job has involved building relationships with security clients and assisting them in implementing their programs. I’ve enjoyed a tremendous follow-on career with International SOS, and I fully recognize it wouldn’t have been possible without the Foreign Service.

John G. Rendeiro Jr. served 21 years as a Diplomatic Security special agent, retiring from the Senior Foreign Service at the grade of Minister Counselor in 2006. Prior to that, he served in the U.S. Army as a military intelligence officer. He has been with International SOS as vice president, Global Security and Intelligence, and senior adviser, for more than 17 years.

Conflict Stabilization Consultant


Pat Haslach with her husband, Jon Wilks, and grandson Noah at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Courtesy of Pat Haslach

I had not planned on retiring in November 2017. My husband (a British diplomat) and I had discussed his following me on a diplomatic mission or my following him. We met in Baghdad in 2009 and married in 2015. I thought I would make it to 65, but circumstances beyond our control caused us to change our plans.

After I left Ethiopia in July 2016, I moved to Washington, D.C., as principal deputy assistant secretary (PDAS) in the Bureau of Economics and Business Affairs, a position I thought I would continue to occupy through the next administration. When Donald Trump was elected president in 2016 and Rex Tillerson was appointed Secretary of State, I knew I had limited time before a political appointee was confirmed as assistant secretary and I was out the door, with prospects of another senior position unlikely. I committed to stay a short period to help guide the bureau through the transition and attempts to downsize the State Department. Meanwhile, my husband was posted as U.K. ambassador to Iraq.

It is important to recall what the situation was like in the department in the first year of the Trump administration. It was chaotic and scary, with our loyalty, professionalism, and patriotism being questioned, and it soon became untenable with senior officers being let go. Implementing the administration’s trade policy (threats of the U.S. pulling out of the North American Free Trade Agreement and implementing other protectionist trade measures) became impossible for me. The last straw was when I accompanied the former deputy assistant secretary to a meeting on steel at the White House and witnessed firsthand the president’s determination to move forward on steel tariffs on our allies.

I was fortunate to be in a relatively good financial position, and I could afford to retire early. With the help of career colleagues on the Seventh Floor, I was able to recommend a good officer to replace me. After taking the retirement course and settling my affairs, I moved to London to start my second career.

Advice: Plan for retirement early by investing in the Thrift Savings Plan and other retirement plans. Take the retirement course while you are still employed.

I was hired by AKTIS, a U.K. consulting firm specializing in conflict stabilization. I led the conflict practice and worked on the peace building component of the United Nations Development Programme’s Stabilization Facility for Libya and for the Dutch government. I also worked on a European Union–funded project to reduce tensions between Lebanese residents and Syrian refugees. I was team leader for the Danish International Development Agency’s assessment of stabilization funding for Iraq and Syria.

It was a new experience to be on the consulting side. Most of the staff were younger than I was, and we worked in an open office space. While the staff were great and the coffee excellent, it did take adjustment on my part. A few months later, I moved to Chemonics, which was setting up a London office, and did similar work. I also joined a friend who started a boutique consulting firm, Brooch Associates.

When my husband returned from Iraq, he was assigned to Qatar as U.K. ambassador. We left for Doha in March 2020.

Advice: Be flexible, be realistic, and give yourself time to adjust. When I left government, I was told I would have no problem switching careers. In reality, while many of our skills are transferable to the private sector and academia, it is not always an easy fit.

Stay current on the places you served, and stay connected with former colleagues to see if there might be a role for you.

Taking on the role of spouse of the ambassador was another challenge. We arrived in Qatar two weeks before COVID-19 restrictions were put into place. Fortunately, the embassy and the residence were colocated, and we faced few shortages. I was able to support my husband and the community. I worked closely with the community liaison office coordinator (CLO) to assist the staff and their families. I even received an award for morale when I set up a roster for the residence swimming pool when other pools were closed.

My experience on both sides, as an ambassador and then spouse, came in handy when we celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee and commendations for her funeral and, later, the coronation of King Charles. I had a supporting role when Qatar hosted the World Cup in 2022, and our embassy had two teams—England and Wales—in the same league as the United States. When the teams competed, though, I waved the U.S. flag.

Over our four years in Qatar, I continued to stay involved in foreign affairs. I worked remotely with a team at the American Academy of Diplomacy, advising the Biden administration on trade issues. I joined former ambassadors to Ethiopia in efforts to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Tigray and find a political solution to the civil war. I wrote to the deputy prime minister, who I had worked closely with on drought relief in 2015, to urge the government to provide food assistance to Tigray. I joined another group of former ambassadors to Laos to urge the Biden administration to reconsider sending cluster bombs to Ukraine. While we supported Ukraine, we had seen the detrimental effects of cluster bombs on the civilian population in Laos.

In August 2021, I asked to help with the evacuation of Afghan refugees through Qatar. I wanted to use my experience on Afghanistan as the first director of Afghanistan reconstruction after 9/11 and, later, as PDAS in the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations. The U.S. senior coordinator for Operation Allies Refuge in Qatar brought me on for several weeks to help identify Afghans who had connections to countries other than the United States, including 300 unaccompanied minors. I used my contacts in the diplomatic community and Qatar government to find places for these refugees.

Advice: You never know when your experience might be useful. Stay current on the places you served, and stay connected with former colleagues to see if there might be a role for you.

Another way to stay involved is to volunteer and serve on boards. I was on the advisory board for King’s College in London, International School for Government. I joined three other organizations as a senior adviser. One of those was Pathfinder, which focuses on women and children’s health issues.

Advice: Try something new. I followed a long-dormant passion for art and took courses, including one online on how to write a children’s book for our grandsons.

In December 2023, my husband retired from the diplomatic service, and we moved to Oxford, where he is the registrar at the Islamic Studies Centre. I am busy setting up our new home and unpacking, I hope for the last time.

Enjoy your retirement.

Pat Haslach’s Foreign Service career with the State Department spanned 30 years and a wide variety of postings. She served as ambassador to Ethiopia, Laos, and APEC; as acting assistant secretary and principal deputy assistant secretary (PDAS) for the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs; PDAS in the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations; deputy coordinator for the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative; and as director for the Office for Afghanistan. She also worked on Iraq reconstruction and the transition from a military to civilian operation under Deputy Secretary Tom Nides. Her other postings included Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, and the U.S. Mission to the European Union.


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