In this Career Spotlight, we have the pleasure of speaking with Kyle Springer, who is Senior Analyst at the Perth USAsia Centre, about his career in international relations spanning the public service and think tanks.
Kyle Springer is Senior Analyst at the Perth USAsia Centre. He provides high-level program assistance and develops the think tank and external outreach programs of the Centre. In addition to planning and coordinating a range of program and research initiatives, Kyle directs the Centre's Indonesia programs and convenes policy workshops focussed on Australia-Indonesia relations. Kyle was previously a researcher with the defence and foreign policy think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, DC and was a program assistant with the Austrade at the Australian Embassy in Washington. While at CSIS he supported the research and programs of the Sumitro Chair for Southeast Asia Studies, working on a variety of subjects including economic reform in Vietnam, political developments in Cambodia, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the 2013 APEC meetings. He has written for blogs and e-newsletters like cogitAsia, Southeast Asia from Scott Circle, The Strategist, and Australian Outlook.
Born in the United Kingdom, Kyle grew up in Indonesia, Australia, and the Bay Area of California. Prior to working in international relations, he served as a police officer in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Going back to the beginning of your career, what did you study at university?
I studied Criminal Justice at the California State University. In the US, we have to satisfy general education requirements, a lot like “broadening” units here in Australia, so I took classes in a range of other topics. I studied Spanish and took other courses in statistics and research methods. I find lots of things interesting, so I’m grateful for the opportunity to have been exposed to an array of other disciplines.
You’ve had a diverse career starting as a police officer, later shifting into international relations roles in the public service and think tanks. What led to, and facilitated, this transition?
Yes, life has brought me a lot of different places. I sought out an early career that would give me a lot of life experience fast, teach me how to deal with stressful situations, but one that also has scope for impact. There’s a major policy element to law enforcement and criminal justice, just like international relations. In many ways, I’m using the same ethos and desire for impact in my policy career as much as I did in my career in policing.
The career change was certainly challenging. The most difficult task was to build up a portfolio of credible work projects and written products to pave the way to the next internship or job. The next challenge was to build a relevant network. Moving to Washington, DC proved to be a major step. When I lived there I had "informational interviews," basically networking over coffee or lunch, with as many people as I could. This opened many doors and helped pave the way to landing my position at Perth USAsia Centre.
Tell us more about your current role as Senior Analyst at the Perth USAsia Centre. What does an average day for you look like?
My day looks a little different this year than last, but the key tasks remain the same. We usually have a discussion with a diplomat or expert scheduled, or at least I have some kind of informal chat or email exchange with a colleague at another organisation to talk through and try to understand what is happening in the world right now. Research days focus on reading news, policy documents, research papers, and exploring data. Some days are built around writing an article, long-form report, or developing an analytical tool. Others might be focussed on identifying speakers for events, framing discussion topics for a policy workshop, or making sure the right people are invited to our events. If I’m lucky, a topic that I work on makes the news and I get the opportunity to do a few multi media interviews.
What has been your greatest professional achievement so far?
It’s hard to say, looking back. Perhaps having the opportunity to meet the former president of Indonesia, Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. I’m satisfied with the work I’ve done on the Indonesia-Australia trade agreement which entered into force this month and there’s been a great deal of interest in it. But I imagine, and I hope, that the best is still yet to come.
Finally, what advice would you give to students and young professionals looking to pursue a career in international affairs?
There’s going to be challenging times and good times. Embrace them both. Be patient with the process, but stay persistent. It took me almost four years to make a full transition into this career. Make bold moves, don’t always play it safe. To distinguish yourself, find those problems that others aren’t working on or are ignoring. Try a new way of looking at an old problem.