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New at the Top: Paula J. Dobriansky, Thomson Reuters

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Throughout my career in international affairs, every day was a day in which my work affected people's lives abroad. Whether it was my tenure in government or in a private-sector job, all were connected, some way or another, in seeking to improve lives.

That passion began when I was a little girl.

My grandparents emigrated from Ukraine to the United States. My mother and father, both of Ukrainian descent, were educators and instilled in me a great desire for learning not just about our Ukrainian community but also about our history and values.

During my undergraduate studies, I did a program abroad where I worked at the U.S. Embassy in Rome. The embassy had been fielding many of the Soviet Jews and others who were emigrating from the then-Soviet Union. That experience fueled my great interest and passion in international affairs and politics. It gave me great exposure to other cultures and opportunity.

I decided to further my studies in the Soviet Union, looking specifically at the political and military relationship. I secured an internship in the White House at the National Security Council under President Jimmy Carter's administration. I was very proactive and had a very keen knowledge of central-eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

At the end of the Carter administration, the NSC hired me full time as director of European and Soviet affairs. At the time, human rights issues in the former Soviet Union were front and center. We had to deal with a number of cases, including those involving people imprisoned for expressing themselves.

I became very attracted to the role of the United States Information Agency, because it had tools and instruments that could be used in reaching out to international audiences. You can have a really good policy, but if foreign audiences don't understand it, then your policies aren't going to have the desired effect.

So I eventually joined the USIA after the Senate confirmed me for a position there.

When the second Bush administration came in, there was a very specific need to institutionalize democratic strategies and promotion. I became an undersecretary of state for global affairs for eight years, long enough to be the longest tenured undersecretary of state in history.

My portfolio was focused on global issues such as democracy, labor, environment, human rights and trafficking in persons.

I have to say, when this opportunity arose at Thomson Reuters, it was very exciting for me. It's an extraordinary company with a dynamic leadership attuned to global change. I like that it puts a premium on transparency and fiscal responsibility.

-- Interview with Vanessa Mizell

Send nominations for New at the Top to newatthetop@washpost.com.

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