Lalita Kapur (MPP 2014) was a career diplomat with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade before joining the Master of Public Policy.
Having already served abroad in the Australian embassy in Brazil as well as having developed expertise in the Pacific, trade policy and multilateral work with the UN, Lalita always had in the back of her mind a desire to pursue further study.
“I spent some time looking for the right programme, as I was a little constrained in having only one year for studying. Looking for one that was high-calibre and had the interdisciplinary aspect suited me as a generalist who likes learning new things every few years.”
The interdisciplinary nature of the MPP, along with the practical elements of the course attracted her to the Blavatnik School of Government. Arriving at the School, she was impressed by her classmates along with Oxford’s access to great minds, thinking and culture.
“One of the real value-adds of the School is its connection with governments and civil services – having many senior people regularly come to speak about how what we were studying applies to the work of government was such a great feature of the programme.”
When her time on the MPP came to an end, Lalita decided to return to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, where she has remained, working in a range of high-level policy roles. As her work has involved a great deal of travel – from negotiating a free trade agreement with the EU in Brussels to attending an APEC Leaders’ meeting in Lima – Lalita has managed to visit several of her classmates around the world.
In 2019, Lalita had to choose between two new job offers – one a posting to Madrid, the other a secondment to the Office of National Intelligence, a government agency informing decisions by the Prime Minister and cabinet on foreign policy and national security. And lessons from the MPP helped her make a decision.
“I found the negotiations course was excellent. It gave us real nuggets of wisdom you can apply to many areas of your life, like when you’re making career decisions. Some of things we learned in this course I found really useful in daily interactions and non-work negotiations.”
Ultimately, Lalita decided to remain in Australia and work at the Office of National Intelligence, a decision she does not regret. In addition, seeing first-hand that government decisions were being made based on her advice gave her a great deal of satisfaction in the role.
Now, she is back at the Foreign Affairs department as the Director of Indo-Pacific Strategy and Geoeconomics, working on Australia’s major foreign policy strategy and geo-strategic competition.
“It’s very rare you get the chance to shape thinking on your country’s foreign policy. I’m often surprised by how little we think strategically about things within our own system. Foreign services tend to be very good at organising things and getting things done but sometimes we forget to take a step back and ask why we are doing something.”