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03 6 2020

We Are NATO: Six staffers' journeys with a NATO Agency

In honour of International Women's Day on 8 March 2020, we asked six staff members at the Agency how they began their journey at the Agency, and what they do today.

Around 3,000 people contribute every day to maintaining NATO's technological edge.

The staff of the NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency lead NATO's digital endeavour. They are a mix of civilian, military, and contractors from Nations across the Alliance, with expertise in a wide range of areas, from data analytics, to business planning.

In honour of International Women's Day on 8 March 2020, we asked six staff members at the Agency how they began their journey at the Agency, and what they do today. Learn more about their work, and hear some words of wisdom about their fields, and life at NATO, below.

Did you read the article we published for IWD 2019? NCI Agency Diversity Advocate Diana De Vivo offered her perspective on diversity and inclusion. Check it out here.

Sandra Antunes

Conferences and Events Coordinator, NCI Agency

During conferences and events, Antunes is working behind the scenes to make sure everything runs smoothly.

Today, one of Antunes's roles includes settling the ins and outs of the event app for NATO's largest industry engagement, NITEC, which will be used by the industry and government participants to manage their event and schedule meetings.

"I am part of a great team, and together we enable daily meetings and conferences by doing all the necessary arrangements so that all is set and ready to welcome our teams and leaders to discuss," Antunes said.

Antunes joined the Agency in 2018.

"The job description was exactly what I was looking for, and even if the idea of working in such a big and powerful organization was way too far from what I thought I was destined for, I decided to give it a try, I did not have anything to lose," Antunes said.

Each day in the role brings a new challenge or achievement – and no day is boring.

"From the small meetings to the wider conferences, I really enjoy the moment when I close the door of a meeting room behind me knowing that everything is running as it should and that the people inside that room will be discussing all kinds of important subjects," Antunes said.

There are plenty of opportunities in NATO, in all sorts of fields.

"If you did not yet find the job that fits your profile, keep checking the nato.taleo.net portal," Antunes said. "Don't forget of course to take risks, to travel, to meet new people and be confident that whatever your dream is, there's always a place for everyone to shine."

Working at NATO is an enriching experience, Antunes said.

"I love the fact that both civilians and military from all over the world meet in one place," she said, adding, "It's extremely encouraging to come to work every day to find all of these amazing people full of great ideas and motivation to make things happen."

Sylvie Martel

Operational Analysis Chief, NCI Agency

Martel leads a team of about 30 operational analysts who are applying scientific methods to solve problems that civilian and military decision makers are facing. And the team she leads, she said, is the best part of her job.

"I am very privileged to lead an outstanding team of professionals who are very talented and knowledgeable, highly motivated, hardworking and dedicated to delivering high quality analytical products to our customers in a timely manner," Martel said. "Their enthusiasm and ability to work efficiently as a team makes it very easy for me to manage them, and our business."

Martel came to the Agency from the Canadian Department of National Defence, where she worked as an operational analyst.

"I was attracted by the opportunity to work in an international environment and learn more about the breadth of military capabilities available within all NATO countries," Martel said. "I wanted also to experience living and travelling in Europe."

In September 2001, Martel joined a predecessor organization of the NCI Agency, the NATO Consultation, Command and Control Agency (NC3A) as an operational analyst (OA) with maritime domain expertise. She supported the Strategic Commanders in their efforts to identify future capabilities that NATO would need to accomplish its missions.

"Working alongside military officers across NATO Nations has been a unique experience for me. One of the challenges faced by OA practitioners is to find ways to explain the approach and outcome of scientific analyses in simple manner – the appreciation you get from those you are helping is very rewarding. This has kept me going for all these years!"

One of her recent challenging assignments at the Agency came in 2019 when Martel was asked to serve as Acting Head of General Services (GS).

"This assignment took me completely out of my comfort zone," Martel said.

One of the challenges was managing a much larger team, composed of more than 100 staff with skill sets very different from her team of operational analysts.

"I found this experience very enriching professionally and personally, providing me with the opportunity to appreciate the services delivered by GS from the provider's perspective rather than the requester," Martel said.

To those beginning a new management role, Martel said she would advise they make time for their staff.

"Keep them appraised of what's happening at senior management level and listen to their concerns," Martel said. "Provide them with constructive feedback, and seek feedback on your own behaviour and approach to managing them."

Though Martel's role necessitates many hours on the computer, she said she always finds time to be in the outdoors – walking, jogging or riding her bicycle.

"I commute to work on my bicycle every day, rain or shine," Martel said.

Maria-Rosa Moroso

Knowledge Manager, NCI Agency

Some call Moroso a "possibilitarian" and she likes the description.

As the leader of NCI Agency's information and knowledge management (IKM) efforts, Moroso has to consider all of the possible ways staff can create, use and share information. The IKM team ensures the Agency remains a knowledge-centric organization, where access to data, information and expertise is made easy, and where the organizational culture promotes transparency, sharing and collaboration.

"People, and their knowledge, is any organization's most powerful asset," Moroso said. "NCI Agency is a knowledge-centric organization, therefore, people are at the centre!"

The Agency's knowledge management journey is indeed an organizational change management effort, and it is made possible with key enablers, including technology, that help staff to store, find, share and create new information for their collective knowledge and continuous learning.

"We assure that the technology, and other enablers, are developed around the people and their behaviours," Moroso said.

The latest Intranet uplift, as an example, "was transformational from a content management and information access perspective," Moroso said.

The Agency's 2018-2023 Strategic Plan sees knowledge management as essential in the Agency's effort to lead NATO's digital endeavour.

Moroso first joined NATO in 1998. Until 2004, she worked at then-Joint Command South, in Verona, Italy, and then she spent a few years at an organization now called the NATO Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation in La Spezia. Ten years after she began her first role at NATO, Moroso joined the NCI Agency.

What Moroso enjoys most about her job, in her own words, is working with a small core team of direct reports and a distributed team across all Agency locations "helping staff perform at their best by facilitating their knowledge sharing."

Emotional intelligence, political agility and resilience are key ingredients to personal and professional success at a NATO body, Moroso said.

"You may join NATO for a variety of reasons, but to remain and feel fulfilled, you need to believe in NATO's greater mission of freedom and security," Moroso said.

Moroso lives and works by a few fundamental rules, one of them being that kindness is not a weakness.

As one of her other key rules, she noted that, "there are no shortcuts. Hard work will always pay off in the end."

Selma Tatar

Chief Business Planning Management Branch, NCI Agency

To some, Tatar is known by the title of "woman of maximum determination."

She earned the moniker while serving as the project manager of a mission-critical effort to migrate existing disparate networks to a virtualized server environment. Her team had to ensure this migration took place without disrupting the existing service, as the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan was using the networks.

"We had been fighting against time because we had to complete the migration before March-April," Tatar said. "We were able to complete the migration early March."

This is the most interesting project Tatar has worked on, she said, but it is by no means the only.

Tatar began her career in NATO in February 2002 as a telecommunications engineer. As her background is electrical engineering, she switched to the NC3A in September 2006.

Today she works as the Branch Chief of Business Planning Management. Her branch is responsible for assessing the evolving demand of the Agency's customer base and balancing the workforce capacity against the demand. Her team develops several important plans, including the annual Business and Workforce Plans, and most importantly, governs the Agency Costed Customer Service Catalogue.

The Workforce plan is important, as the NCI Agency is customer funded. The Plan helps the Agency balance demand and supply, and track the allocation of the workforce to business portfolios. The team also controls the overall ution of the Agency's business targets.

She and her team are also leading the most important change management programme in the service delivery area, implementation of an Enterprise Service Delivery Model.

"Every day is another challenge, especially if you are implementing new concepts, processes or tools and introducing business changes," Tatar said. "I really enjoy seeing some steps that we have taken towards change are being adopted by the Agency."

Though NATO can be a challenging environment at first, Tatar recommended new joiners not get discouraged.

"Of course I would like to see more women joining, especially in technical areas," Tatar said. "Therefore I recommend parents encourage their daughters to study one of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) disciplines. I can assure you it is fun, I mean both studying and working in these areas. We need more determined women."

Tatar noted that women in STEM careers are often asked to prove their experience more than men.

"I don't want to be seen as 'she is there because of her gender,'" Tatar said. "I am here because of my engineering profession, my solid background in IT and telecommunications and my other complementary soft skills and qualifications, not because I am woman."

Tatar noted she manages a team of 15 highly qualified staff, 10 of which are women.

"I selected them not because they are women, but they have proven that they are highly qualified, as are my other team members," Tatar said.

Virginie Viscardy

Senior NCI Agency Representative in North America

When organizations in North America are interested in learning more about NATO's technology, they have someone to call.

Viscardy is the Agency's representative in North America. Working out of the United States at the headquarters of Allied Command Transformation, Viscardy develops strategies for engaging with the Agency's stakeholders in the region. That means reaching out to government, defence and non-traditional industry, academia and not-for-profit organizations to maintain relationships, and build new ones. In her role today, Viscardy is also working on developing the content of the Agency's upcoming industry conference, NITEC20.

"I love connecting my Agency with new entities interested in NATO in general or in business opportunities with the Agency," Viscardy said. "I strive to be an intelligent gateway between the Agency and the North American region. I also love being able to engage with young students and graduates or people interested in changing careers and discuss what NATO has to offer."

In her spare time, Viscardy also volunteers as a Gender Focal Point at the headquarters. In support of ACT's Gender Advisor, she provides advice and recommendations to ensure that a gender perspective is integrated in the development of policies, concepts and conferences.

Viscardy joined the Agency in June 2003, shortly after graduating from university.

"I remember dreaming about being able to do something like this when I started my career in the Agency 16 years ago!" Viscardy said.

During her years with the Agency, Viscardy has worked in a variety of roles. She even volunteered in 2016 to deploy for six weeks to Kabul, Afghanistan, to support the Chief of Staff of the Resolute Support Mission.

"As a civilian with no military experience, I believed that to be truly useful in my daily job. I needed to experience what NATO troops were facing in missions and operations," Viscardy said. "This made me much more aware, and appreciative of what our organization is truly about, and has increased my dedication to help our warfighters get the tools and capabilities they need to successfully complete their mission."

During her time there, Viscardy also worked with the NATO Gender Advisor. Viscardy helped her put in place a project designed to help female recruits in the police and Armed Forces safely file reports of violence and sexual harassment across the country.

To someone wanting to begin a career in NATO, Viscardy would give the simple advice to "apply, apply, apply!"

"Even if you don't meet 100% of the essential criteria, apply anyway!" Viscardy said.

LTC Jennifer Liles

Executive Officer for the Communications and Information Systems (CIS) Support Unit in Izmir, NCI Agency

Liles is the Executive Officer for the Agency's CIS Support Unit in Izmir, Turkey.

In this role, LTC Liles is the right hand for the Commander of the Unit in Izmir. She oversees the yearly budget, ordering of supplies, storage, and inventory for the Unit in Izmir. Her duties include all communication support for NATO's Allied Land Command and its six detachments in Turkey. Because of her position, LTC Liles is also the senior national representative (SNR) for all United States personnel assigned to CSU Izmir.

Liles joined the Agency in June of 2019.

Her background in the United States Army includes serving as Company Commander at Fort Hood, Texas, as part of a communication organization. LTC Liles served also recently at the Pentagon, where she managed and facilitated operational IT functions within her division. She plans to return to the Pentagon once her rotation at the Unit in Izmir is complete.

Asked what she enjoys most about the job, Liles said "being integrated and working with the different Nations." Staff at the Agency come from across the NATO Alliance. Coming from the United States, she has immersed herself in learning the rich cultures that her location has to offer.

The most interesting project Liles has worked on in the role so far has been a cabling project to prepare for an IT modernization upgrade.

"It is a very unique project in that the old cabling infrastructure in CSU Izmir needed to be replaced, and the team and I had to learn the regulations," Liles said.

Asked for advice to someone beginning a career at NATO, Liles advised to be very cognisant of the different cultures you will encounter at NATO. The NCI Agency is composed of military and civilian employees of different nationalities, religions and cultures.

"Always try to do your research if you are planning on working in a different country than yours," Liles also advised