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03 15 2019

Working for the NCI Agency: more than a job

I believe that NATO is a symbol of unity and integrity. Working for NATO is not just a point on a CV. It's a chance to be a part of something bigger than a typical job.

I moved in April 2016 from Albania to Brussels, Belgium to begin working as an intern in the Business Management Section of the Finance Team for the NCI Agency.

The start of my internship was a bit different from what I expected. At the beginning, you are given time to adjust to the new environment. You aren't fully loaded with responsibilities, as it takes time for a newcomer – especially a young professional – to get a sense of such a huge organization. While I expected to be overloaded with assignments, I now really appreciate that the workload increased gradually.

As an intern, I told management that I was interested in opportunities to continue working for the Agency. At the end of my internship, I was offered the chance to work for the organization as temporary staff. But working on temporary contracts does not offer a lot of stability, so I tried to make the most of what I had, not knowing when it might end. Whenever I saw relevant vacancies, I would apply.

In summer 2017, I applied for one position through the NATO recruitment website while I continued working on temporary contracts. I completed testing and my interview by the end of 2017. By July 2018, I received a formal offer to be a senior accounting assistant as a NATO International Civilian.

When I became a NATO civilian, I participated in the Agency's Induction Bootcamp. The bootcamp is a way to welcome newcomers to the team. We had the chance to visit the Agency's three main locations: Brussels and Mons in Belgium and The Hague, in the Netherlands.

While I was not exactly a newcomer, I still thought the experience was awesome. I met new colleagues from other locations, so it was an incredible opportunity to network and feel part of a community. It was also a good chance to ask questions and contribute new ideas.

Working for the NCI Agency: more than a job

This journey has challenged me professionally and personally, and as a result I have grown and advanced in my career. When I started my internship I couldn't see where exactly it would lead me. Of course, I wished that eventually I would become a NATO civilian, but I didn't have a real plan. My priority was always to work energetically and enthusiastically, and learn as much as I could from the experience.

I feel particularly inspired by the Agency's leadership. They cope well under pressure, maintaining a calm demeanour and a sense of humour. Interacting every day with people from different cultural backgrounds and working styles has made me more flexible and culturally aware. The way we work together is a demonstration of the power of diversity.

It is also fun to work in my team because there are a lot of young people. We work in an open space so there is a lot of interaction during the day. People are connected to each other, and hang out after working hours. It's definitely not a boring work environment, a place with people in suits who never smile.

This is just my own story, but I've heard a lot of stories like mine, of other international civilians in te Agency who started out as interns or contractors.

I strongly encourage students and recent graduates to apply for the internship programme if they would like to have an international experience, and be part of an incredibly diverse workforce. It is a great opportunity to grow and to learn.

Besjona Koprencka, 28, holds a bachelor's degree in finance from the University of Tirana, and a master's degree in finance and banking from the European University of Tirana.