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03 5 2021

Meet Carol Macha, a Deputy Branch Chief at the NCI Agency

Carol Macha's team helps the NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency make data-driven decisions.

As the Deputy Chief of the Service Management and Control branch at the Agency, she manages a team with diverse expertise, from change managers, to data analysts and people monitoring how we deliver against our commitments.

Meet Carol Macha, a Deputy Branch Chief at the NCI Agency

"Organizations only get better when they have evidence by which to make decisions. We help the Alliance to be able to make those fact-based, data-driven decisions," Macha said.

Macha, an American, brings to the role a wealth of experience from time in the US Department of Defense and US Department of Veterans Affairs.

We caught up with Macha in advance of International Women's Day 2021, which celebrates the important contributions women make to many fields, including technology.

What does your team do?

The branch has such an important mission – we provide the data the Agency uses to measure if it is hitting its business targets and key performance indicators. We collect, compile and organize all of that data to ensure we are delivering on our commitments.

But that's not all we do. Another mission is to ensure that we have discipline and stability in the networks. It's so imperative no one does anything unexpected to the networks like "oh I'm just going to swap out this router," or "I'm just going to change this switch" without having reviewed all of the possible impacts of that change. Through change management and configuration management, we ensure that that network stays stable and that there are no unexpected changes inserted into the network.

We also implement and maintain the Agency's main ticketing system. If you have a problem or service request, you call the help desk, the help desk types it up in the ticketing system that keeps track of it, and then distributes that work out to whomever is responsible for solving that problem. And that IT system, which is called IT Service Management (ITSM), is the system that we run.

So three primary missions all toward the same goal – we use the data that comes from ITSM, we analyse it to figure out how we can do change management better, provide greater network stability, and ultimately stronger delivery of service operations through a continual service improvement lifecycle. All of our work leads to technology stability and discipline.

It's like components of a meal – it's some vegetables, some meat, some pasta – but together it all makes a dinner.

What is your daily job like?

I love this phase of my career. My job has partially transitioned from being responsible for the work itself, to now being responsible for making others who are achieving the work successful. I'm in a great position as a leader, coach and problem-solver — I get to focus on making other people successful to achieve their jobs. In our branch, we've put a lot of people-focused activities into place to let the team know they are really valued. We strengthen the delivery of the mission when we focus on our people.

Along with the Branch Chief, we set the big vision so people know where they fit into the larger Alliance goals. It's very easy to look at your laptop and think 'this is all I do,' without being able to tie it to the larger strategic goals which the Agency and Alliance have. And that's something that I think a good leader always does, is help you figure out not just your piece of the pie, but how that fits into the larger pie.

What drew you to apply for a position in NATO?

I've had a lifelong love of public service and was always drawn towards the military. I was really interested in seeing the full spectrum of how we support the warfighter in the US. I was lucky enough to have a job at the Department of Defense (DoD) for 19 years, and I was able to see from field-level operations, all the way up to the office of the Secretary of Defense, through different assignments that I had, how the organization supports the warfighter.

And then I thought, well the DoD supports the warfighter for however long they are on active duty. But then what happens? In the US, they become veterans, and they are then governed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). So then I switched over from the DoD to VA, because I felt like I was expanding the horizon of support to the warfighter—just now that person was a veteran.

I was at VA for six years – and then I thought wait a minute, that was all at the federal or national level. I wonder how we do it at the international level? And that's really what drew me to a position at NATO, it was an extension of my interest in public service and my interest in warfighter and veteran operations. So that's what led me to the Agency—and I've felt grateful every day I get to support our mission here.

How do you choose to challenge gender biases and inequalities?

I think when we know better, we do better. I don't know that I choose to 'challenge' gender biases and inequalities—instead I reframe the situation to try and find an opportunity to make it better, every single day if I can. I try to collaboratively point out the opportunities we all have to make our working culture more inclusive.

We have a critical and significant mission—the Alliance provides peace to 1 billion people. One billion people are covered by NATO. That's a big deal. We owe it to our mission to attract the best and the brightest to come work for NATO. In order to attract the best and brightest, we need to be as inclusive as possible, we need to address our gender inequalities, hire younger people, make sure we have good representation from all NATO Nations. For me, it's all related to meeting the mission – if we are not inclusive, we can't meet our mission. By continually examining our work culture, we can work together to not only do our jobs better, but make our organization the best it can be for all of us.

Do you have any advice for how people can collaboratively point out opportunities?

Pay attention and work collaboratively. I really like what Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a great woman from my country, said: "Fight for the things that you care about. But do it in a way that will lead others to join you."

It could be something as small as renaming a spreadsheet from the "manning data" to "staffing data," or something larger like ensuring diversity and inclusion data is included in quarterly performance reviews to raise awareness with the service lines. There are opportunities everywhere. It's up to all of us to find them. Our mission depends on it.

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