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Oct 19 2020

Meet Frank Mikla, Senior Portfolio Manager, Alliance Operations and Missions, Chief Operating Office

In July 2020, the NATO Secretary General awarded exceptional staff with the Meritorious Service Medal (MSM), NATO's most prestigious honour.

Throughout 2019, Frank Mikla played a central role in the provision of communications and information systems support to Alliance operations and missions. He operated as the NCI Agency's lead for bringing major improvement to the planning and delivery of Crisis Response Operations Urgent Requirements (CUR) in support of all NATO operational theatres. ln his capacity of CUR Senior Portfolio Manager, he went beyond the traditional staffing of CUR requests by displaying an extraordinary sense of personal commitment and leadership.

Mikla is not afraid to step out of natural boundaries, to challenge his team with technical or customer-facing roles, or to take on tasks that may not fall squarely into his area of responsibility but that will come to the benefit of Allied forces on deployment. Building on his extended technical and programme management experience, Mikla has excelled in delivering pragmatic solutions to theatre.

In light of receiving this prestigious award, we asked Mikla a few questions about his work.

Meet Frank Mikla, Senior Portfolio Manager, Alliance Operations and Missions, Chief Operating Office

Can you describe how significant NATO's mission is to you, both professionally and personally?

Support to NATO missions and operations is a top priority for the Agency and critical for peace and stability in the world. Collectively, these efforts enable greater stability throughout the world and it is very rewarding having the opportunity to contribute both professionally and personally to this endeavour.

Being a part of NATO means being an ambassador for your country, working for the interest of the Alliance and believing that together we can reach NATO's mission. Our work, no matter where or at what level, means contributing to the fulfilment of the expectations of the Nations that created our important Alliance.

How do you coordinate work that involves many different staff members, departments and contractors, but also ensure that a team functions as a cohesive unit?

Working across different time zones and supporting teams located far away is a significant challenge. Explicit and clear communication is key, as is in-depth awareness of the mission's environment you need to support. A key enabler for me has been the efforts taken through deployments to the various missions. You need to have a clear picture of all your stakeholders and understand where each one fits in the bigger picture. Timelines, dependencies and constraints are also crucial for keeping coordination in place. The goal always acts as your guiding light, keeping the coordination synchronized with the objectives. Lastly, but possibly the most importantly, it is about building rapport with people and making sure you listen to them and that they also listen and understand you. It is all about building trust.

What is the biggest challenge that you have faced in your work at the NCI Agency and how did you overcome it?

The decision-making process can be rather lengthy at NATO. This is mainly due to a consensus building nature. This naturally increases the time required for consultation before agreement can be made. In order to be successful, you need to have a strong network throughout the Alliance with which you can interact on the path to a successful delivery. It is key that you have strong competences in areas like perseverance and perspective in order to anticipate the future, which enables you to lean forward instead of reacting to events.

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