"I moved quite often between Romania and Belgium because my father was in the military and worked for NATO," he said. This placed him in the unique position of growing up with NATO offices and sites as familiar environments.
Now at 23 years old, Parfene is beginning to carve out his own path at NATO. In celebration of the Agency's 10th anniversary, we spoke with him about his internship and what he's learned so far.
What are you currently working on?
The project I'm working on was started last year by two researchers in the department. We are developing an intelligence asset planner that processes collection requests. People let us know what sort of info they need, for example: I would like to know how many ships are in a port at this given time or how many people are on this bridge. We then decide on a way to collect this data, such as via drones, humans, planes or a variety of different things. This process of allocation and the planning of the logistics behind it were traditionally done by hand. It is a very laborious process and I'm working on a tool that allows you to automate that. It lets you feed in all of the requirements that you need to gather and all the assets that you have available and it plans an optimal allocation of when and which asset is supposed to do what.
What are some of the biggest changes you've noticed between being a student and being a working professional?
My sleep schedule is much better now! One of the biggest changes for me is the level of independence that you are granted. At university, I was used to a curriculum, but in my internship, I have the freedom to work on projects that are interesting to me. While at university, I worked as a research assistant. I have found that the skills that I discovered in that role, such as time management and organization, have really helped me transition smoothly into my internship.
As far as the coding side goes, in university, I was taught the general concepts, which I use, but the exact languages and technologies that I'm using now, I had never used before. I learned all of that while working here and in my spare time.
What advice would you give to students/interns or young professionals like yourself?
Make sure you network and know how to find information for yourself. Also, find something that you're interested in. There are lots of opportunities for us out there but they're often hidden so don't be afraid to search or learn by yourself. For a lot of positions in the software development industry, the most convincing argument you can give a recruiter or hiring committee to hire you is to show examples of similar work you have done in the past that align with the job.
What do you enjoy most about working at the Agency?
I enjoy having a certain problem, given to me by my supervisor, which I need to solve. I enjoy the process of figuring out how to solve that problem by myself and the skills that I gain while going through that process.
I love programing and coding, which is 90% of what I have to do. I program at home in my spare time so at work, I feel like I'm really at home in that aspect. The specific frameworks I'm acquiring knowledge of here allow me to build and create cool things in and out of my role. Things like making handy websites, building small apps on my computer that can automate basic tasks.
What is the most important thing you've learned in your time at the Agency?
The most valuable thing that I will take away from this role is that I can learn anything I want to. I've learned to trust in my abilities and it has done wonders for my self-confidence and motivation. I know I can build something I'm proud of. Whenever I have questions, I turn to the senior staff who are very nice and very good at explaining what I have to do. They'll set aside time and go over things with me which I'm grateful for! What I'm learning is so versatile, both in the work and the process of doing the work, and it's also applicable in a variety of fields – which is what you want in an internship!