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Mar 5 2021

Meet Theodora Pascu, a Systems Administrator at the NCI Agency


Theodora Pascu works for the NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency in Uedem, Germany.


Pascu's work supports NATO's air policing mission, a defensive mission that is in place to react whenever necessary to airspace violations. NATO's Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) in Uedem, Germany, monitors airspace violations in NATO's northern European airspace.

Meet Theodora Pascu, a Systems Administrator at the NCI Agency

As a member of the Agency's Communications and Information Systems Support Unit (CSU) in Uedem, Pascu works directly with the CAOC.

"My job is part of ensuring that the CAOC's mission is successful. That means assuring secure and seamless end-to-end communications, 24/7," Pascu said.

The CSU offers support for a wide variety of radio, voice and data systems, which are used by NATO military and civilian personnel stationed in Uedem.

Pascu came to the Agency after working for the Romanian Ministry of Defence, and earning a master's degree in networks and IT infrastructure.

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

What do you do?

I'm a system administrator for air command and control products. My main task is to deliver technical support to the CAOC so it has an overview of the airspace at all times.

I work on systems that deal with creating, distributing and displaying the Recognized Air Picture. This "picture" is more or less the collection of all the aircraft in flight and all their relevant details: speed, altitude, NATO identification, etc. in a specific area.

I also keep myself up to speed on the latest developments in my area of expertise. Whenever possible, I integrate new tools with our pre-existing ones to automate some of my daily tasks, and increase the visibility and reliability of these systems. New tools are helping me react more quickly to support the operational community. Fast reaction is vital because planes travel large distances in a short amount of time.

Why is your work important for NATO?

IT support is essential for any type of business nowadays, but what stands out in this job is that it has such a great impact. We directly support NATO's air policing mission. It's a collective task - fighter aircrafts and crews have to be ready at all times to react quickly to any type of airspace violation. The CAOC decides which interceptor should take over based on the location of the airspace incident. As the CSU, we offer support for a wide variety of tools that have to be highly available and reliable. These tools must be properly configured so the operational community can quickly analyze the situation and make decisions. At the same time, they must be secure end-to-end, so from the operational community on base, up to the pilot in the skies.

How did you become interested in technology?

I just loved math, it was my favorite subject in school. I preferred it to all of the other subjects. I think it was because it had a clear meaning: find a solution to the problem. It also had these patterns, and I was always fast to see these correlations or differences between things. That made me like it and brought me joy, because I was good at something. And I think it's the common denominator to all of my decisions after, the path I chose for my development.

At university, I chose to go towards networking and IT infrastructure, as opposed to coding or programming, which is the other big path that IT enthusiasts take. I think it was mainly because I was fascinated by electrical signals, which are more or less a representation of a mathematical function. So it was comfortable for me. Because I knew math, then I was good at signals.

Nowadays, I'm more interested in automating things, like automating some of the tasks I do daily – I try to make it easier. So I do enjoy a little bit of coding as well. That's not to say that once you choose a path, you're going to stay with that forever in IT. There's plenty to choose from and there's so much cross-training you can do.

How do you choose to challenge gender biases and inequalities around you?

I speak up and I take each opportunity that I have to bring the unconscious to the conscious mind. I think most of the time we are not aware we have this bias toward gender, or any other type of bias. So I try to make people aware of it.

As a woman working in predominantly-male industries, both IT and military, I've had my share of gender bias and inequity I had to deal with. I would just give a very simple example: in my field of work, I often saw that the customer feels more comfortable approaching my male teammates. While I can empathize with their initial choice, it does bother me, so I try to counteract it. What worked for me was anticipating the customer's needs and consistently providing detailed resolutions and feedback. It's also important to advertise for yourself and ask your teammates to help with this. My teammates were very supportive as well, and it helped a lot that they were putting myself and my work forward. We all have to continuously prove ourselves at work, but we should be given the same initial trust and opportunity to prove that we know our job.

It's important that every now and then we stop, acknowledge our unconscious biases and try to change our approach for the better.


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