As the 10th anniversary of the NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCI Agency) approaches, Tiziana Pezzi is looking back at her time at the Agency and at NATO.
"These are not just projects, technical and contractual and so on, this is really to defend our countries," Pezzi said in a recent interview. "This is what continues to drive me in my job: the final goal, the mission."
Based in NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Pezzi is an Italian national who started working for NATO in 2000 at the NATO Consultation, Command and Control Agency (NC3A), a predecessor of the NCI Agency. Pezzi initially worked on projects in the Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance portfolio, and today works on projects for Network Services and IT Infrastructure. With more than 20 years of experience in acquisition for NATO, Pezzi now is in charge of a large team of contracting officers supporting the Network Services and IT Infrastructure (NSII) team. As the team lead, she focuses much of her time on supervising and guiding these experts and mentoring young professionals in her team.
"In acquisition, you have to work very closely with other functions, with the business areas, with Finance, with the Chief Operating Office. If you want to do your job well, you have to really be able to understand what the other functions are doing, what is their role," Pezzi said. "By putting yourself into their world, you can work as a team in a coordinated way."
In celebration of the Agency's anniversary, we spoke with Pezzi to learn more about her impressive career, and where the Agency should focus its efforts in the next decade.
What are your most memorable moments with the Agency?
There are many actually, because our job is so interesting, but the radar projects, the air defence projects for the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Lithuania are probably the ones that have marked me the most. I dealt with them for more than 10 years and during this period, I was part of a team that was very independent and empowered.
We visited the sites and met the relevant stakeholders there. These visits gave us a better understanding of the importance of the role of the Agency in implementing this project. It helped us really delve into our mission. We could really feel that we were supporting the defence of these countries.
Another memorable moment for me was the negotiation and final signature ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding with four NATO Member Countries for the provision of NATO's satellite communications capability. This 1 billion EUR project is providing services to NATO for 15 years.
These, I have to say, were the most memorable moments. But then of course it's full of memorable moments because every time you deal with a project, you deal with people and with challenging situations that force you to think out of the box. And it's always a challenge that makes your life more interesting, your job more interesting.
I also have to make sure that everything is done in a correct way, according to the rules and taking into account any lessons learned. And this is important because our job is very dynamic. You will never have a contract exactly like another one, especially with these kinds of projects. You have to cope with many different situations.
Can you explain your role in the project to deliver the satellite communications (SATCOM) Memorandum of Understanding?
This one was a unique project because instead of procuring SATCOM capability from industry, we are procuring SATCOM capability from governments, from four Nations. The MOU was not with one industry and not with one Nation, so the challenge was to make sure we could accommodate the specific needs of the Nations involved, while always keeping in mind the benefit for NATO. We had to build strong relationships with the national representatives based on cooperation and trust.
So we needed to develop a Memorandum of Understanding for this capability. It was quite peculiar having to negotiate with governments for something that was not a political agreement, but a service provision agreement with the contents of a contract. The Agency's Legal and Acquisition teams worked hand in hand to develop the negotiation of the Memorandum of Understanding.
We developed a flexible solution to ensure that NATO had this capability for the years to come.
What do you enjoy most about working at the Agency?
I really enjoy working in a multinational environment. I enjoy having this exchange of cultures, and ways of thinking, experiences – I think this is really enriching. Living in a country, studying in a country, working in a country, gives you a certain mindsets. And bringing together all of these mindsets is really enriching. It opens your brain and you can be receptive. You challenge yourself, you also challenge your own way of thinking.
What I like a lot also, apart from the feeling of being really useful for the Alliance, and for the defence of our countries, is the fact that we are very much involved in the implementation of these projects, in all aspects. We can learn a lot from the project management, and even technical point of view. It is important to enlarge your knowledge, as you need to understand what you are procuring and how the technical aspects could impact on the contractual side.
While I continue to manage our challenging portfolio, at my age, what I enjoy a lot is to mentor my team and young people in my team, just to guide them, work together with them. Because with many years of experience you have gone through many different situations and every time, the important thing is that you have to take lessons learned from these experiences. I would like to pass my knowledge and experience to the young people to help them grow.
I have many people being promoted to higher levels in my team, possibly in part due to mentoring, and I think the Agency has to focus more on mentoring. The duty of a manager, and the way they are evaluated, should also focus on the ability to mentor their teams. This is very important for the Agency and for keeping our excellence.