Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe
SHAPE Internship Program 2020-2021
Being an Intern in times of COVID
Who would have thought that technology would have become the salvation of mankind during a pandemic?
Focus always determines realities; this phrase has always accompanied me in pursuing my goals. I am Klea, I am a Master student at University of Bremen studying Communication and Information Technologies. This year one of my dreams come true when I got accepted at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe.
I joined SHAPE as an intern in January 2020. Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) is the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Allied Command Operations (ACO). Since 1967 it has been located at Casteau, north of the Belgian city of Mons. An internship at SHAPE means working in an internationally composed senior military headquarters.
SHAPE is the strategic level command responsible for the planning, preparation, conduct and execution of NATO operations, missions, activities, and tasks as directed by Council to achieve the strategic objectives of the Alliance.
The new Interns are assigned to a division and to a specific project. During my internship I was working as a Data Analyst of ACO intelligence. I take pride in the fact that I was accepted as an intern, and treated as a full member of the team and as such gave me the opportunity to do substance work similar to that of staff officers or NATO civilians.
First days are always filled with something in between fear and enthusiasm, the need to explore more but in the same time the need to study as much as possible to achieve a great performance at work. On January I move to Mons a small city in Belgium, it gives you slightly the impression you travelled back in time. A cosiness especially for coffee lovers.
Though a small city with only 100,000 inhabitants, Mons is a fascinating place to visit, full of art, architecture, and history – with a side reputation as the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Belgium thanks to the nearby Google headquarters.
First days are always overwhelming, I remember I was sitting at the conference room, thinking how this dream come true and that now I am one step closer to fulfilling my dreams, to work for NATO. And as they say you grow with your dreams close to your heart. I had the opportunity to meet many talented interns from all over the world.
I started working at Allied Command Operations Intelligence Architecture Systems J2 6 Division. J2 Division provides comprehensive cross spectrum advice to the Command Group and Allied Command Operations. And J26 develops policy and guidance for the fielding, training, and operations of ACO intelligence Systems. As an intern I was provided with familiarization training using NATO tools and systems relevant to my job. The project about ACO Intelligence Database supports the mission of the Intelligence Projects Integrated Working Groups (IPIWG) Metadata Group of Experts by enabling accuracy of data, searchability and discoverability for the NATO ACO Intelligence Community. I got familiarized with the available NATO Intelligence Systems, Working with this project was a challenge, but I also gained valuable knowledge from my master program in Bremen and from my previous work experience at BIBA Bremen, that made my work more easy and helped me on having better performance on the tasks that were given to me.
I was introduced with two main Systems of NATO intelligence Systems INTEL-Fs and AOSS.
I had my first training for AOSS at NCIA in Mons, NATO Communications, and Information Agency, which is NATO’s technology and cyber hub. A great team that supported me so much during this journey, and then I got my second training on Intelligence Functional Services.
I supported the management of information and data management specially on metadata maintenance, data import and export. Also contributed to the improvement in information systems, data management, practices and procedures, organization, and equipment.
I found such a comfortable working environment that helped me grow so much professionally and amazing colleagues that supported me so much. My supervisor guided me through my whole journey and sometimes you realize that we should never stop being grateful for the big things, small things and everything in between.
But this internship was not like all the internship, this was an internship during a pandemic. Covid has changed our life. There was no trace of the dynamic life we were used to. The silence of it covered the world.
The quarantine was not easy, not easy for me, not easy for you, not easy for us, not easy for them. Going through Covid myself and at the same time being far from the family, was one of the most difficult things but there is always hope for the better times that will come, the times when the sun will rise.
During Covid we couldn’t change to teleworking for the reason of working under levels of security classification. We worked on shift, I considered this as an opportunity to dive more on work and to improve my skills. We all adapt, and that’s a normal human behaviour.
I joined the ERASMUS Network in the International Internship program, in endeavouring my goal on completing this internship not only as a gold opportunity to enhance my career, but also on breaking the comfort zone and immersing in a new culture and place. I would like to define it as a lifelong learning program, which besides the support is an inspiration for climbing the stairs of success and for a network that stays always with you.