ACT students share their experiences as NATO Innovation Hub Fellows

ACT students share their experiences as NATO Innovation Hub Fellows

Starting January 2021, ACT - the American College of Thessaloniki and NATO’s Allied Command Transformation Innovation Hub (NATO IH) based in Norfolk, Virginia (USA) launched a partnership involving internship positions for ACT students at the Innovation Hub. NATO’s Innovation Hub is an open collaboration community of people and entities developing innovative ideas and solutions to the challenges NATO faces. The developers’ community includes academia, industry, and innovators from the public while, in addition to the developers, the community includes end-users and capability designers, all working towards innovative solutions to operational needs.

Up to this time, two cohorts of ACT interns at the NATO Innovation Hub have completed their projects. The third cohort, the largest so far, is composed of 14 ACT students.  

Two ACT students, one from the first and one from the second cohort, continue these days their collaboration with the NATO IH, not anymore as Interns but as Fellows. These are Katya Vasileva and Ioannis Kiakos. ACT alumna Karina Iskandarova is also working as a Communications Consultant and Fellow at the Hub. The two current ACT students and NATO Fellows share with us the aspects of this one-of-a-kind opportunity.

What do you think your internship at NATO IH has offered to you?

Ioannis Kiakos: The NATO internship has given me the chance to broaden my network, which is extremely important nowadays. It helped me understand how an Innovation Hub works, what are its needs. Personally, I developed my project management skills, while I also learned some tech skills. During my internship, I had a great supervisor which was guiding my team towards the end goal always having in mind the requirements of the product. He helped me develop a more business-oriented mindset. In addition, the hub gave me the chance to help with the organization of an online conference. The internship also offered me the chance to work on a real-life project which was simple to build but innovative; this made me pretty much understand what open innovation means.

Katya Vasileva: It has offered me a colossal, valuable experience of working in the team, facing certain issues during the working process, and dealing with them on our own. My internship at NATO offered me the experience of something new and undiscovered. At times it can be a challenge, but in the end, such experiences always contribute to our self-growth and development and that is exactly what I am grateful for!

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What are the specific tasks of your current position at the NATO IH?

Katya Vasileva: After my internship ended, I was offered a Fellow position at NATO, which was a huge honor for me. Currently, I am a project manager, dealing with all the activities connected with the ACT interns’ assimilation into the work process and trying to increase quality, performance, and satisfaction in their current position. Moreover, all of the newcomers will be soon assigned their projects and roles, where I will be leading some of the teams throughout their internship process and assisting the management development. 

Ioannis Kiakos: At the end of the internship, my supervisor approached me and asked if I would like to continue in the Hub as a Fellow. We mutually decided that I will work as a project manager in a CS project with a team of interns from my College. So, I now work with two students from ACT on a game development project. Along with my supervisor, I also helped a team that won a NATO hackathon to establish a new NGO that would help Afghans that NATO placed in Europe; the NGO is called Allied Volunteers. Finally, I also was backstage at the NATO innovation network online conference this month and I was ready to assist those who would face technical problems.

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