The flags of the 29 member states fly in front of the NATO headquarters in Brussels. The organization’s premises alone are quite spectacular – even when you enter them on daily basis, says Nicolas Scholz. The ISM graduate spent six months working as a trainee for NATO and has told us all about his experiences there.
Nicolas, how did the traineeship at NATO come about?
While at ISM Frankfurt I started exploring energy security issues and also wrote my Bachelor’s thesis on China’s oil supply security. In NATO’s Energy Security Section, I wanted to continue working, for instance, on how exactly economics, politics and climate interact and how to ensure supply security for Western democracies. But things turned out quite differently.
After being selected, the security vetting process lasted almost two years. By the end of this period, not only had my own interests shifted but also the organization’s central priorities. That’s why I had less to do with energy security and more to do with the challenges of hybrid warfare such as industrial espionage, disinformation and propaganda during my traineeship.
What made working at NATO so special?
This might sound somewhat dramatic, but, and especially in times of global political, social and economic uncertainty, I believe we need to reaffirm our values and take responsibility for them. Obviously, it’s impossible to please everyone all of the time. But responsibility is also characterized by the courage to move forward and to consciously accept the risk of making a wrong decision. During my traineeship, I met many men and women who are prepared to take responsibility on both a small and large scale. This impressed me enormously.
On a personal level, what challenges did you have to overcome?
Even when member states pledge, in principle, their commitment to common values and objectives upon accession, their interests may differ in specific cases. I personally had to face this challenge when organizing a committee meeting on the economic policy of a particular country. Establishing an inter-departmental consensus on a difficult issue while taking into account the interests of the member states requires strong communication and negotiation skills, organizational talent and sound diplomatic judgement.
Which parts of your course have helped you so far?
I still benefit to this day from the skills and knowledge I acquired in project management, economics and public relations while studying at ISM. Further, the experience gained from time spent abroad in Hong Kong, Boston and Shanghai has prepared me well for a career in an international environment.
What is your favorite memory of your time at ISM?
I have very fond memories of a performance of the Christmas Story at the Bärenherz Hospice, which my fellow students and I organized. At the same time, I was able to make some really good friends at ISM. I’m also grateful to the university lecturers and staff for their valuable feedback and generous support, even long after graduating.
And what does the future hold for you?
My time at NATO was enormously enriching for both my professional and personal development. Today, more than ever, I’m convinced that a commitment to freedom unites people across all geographical, ethnic, cultural and confessional frontiers. That’s why I’d like to become more socially involved again in the future, preferably here in Germany.
Interview: Laura Krause