Master of Science in Geopolitics and International Relations, Academy of Economic Studies, Bucharest, Romania

Bachelor of Science in Economics, Academy of Economic Studies, Bucharest, Romania


Romanian, English, French

My notebook is full of words to remember for life. One of my favorite quotations is, “Ad augusta per angusta,” which is Latin for “Toward high peaks through difficult paths.” In other words, challenges are an inescapable part of life. By overcoming obstacles, we receive gratification. My work for the United Nations as Chief Security Officer for the Special Envoy for Syria allows me to live by these words daily.

United Nations applicants should remember that everything comes at a cost. We must take into account not only ourselves, but how what we do affects the organization and other people who put their lives at risk.  Staff need to be prepared for difficult living conditions in some of our duty stations. This may entail observing a strict curfew or travelling in an armoured car. At certain locations, I do not permit staff to leave the compound by foot or in a soft-skinned vehicle. This is because I am responsible for my colleagues’ safety. Most of the locations I have served at are non-family duty stations - places like Somalia, Iraq, or Syria - where I cannot take my wife or children. For me, this is part of working in demanding environments. Work-life balance is paramount; I do my job as best I can, and I also make sure I am there for my family.

Security relies on communication, trust, and preparation - 99% of security is planning for that 1% when you need to use it. This is a lesson I’ve learned as a soldier in Romania; a peacekeeper in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Democratic Republic of Congo; and later, a security officer for the United Nations. Part of my job is to arrive on location, assess the risks, and implement methods of addressing them. I answer for the safety and security of United Nations staff working with my agency in Syria. However, for every location, security issues are different; the UN’s Security Management System, which I am part of, is designed to deal with these diverse issues.

Unfortunately, regardless of how much or how vigilantly you prepare, you can never fully mitigate risk or prevent loss. In the course of my career, there have been some life-threatening situations where I have been pushed to act. Helping others, not mourning, is the priority. After one such attack, a woman I worked with approached me. She was silent, shaken up by the events, but her eyes thanked me. Often, small gestures of appreciation weigh much more than an official reward; this is the type of gratification we, security officers, sometimes receive.

Living in a conflict zone, you have to accept that the real tragedy is often beyond your line of sight. It is there and it is real. On bad days, you can hear mortars falling across the city and witness the undeniable proof of heart-wrenching life experiences of people who face violence in their daily lives.

I may not remember the details of each country I have travelled to - the buildings we were in, the tables we sat behind - but I remember the people. In all the places I worked, I have met beautiful people, witnessed resilience and strength in the face of hardship. I continue to learn from the people whose paths cross mine.

Another quotation I have in my notebook is by Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King said that “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” I believe stepping outside the comfort zone gives the greatest reward.

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