Alexander Solodov, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Department of Safeguards
“Americans Voices at Vienna-based International Organizations” Post #3 Monday, 17th April 2023
Our third spotlight is on Alexander Solodov. A naturalized American who originally came to the U.S. to study at Texas A&M University, Alexander now serves as a Senior Systems Project Engineer at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an autonomous international organization within the United Nations system that works to promote safe, secure, and peaceful uses of nuclear technology globally.
1. Where do you work and what’s your role?
I work in a Technology Engineering and Foresight Team within the Department of Safeguards, IAEA. The main responsibility of my team is managing large projects, such as installation of a variety of complex safeguards instruments at new nuclear facilities around the world, and creating a unified system out of those instruments that is optimized to achieve safeguards objectives for the facility. The majority of the projects focus on facilities that are under construction and will be subject to international nuclear safeguards once they are commissioned.
My role as a Senior Systems Project Engineer is to manage several major projects in different countries. In this capacity I work with a variety of IAEA internal and external stakeholders coordinating production and installation processes for safeguards systems. I work with IAEA Safeguards Inspectors and all technical teams such as Unattended Monitoring Systems, Surveillance, Seals and Containment, etc. We create a system of safeguards instruments and tools, to achieve specific safeguards objectives in complex nuclear facilities.
2. What encouraged you to apply for this position?
I was interested in working at the IAEA for many years and explored multiple opportunities. This particular position is very appealing to me because it focuses on facility-level safeguards implementation and the work touches on different aspects of safeguards, both technical and policy. It’s an amazing opportunity to better understand and learn the system of international safeguards as well as to make a contribution to some exciting and complex projects.
3. What are your favorite things about working for an international organization?
There are many aspects of working for an international organization that I really enjoy. Perhaps, my favorite is working in a very multicultural and multilingual environment. On a daily basis I hear English, Italian, French, German, Russian and many other languages.
The other one is working with some of the smartest and most experienced people from all over the world. IAEA has the highest concentration of knowledge and experience of nuclear fuel cycle facilities and implementation of safeguards. Every working day is a great learning experience, from both colleagues and from representatives of IAEA Member States.
4. What is the best part of living in Vienna/Austria?
Vienna is an amazing city right in the center of Europe, so there are a lot of exciting destinations around it within a few hours of traveling by train or by car. Vienna is also very family friendly and it has a lot to offer for both kids and adults. Since I have small kids, all the amazing activities for kids that are everywhere are currently the best part of living in Vienna for me.
5. What’s it like living outside of the United States?
So far in my lifetime, I have been very lucky to have a chance to live in several countries, and Austria is now the fourth country where I am residing for an extended period of time. Living in a large European city is very different from the places I lived in the US. Here the public transport is very well developed and organized, so you don’t need to have a car to get around. Although you can get by with English, it is better to learn the German language for a better quality of life.
6. Where in the U.S. are you from? How has your upbringing influenced your decision to pursue a career at an international organization?
I am a naturalized American, so it is hard to say where exactly in the US I’m from. I can say that I am from Texas, because that’s where my life in the US started, when I came there to study at Texas A&M University. I grew up in Soviet Union, and then Russia. At that time foreign countries and people seemed to be so far away and out of reach, and having that feeling really created this desire in me to explore the world and meet people and learn about different cultures around the world. So now, I really enjoy being in a multicultural environment, working at the IAEA and living in Vienna is a perfect place to have that experience.
7. Do you have any tips for people considering a career at an international organization?
Be persistent, usually it takes several attempts to get a position at an international organization, such as the IAEA. If you are not successful the first time, don’t be discouraged by it. And, of course, trying to gain relevant experience and knowledge is extremely helpful in both the application process and working here.
In the weeks ahead tune in for our fourth #MondayMotivation post, where we will spotlight another American pursuing a career in international public service at a different international organization based here in Vienna.