Megan Slinkard, Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), International Data Center
“Americans Voices at Vienna-based International Organizations” Post #4 Monday, 5th June 2023
Our fourth and final spotlight is on Megan Slinkard. Originally from California, USA, Megan entered the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBTO) through her hard work and long experience working at National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). She currently works as Chief of Software Applications in the International Data Centre at the CTBTO.
1. Where do you work and what’s your role?
I work as an international civil servant at the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) as Chief of Software Applications, in the International Data Centre. CTBTO is a treaty with a verification regime. The CTBT bans nuclear explosions by everyone, everywhere: above ground, under water, and underground. To confirm that no one is testing nuclear weapons, we have the verification regime. The International Monitoring System runs a network of sensors located around the world, monitoring using 4 technologies: seismic, infrasound (very low frequency sound waves), hydroacoustic, and radionuclide. This data is then processed by the International Data Centre, and the data and data products are distributed to the state signatories. This is where I work, and my team develops the software and scientific algorithms used to process the data and describe what we can observe about any events of interest. Once the treaty goes into effect, there will also be the possibility of On-Site Inspections, to collect evidence on the ground if there is reason to suspect a nuclear test was conducted.
2. What encouraged you to apply for this position?
I had been working in the field of nuclear explosion monitoring for 10+ years, first as a researcher, then as a technical advisor at National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), and frequently travelled to Vienna for meetings held at CTBTO. I had been interested in working here for many years and was delighted when some CTBTO staff members pulled me aside at a meeting to let me know this position had just been advertised and encouraged me to apply.
3. What are your favorite things about working for an international organization?
I love getting to work on such an important mission, which can only be accomplished through a whole lot of international collaboration. I also really enjoy my colleagues and getting to work with these fantastic people from all over the world.
4. What is it like to be an American working at your VBIO?
For many years I worked on doing, or coordinating, research and software that the US shared with the CTBTO. It’s fun now to be on the side of CTBTO and get to receive the research and software contributions from the USA and other state signatories and integrate them into our work. Thanks to this kind of support, we can do great things even as a small team! The USA is a huge supporter of CTBTO and has a large team of experts who regularly engage on CTBTO activities.
5. What is the best part of living in Vienna/Austria?
There are so many wonderful things it’s hard to know where to start. I love all the green spaces and accessible hiking, the bike paths, the amazing public transportation, the vibrant dance community, and last but not least, the gelato! I had always been drawn to Vienna because of its strong presence in classical music history, but, it turns out that it’s also a really fantastic modern city that is often mentioned as a good example in books about city planning.
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 grew up mostly in California, but also spent 5 years in Italy as a child. I think living abroad as a kid really influenced my worldview and I was always curious about what life was like elsewhere. My 6th grade teacher had us memorize all the countries and capitals in the world, and I think that had a huge influence on me, as well – you notice news and retain information much more when you already know where a place is on the map! My parents encouraged all of us kids to study abroad, and I ended up going to Germany to do an internship doing hearing aid design (and live in the land of so many great musicians). I’m very grateful now to 20-year-old me for all the time I spent studying German! I think because of these experiences, the idea of working abroad always seemed appealing and like a fun adventure.
7. Do you have any tips for people considering a career at an international organization?
Work on your communication skills! You not only will work with people who come from a variety of language backgrounds, but you also are dealing with people who come from science, software, procurement, legal, and diplomacy backgrounds, each with their own ways of thinking and communicating. It’s really important to be able to communicate clearly and concisely and be able to adapt your communication style to the situation.
Don’t forget that the international organizations need lot of technical people – scientists, software developers, database admins, etc.
This concludes are #MondayMotivation post series, where we put the spotlight on American’s pursuing careers in international public service at different international organizations based here in Vienna.
We hope you enjoyed the American Voices at Vienna Based Organizations Campaign Series, and we are looking forward to highlighting more individuals in the months and years ahead!