From MAIS to Thinking About the Global Future

DA alumnus Roger Hilton on his career since graduating from MAIS 19 in 2016

Roger HiltonDA: You work for GLOBSEC as the host of their bi-weekly show on global affairs and its impact on Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). What exactly are your responsibilities on the job and how did you end up with a show?
Roger Hilton: The current international and security system is complicated and undergoing constant change. Given the global uncertainty, it’s important to try and inform people to what is occurring. The GLOBSEC Wire is a great media platform to do just that where we pack in a lot of facts and visuals in a short sequence.
In preparation for each episode, our Comms team and I sit down and scan current events. We decide on the issue most pressing for CEE and when appropriate connect it with many of our various research initiatives. After identifying the topic, I draft the script as well as the corresponding b-roll footage that will be featured in the background. Although I am getting faster at it, creating content from scratch is an arduous process.
Once the script is confirmed we head down to our state-of-the-art GLOBSEC studio. Being able to use a large-scale video screen really allows the Wire to tell more of the story as my words are matched with action visuals. Just like Hollywood when we film the segment there are multiple takes and of course bloopers. I am lucky to work with such a great team and learn new Slovak words as we film. In moments of frustration, I pretend to storm off to my trailer, keeping it light on set is key to make sure everyone performs.
Once we have hit the mark on the filming, the final stage is post-production where our chief video editor makes the last touches to the video while the rest of the team works on the comms strategy. Social media is ultra-competitive so getting snappy comments and engaging the right stakeholders is equally important as the video itself to make sure it reaches as many people as possible.
I didn’t expect to start working in media but after doing a few recap videos at the 2021 Bratislava Forum, our Comms team and I started exploring the idea of creating a current affairs show. I strongly believe that amidst the massive amount of media noise, and threat of disinformation, providing a fresh product that showcases international affairs in an attractive format is critical to help people understand what is transpiring around the world to help them form their own opinion. While I come with more of a content and policy background, I have loved every second of this new media experience on the GLOBSEC Wire and am always looking to improve my performance.

How did your career path look like so far?
Ending up across the border in Slovakia at GLOBSEC took a lot of hard work and perseverance. I knew when I graduated from the DA, I wanted to remain in the transatlantic security domain which is a bit tough in Austria as they are not NATO members. Consequently, to get my career going I started doing a lot of smaller positions to gain experience and raise my professional credentials. One of my first jobs was working as a non-resident research fellow for the Institute for Security Policy at Kiel University focusing on maritime security. Not only did I learn so much about the international maritime domain, but I got to explore northern Germany which was fantastic. After Kiel, I was privileged to work at the NATO Rapid Deployable Corps – Greece (NRDC – GR) and participate in Exercise Trident Jaguar 2018, a large-scale multinational tabletop simulation. I had never been to Greece before moving to Thessaloniki, so outside of work I used every opportunity to learn about the city’s history, larger Balkan region, and travel. The city is really a gem and I would encourage everyone to visit. During both postings, I kept a research fellowship at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute to publish on the nexus between transatlantic security and Canadian policy.
It is funny how things work out. I attended the 2018 Bratislava Forum on behalf of the NRDC – GR and stayed in touch with the staff. When I moved back to Vienna from Thessaloniki, they asked if I would be interested in coming for an interview and working for them. The rest is history. It has been almost three years at GLOBSEC, but still today I think it is so cool that I commute from the former imperial capital Vienna to Bratislava to work on major NATO projects for CEE. I get the best of both worlds, although COVID has made the journey much more annoying.

Have you always been interested in global affairs and its impact on Central and Eastern Europe or has this interest developed over time?
One of my earliest childhood memories was about the first Gulf War so I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t fascinated about global affairs. For me global affairs isn’t just capitals and diplomacy, but its language, gastronomy, literature, and culture.
When I moved to Austria, I was coming from Quebec, a French speaking province in Canada, and was much more interested in France than CEE. Suffice to say, as I got more comfortable in Vienna, I caught the CEE bug and began to really dive into the region. It doesn’t get better than Vienna when undertaking such an exploratory experiment as so many legendary cities are within short distance. Gradually I began to connect the global trends of the day and see their impact on CEE. The region itself, like the V4 for example, shares many similarities but also differences which means that the result of one event will not be uniform across the region. I love this contradiction which makes the research and policy part so interesting. In 2019 I worked on the GLOBSEC Democracy Declaration that celebrated 30 years of democracy in the region. Ambassador Brix gave a memorable video testimonial on his experience and to this date I consider it one of the most special projects I have worked on in Bratislava.
Looking to the future, the region will continue to play a major role in Europe, transatlantic security, and more recently climate security that will keep it relevant for some time to come. I visited almost every country in the region, except for Belarus, but I know I still have a lot more to learn and hope to repay the citizens of the region for all the magnificent memories I have made so far.

How has the DA helped you develop your career?
Attending the DA was truly a transformational personal and professional experience and is based on two parts. One part is being able to learn in a city like Vienna and take in all the history while making use of all the diplomatic offerings at Embassies and international organisations to gain practical experience. The other part is theoretical and sharpening your intellect through the interdisciplinary curriculum and lectures with the outstanding professors. Combined, these elements allow students to leave after two years as critical thinkers who are confident and resourceful.

Is there a specific skill set taught at the DA that is particularly useful for your current job?
When you are dealing with organizations like NATO or the EU, and other stakeholders around the world, being able to carry oneself in a multicultural atmosphere is critical and an asset. The world has never been so connected so it is not unusual in my line of work to interact with a host of culturally diverse stakeholders. One call is with someone from Italy, the next is from Japan.
I can say with confidence that I really honed this skill of interacting with multicultural teams and audiences at the DA. From the first day of registration to exams to graduation, being able to engage with so many different students of diverse backgrounds really prepared me for my work now. Add in all the travel we did at the DA, and I believe it is a formula for success in this globalized world. Being able to interact and learn from so many different students isn’t just important for work but it makes you a better person.

Where do you think the future will take you?
For the moment I am really enjoying this media project that brings policy and current events to life. Over time, it would be my dream for the GLOBSEC Wire to emerge as one of the pre-eminent current events shows that features senior level diplomats, titans of industry, and national leaders to discuss the most pressing topics for CEE and beyond. The show is still young, but I think there is a space for it grow and establish a regular following. All I can say is that while the work is heavy, the juice is worth the squeeze.

[November 2021]