My story – Lucia Kleštincová

My journey from the heart of Europe to its capital

I am a Brussels-based EU official. I love to push my limits, your interest in Europe and our institutional culture 🙂 I have shifted from passion for e-government technology to the “technology” of human transformation through a new leadership paradigm. I hope that reading my story will shed more light on what kind of people are building the EU for you and also to awaken your engagement in the debate about Europe. Because engagement of all of us is what ultimately shapes what kind of Europe we will build for the next generation.

Born in post-communist Czechoslovakia, I was growing up together with the democracy around me – in a society marked by decades of absence of free expression, any kind of values-based leadership and respect for fundamental freedoms. My childhood was also defined by experiences that appeared normal only for those who grew up east of the Iron Curtain – how special it feels to have pineapples on the Christmas table or to have access to H&M products imported from Austria. While spending my free time in gymnastics trainings and gardening with my grandparents, I also became conscious of the importance of civil society in the early childhood of the Slovak democracy.

Integration was THE cool subject back then in the 90s. And so I chose to study international relations and European affairs as my first Master’s degree. I guess I was involved in all kinds of extra-curricular activities, feeling an insatiable urge to get more exposure to outside reality. In those times it meant dozens of unpaid internships for example in our national parliament, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or at our embassy in London. I also squeezed in several foreign trips that taught me to manage multiple part-time jobs (work & travel in the USA), operate effectively in multicultural teams (Erasmus in Belgium) or manoeuvre in the world of European grant schemes (four-month placement in Spain).

My first real job was almost like a real-life MBA – in a boutique consultancy providing market-entry advisory to companies wishing to enter then still-boosting Central European Markets.

Having experienced the challenges of start-up entrepreneurs and also those of big public sector organisations, I got even more committed to a career that is on the intersection of these two worlds. In 2009 I was accepted to study at the London School of Economics. Their newly launched MSc Public Management and Governance was tailor-made for people like me – dreaming of shaping the policy decisions of their governments one day. That year was one of the most intense experiences in my life. From fundraising for cover tuition fees and quick acquisition of academic skills that I had not been taught in the Slovak education system, through standing up to the immense pressure of our professors visiting from Harvard, all the way to keeping up with the absolute commitment to excellence of all members of my study group.

It was a powerful springboard to many amazing experiences that followed. Upon graduation, I was headhunted to return to Slovakia and work for the CEO of one of the technology companies developing e-government solutions. I became a 3-in-1 advisor – contributing to the core e-government business as a business analyst, leading on new business special operations as well as managing their corporate social responsibility projects. I became the voice of Slovak employers in driving the debate about linking education and labour markets and the need to monitor graduates’ employability. I love looking back to that period when I contributed to a true shift in public debate about these issues and in the young students’ career choices.

Somewhere between designing a smartphone-enabled authentication solution for electronic elections and campaigning for improving the position for our teachers during one of their biggest strikes ever in 2013, I received another one of what some people like calling a once-in-a-lifetime offer. After a two-years long lasting selection process, a dream of my life came true and I received an offer to work for the European Commission in Brussels.

Let me give you a couple of examples of the roles in which I have served so far:

  1. My first job was in the tourism policy unit – a beautiful cross-cutting sector which enabled me to apply my expertise in education and digitalisation policies. I was supporting EU’s small businesses with the right skills, tools and funding to face the digital revolution, rise of online platforms and sharing economy.
  2. Then I moved to an area where the regulatory competence is exclusively kept at the EU level: public procurement. I contributed to development of cross-border e-procurement solutions but also to assisting Slovakia and Czech Republic in reforming their national procurement systems.
  3. For many of us Slovak EU geeks, 2016 will remain forever the year of the first Slovak presidency in the Council of the EU. It was an unforgettable experience – helping colleagues at the Slovak Permanent Representation in Brussels with advancement of files related to e-government and e-procurement through the EU’s legislative process.
  4. For the last two years I’ve been working as a policy assistant of one of the European Commission’s directors responsible for competitiveness of the EU’s industry. As you can imagine, it’s not the easiest job in the face of volatile global competition, technological progress and unpredictable decisions of global leaders. Most of my time has been dedicated to coordinating our preparations for Brexit.

When out of office, I live one of my other passions – standing for transformation through feminine leadership and millenial-friendly institutional reform. I run various networks to support their self-expression in political and policy world, and to modernise Commission’s working methods. For me, these are the tools that can contribute to equal growth opportunities for all and increasing the consciousness of our society.


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