“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” 
― Sheryl Sandberg

BABE #36: NATASHA NIEMANN,<BR>Information Professional Officer @ U.S. Navy

Information Professional Officer @ U.S. Navy

I've known Natasha since the high school days and she has always been a ball of sunshine. Something that might not come through in the interview but that I think you should know is that she has more energy and spunk than most people I've come across. She's not afraid to raise her voice and stand up for herself and that is something I really admire. I am honored to know a lovely lady who is fighting for our country, staying strong through the curveballs life sends her, breaking gender stereotypes and kicking ass along the way. (Fun fact: my mom was a Navy Babe as well, so this interview was particularly exciting for me!)

The Basics:

Hometown: Born in Jakarta, Indonesia // Spent equal time in Bradenton, Florida
Current city: Naples, Italy (It still blows my mind telling people I live here!)
Alma mater: Auburn University - War Eagle!
Degree: B.S in Business Administration (Information Systems Management)
Hustle: Information Professional (IP) Officer @ United States Navy

The Interests:

Babe you admire and why?
Princess Diana (RIP). She had to face so much scrutiny with the Royal family, and struggled to maintain the "princess" role after her marriage. Before that, she was a teacher, struggled her way through college, and even worked as a cleaning woman. She was honest, open, and had her own demons as she battled depression and bulimia. Most importantly, she was just a very genuinely kind person (most notable for her humanitarian work), and she never let being a 'princess' stop her from doing what she loved. “I don't go by a rule book. I lead from the heart, not the head."

How do you spend your free time?
Travel, travel, travel! Living in Italy for the past 20 months (with 4 to go,) I try to take advantage of the fact that because I have a great job, I can afford to travel. Being engaged for the first year of living here, I felt pretty guilty for traveling without my (now) ex. So, I have to make up for lost time, and I'm not sure when I'll have an opportunity like this again! I try to travel 2-3 weekends per month, and I do so for my job as well. My apartment is essentially for laundry and suitcase storage. I also am learning to play the piano and love to read. (Currently obsessed with Aziz Ansari’s “Modern Romance.”)

What can we always find in your fridge?
Coconut water and butter. (Always find balance.)

Favorite social media account to follow?
Babes Who Hustle - Duh! ...annnnnd Zac Efron’s Instagram.

The Hustle:

Tell us about your hustle:
I am currently a Naval Communications Planner for Naval Forces Europe and Africa, which pretty much means I work on cyber and communication specifics for our exercises and plans. As an Information Professional Officer, my job is to plan, acquire, secure, operate and maintain the Naval network and the systems that support Navy operations, and lead and manage the work of our enlisted sailors who serve as specialists on all of our ships, bases and squadrons. Essentially, being an IP officer means that I make sure everything works. 

What does your typical workday look like?
I go into work pretty early, usually attending 3+ meetings a day. I never skip going to the gym at lunch, even if just for 30 minutes. As I work in a basement with no natural light, this really helps me decompress and breaks up the workday. About 2-3 times per quarter, our office essentially moves onto the admiral's flagship, USS Mount Whitney. There, we do naval exercises 7 days a week for about 12-18 hours per day. It can get super busy and very exhausting, but it's such a nice change of pace from my desk job. I am looking forward to my next tour and deployment with VAQ-135 (Electronic Attack EA-18G Squadron) in Washington State. That’s what I love about the Navy - every job you do is completely different.

What was the application/interview/boot camp process like for you?
I commissioned as a Naval Officer through the Naval Reserve Officer Training Program (NROTC) Scholarship from Auburn University after applying for full 4-year scholarships to any universities that had an NROTC program on campus. As the programs are incredibly selective, the applications were quite long - and Auburn specifically had a very competitive program. After I received my scholarship offer, I started at Auburn a few weeks early for Indoctrination (where they yelled at us and taught us how to wear a uniform, march, etc). Throughout my 4 years of undergrad, I had to do military training every summer whether on a ship, aviation squadron or submarine. Summers consisted of classes & NROTC training. Additionally, NROTC required 30 extra credit hours on top of my major, including Engineering, Physics and Calculus. #NotFun. After 4 years of running at 6a.m., wearing uniform 2 days per week and extra military commitments, I finally commissioned as an officer in the Navy on the day I graduated!

When did you become interested in joining the Military (and/or specifically the Navy?)
I initially wanted to be a pilot, but my parents always reminded me that they would not be assisting financially with undergrad, and being a pilot was an expensive path to take. In high school, I joined JROTC to learn more about the military, and that's where I fell in love with the structure and concept, and also learned that they would pay for school (and ultimately, that I could potentially become a pilot!) Being the #hustlinbabe I am, I wanted to be accepted by the hardest branch of the military (only about 300-400 high school students across the country get a scholarship,) in the most selective program (Naval Aviation), to fly the most competitive aircraft (jets). I did get accepted to flight school, but the Navy had an influx of aviators. With timing and God’s alternate plan for me, I actually re-designated as an Information Professional Officer and got stationed in Italy, where I became 1 of only 30 Ensign’s in my community of about 400 personnel. I felt so overwhelmed (and under-qualified, even though I have an MIS degree,) but I'm thankful for the opportunity to serve my country in a small and growing community with incredible officers and leaders. We have 3 admirals in my community, who happen to be all women!

What are some common misconceptions about your job?
When I tell people I'm an officer in the Navy, I get some very off-putting comments at times. “But you’re too pretty”, “Don’t you want a family one day? - are you going to deploy?” 

1.There is no definite look of an officer/military member. We are a diverse group of men and women. I work with some beautiful, smart, talented, hardworking ladies. Every single female I've met, whether enlisted or an officer, has been incredible. We all bring such a variety of perspectives and backgrounds to our work. We do incredible things. I think the gender gap of “she can’t do it, she's a girl” is slowly closing, but we do have a long way to go. 

2. I do want a family one day.
There are plenty of service women who juggle a career and a family! It’s hard - arguably harder than most careers, but definitely possible. Yes, I will deploy. Yes, I will be away from my family. But that is part of the deal, and I know what I signed up for. I am willing to risk my life and be away from my loved ones in order to protect this great nation!

How would you say that your gender and/or ethnicity effects your work?
Being a mixed Asian-American female definitely has it’s challenges. I've been told before that I've only gotten to where I am due to my 'minority' status - that's simply untrue. I am a hard worker, and I don’t stop. I am always seeking ways to better myself as an individual, professional and officer. I don’t let negative comments effect my work. I know what I bring to the table, and I expect my work and actions to speak to my credibility. 

What advice would you offer to women who are interested but intimidated in joining?
Just do it! You will be surprised how far you can push yourself! In my community officer base, the female presence is strong, and we have each other’s backs.


What is your favorite part about your job?
Traveling, and being exposed to so many different officers who are enlisted in each branch of the military, along with our foreign partners. It offers great perspective!

Least favorite?
Being away from home for long periods of time. 

Where have you been stationed so far?
So far, the Navy has sent me to Pensacola, FL, San Diego, CA, Newport, RI and now Naples, Italy! Next up: Whidbey Island, Washington. Each place has its pros and cons, but Italy has been the place I've lived the longest, and I can safely say it's my favorite. I have been able to visit 20 countries since 2015! And hello - pizza. Plus, I get to see mount Vesuvius every day during my morning commute, which is so cool.


What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your work, and how did you overcome it?
I am the most junior-level officer at my command, so my first tour here with a large staff was hard. Everyone has so much more experience than me, and I felt so behind. I quickly realized that what I lacked in experience needed to be made up with academia. So I read. I read about all things navy - work, research and articles, all the time.

What motivates you every day/from what do you draw your inspiration?
My family. I want to be able to make them proud and give back to my parents for pushing me to do my very best every day. I wouldn’t be where I am without them. 

How do you handle the pressures of your job?
I reflect on my day as soon as I get home, and I like to write down what went well, what didn’t, and what I can do better. 

What does success look like to you?
One of my greatest feelings of success was when someone came up and told me I was doing such a great job and that I'm a role model to them. That made me feel so much more than just “I have a great job and have money.” I am impacting someone/the world in a better way, and that is success to me.

How do you find a work-life balance?
I take piano lessons which force me to leave the office at a reasonable time once a week. I also try to make sure I take care of myself; sometimes you need to leave the office early to get that damn mani/pedi!

How do you manage stress?
I work out - a lot. I also do breathing exercises and do some yoga stretches every hour at my desk. It definitely lifts the pressures a bit. See also: wine, cooking, and a good book.

Do you have any noteworthy work-related moments?
I was able to meet Admiral Michelle Howard, the highest ranking female officer in the military across all branches. Hearing her story in person was one of the coolest things ever. 

What do you hope for your future?
...Not to be kicked out of the Navy for something stupid, ha! But really, I plan on staying in the Navy for a few more years so I can save up for Graduate School. I want to get an MBA at a top International Business School - think: Singapore, Paris, London, Madrid. I also eventually want to have a family (if I can find Mr. Right first, of course!), and I hope to keep traveling as much as I have been lately.

Career and/or life advice for other Babes?
Do not ever follow a man or make a decision based on him. The right guy will fit right into your life. Chase your dreams, no matter how crazy. You never know where you'll end up. Be flexible, and take care of yourself.

Connect with Natasha!

Instagram | natashakniemann@gmail.com

This interview has been condensed and edited.

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