IT from Devonport to Kosovo

Corina Bruce was the first New Zealand female uniformed officer to go to sea in a warship and the first software engineer to transfer to a purely engineering role

When she held the title of military liaison officer for the United Nations, Commander Corina Bruce’s main responsibilities involved coordinating the information requirements for the UN teams across the region.

But the role was not at all conventional, as Bruce was based in Kosovo.

She was the first New Zealand female uniformed officer to go to sea in a warship; the first software engineer to transfer to a purely engineering role; and the first woman in the Navy to come back to work part-time in uniform after taking four years off to have children.

Bruce returned from Kosovo in 2007 to her new role as commander, posting and training (technical) with the New Zealand Defence Force.

In that role, she is grappling with the same staffing challenges her ICT peers in other sectors face.

“One of the hardest things in this job now is the global market for talent. Anyone with a technical skill set is in global demand,” she says. “We tend to develop those skills internally.”

Bruce is now based at the Navy Base in Devonport, Auckland, and as CIO writer Randal Jackson finds out in this month’s issue, her Kosovo stint is just one of the varied leadership posts held by the software engineer and guided weapons specialist in her two decades with Defence.

Kosovo wasn’t Bruce’s only overseas venture, either. While she was with the Defence communications and information systems she did the multinational coordination for the five nations — New Zealand, Australia, the UK, the US and Canada — coalition that exists to develop interoperability and standards between military forces.

In Kosovo, she explains, her role was more about communications.

She was working in the head office there coordinating information for seven teams in the region, synthesising that information and forwarding it to either the United Nations in New York or to the head of mission.

“We also provided military advice and information to some of the non-government organisations operating in the theatre, and we liaised with the Nato forces,” she says. “It wasn’t an IT job, but about an understanding of information management.”

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