Meet our officers: Always aim high


What do you do when you are a successful maritime officer in your country, a PhD researcher, and a mother of a young child – and an international career opportunity comes knocking at your door? The answer is probably not what you expect! Firstly, you sit down, and you read the vacancy very carefully. Secondly, you discuss it with your family. Only then you let that inner voice finally tell you – go for it, this is your chance to learn and grow.

In a nutshell, that would be how Vanessa’s adventure with Frontex started, but once she took that first step and applied to become an EU border guard, a much bigger story unravelled: that of human choices and their consequences. “When I saw the vacancy, I got very interested. I wanted to have an international experience, I wanted to be able to share my expertise in sea operations. Also, I was a teacher and a trainer all my life, so I thought – this could be an added value! On a personal level, I was curious to work with different countries and cultures. I am always ready for a new challenge – both on a professional and personal level”.

It is Vanessa’s European focus that made her want to share her national experience. And this is what unites all EU border guards – common goals and values regardless of the place that they originated from but without the risk of losing their roots: “We keep in touch with our former colleagues in our national teams. Both for work and for friendship. It’s always good to know who works at a given airport or at a crossing point to accelerate information exchange”.

Recruitment without any secrets

Vanessa was one of the two first-ever maritime officers to apply for Frontex. The recruitment, which started innocently with the invitation to take the English test: “It was funny because it reached me on the day when I was defending my PhD thesis, so it was quite a crazy day. From today’s perspective, this day determined my future. Regarding the language test, I advise everyone to do some B2-level tests online. There’s only a limited time for each answer so it’s better to practice a bit in order to finish everything on time”.

Then the physical aptitude test followed. Vanessa’s advice is to read very carefully all the guidelines. All details matter because if you don’t execute them the way they’re described, you might fail something that you are normally able to do. “Also, train a bit. I trained all my life, but even if you’re an athlete, you should take some time and prepare in advance”. Next was the medical assessment but there were no surprises – it was like a regular check-up. One thing that you cannot prepare yourself for is the psychological assessment, but that’s nothing to worry about. It’s all about being yourself. In the milieu of EU border guards, you might be handling weapons or be exposed to violent situations, the panel is there to make sure that you are fit for the challenge.

Finally, the candidates take an interview. “I was nervous, recalls Vanessa, but in a way it was good. It’s all about showing how you get over your emotion and nerves.” Vanessa cannot reveal the content questions, but her smile suggests that there is nothing to fear.

180-degree change

In order to become what she is now – a shift leader and Frontex Tactical Supporting Officer in the team coordinating land operations, Vanessa had to go through a six-month training in Koszalin, the training centre in the north of Poland. She belongs to the first batch of EU border guards and her experiences from that phase together with her long-standing experience in teaching and training contributed greatly to what the training centres offer today. “People come from different backgrounds. It is actually very important and very enriching for the agency because this is how we learn more. The first weeks offer a quick overview of all the modules, so that the candidates can instantly get the hint of the entire content and decide if they go with it or not. The training also included the experiential learning phase. I strongly believe that it offers an added value because it gives everyone the taste of the real job. Plus, the learners are being assessed, they receive feedback. After that everyone is ready for the field”.

“I got my first deployment to the International Coordination Centre in Pireus, Greece. I was happy to share my experiences as a maritime expert and I was also immediately invited to deliver training to the newly recruited officers”.

“In the meantime, I successfully passed the recruitment procedure for the advanced border guard category, which requires prior professional experience. This meant promotion to my present grade and post in Frontex’s headquarters in Warsaw. Coming from a maritime background and having to manage a land domain in the huge joint operation Terra with over 800 deployed officers across Europe is a challenge but I keep learning and that makes me happy”.

Check your resilience levels

Deployments require curiosity, resilience, and flexibility. “It’s actually all about trying to find the solution for every problem,” underlines Vanessa. “The EU border guard project is huge and amazing, and we are not yet that many”. In fact, Frontex deploys today nearly 2,800 border guards and is about to recruit 400 more. The objective is to have 10,000 officers available by 2027. Another fact is that Frontex is learning a lot from these first deployments to make them more family friendly, to allow the officers to have a more regular life. The agency has on offer a wide range of benefits and allowances, and a first-rate medical insurance scheme, but the life shows that there is a need for longer deployments to guarantee more stability.

Vanessa explains that “the agency is also learning. It’s now working to make deployments longer. Frontex wants to have the best officers, that’s why there is this multi-level selection, but the best officers usually have a life baggage with them, not only the professional one but also the private one.” That’s why Vanessa wants the candidates to know that the deployments and locations may change, and they must make sure that all their family members are ready to get on board of this European adventure.

More information about the ongoing recruitment process here.

Vacancies available here.

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