March 30, 2023

Around the Table with Andrea Pimentel

Three Questions with the Make Room Email Newsletter

Around the Table is a three-question interview series from the Make Room email newsletter. Each edition features a conversation with a peer in the national security community to learn about their expertise and experience in the sector.

Andrea Pimentel is a program officer for the Women’s Democracy Network at the International Republican Institute (IRI). The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the position of IRI.

You previously managed the En Voz Alta mentorship program at Women’s Actions for New Directions and are still involved now. How has mentorship played a role in your own career?

As cliche as it sounds, I would not have lasted in D.C. and gone on to have all of the experiences to date without my pockets of community, peer mentors, and more. When I first moved to D.C., I completed several internships while living in Thompson Markward Hall (TMH), a residence that transformed my experience. TMH is a temporary residence hall on Capitol Hill for young women. I met so many wonderful people that went on to inform my career in so many ways. The stability, resources, peer mentors, and community I found at TMH laid the foundation of my career and this rich phase of my life. I have also been incredibly fortunate to have previous supervisors and colleagues massively step up when I needed advice or was looking for my next opportunity. My advice? Find your people (colleagues, partner organizations, professional associations, university, or elsewhere!)

A fundamental part of your professional development will be exercising the muscle of reaching out to folks who you are interested in getting to know. Introducing yourself and asking for guidance and lessons learned will go a long way in developing new relationships.

It’s also incredibly important to show up for your people and others as you are able. We all have something to contribute no matter how early on in our careers we are. Be open to listening and supporting others—it will deepen your relationships and make your career that much more fulfilling. You will look back in a few years in disbelief of how far you have come, and it will in large part have been possible because of the community you cultivated. Note: Quality over quantity. When I say community, it does not necessarily mean a large group of people, it can be a go-to few!

What motivates you to pursue work focused on women, peace, and security? How did you become interested in it to begin with?

Advancing women, peace, and security has been such meaningful work where I have encountered unbelievably decent, talented, hopeful, and hardworking people. Over the years, I have learned that for a community, country, or region to achieve sustainable peace and security, the representation and active participation of women and marginalized populations are an indispensable part of the equation.

My family moved to the United States from Venezuela when I was eight years old. As the political, economic, security, and humanitarian crisis unfolded over the years, it had a direct impact on my family and everyone back home. Within a single generation, the native country of myself, my parents, and my grandparents became unrecognizable and, in many places, inhospitable. My siblings and I have relatively no family left in Maracaibo; the neighborhoods of our childhood memories are inaccessible to us in many ways; and my extended family’s homes were abandoned and left to ruin. Because I was a child, that possibility now exists in my reality. It afforded me an adaptability and flexibility that informed my upbringing, one that can be harder to develop when you are older or are forced to leave under severe circumstances like you see today. Naturally, I grew up curious about it all and had many questions. What were the series of events that led to this destabilization and how can it be prevented from happening elsewhere? How does a country change course? I have found that women, peace, and security policies and frameworks inform and help to address those questions greatly.

What advice do you have for people early in their careers?

We talk a lot about finding mentors but what does that mean and how does it happen? To anyone reading this, you can make your interactions meaningful in many ways. It does not take mentorship with a mentor in a senior position at your “dream place of work” for a conversation or ongoing conversations to impact your week, month, or year. Every touchpoint has value.

As emphasized previously, I advise people early in their careers to reach out to organizations and people of interest and ask about existing programs or opportunities that they or partner organizations host. If you’re interested in learning more about someone’s experience, write them a brief note via LinkedIn and ask for 15 minutes to hop on a call. Respect your time and everyone else’s by prepping a few questions, being present during your conversation, and thanking them for their time. You will learn so much from them and yourself in the process. If you are interning at an organization, pay attention to what colleagues invest in you, from your supervisors to your fellow interns—it all depends on where you are at! Lastly, if you have made it to the end and thought that it would be helpful to ask me a few questions or hop on a call, do not hesitate to reach out to me. I mean it. I wish you all the best, one step at a time!


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