RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Looking for a challenging role as a contracting officer, Ms. Efstathia Fragogiannis wanted to be instrumental in a more strategic position. So she left her three German Shepard dogs with a friend and took a job as director of contracting with the Office of the Program Manager, Saudi Arabian National Guard (OPM-SANG).
Fragogiannis took charge of the contracting office at OPM-SANG in January 2017. The job offered her the opportunity to have over site of more than 270 active Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contracts with a value of more than two billion dollars in support of a $32 billion FMS program. "I believe the contracting department is an integral member of the OPM-SANG team. Without contracts, we can't execute the mission," she explained.
Fragogiannis and her team work more than just an eight-hour day. They are often at work before anybody else, and are likely the last to leave for the day. As Fragogiannis explains, "We are customer service--we need a good relationship between the contracting department and the other directorates. Bringing the contracting team and directorates together is the key to success when an organization is run on contracts."
There was a period of time when the contracting department was understaffed and the hiring process was difficult, but Fragogiannis made it her mission to increase the staff and hire quality personnel to make the department more efficient. George Taylor, Chief of Staff for OPM-SANG explains, "Without the tireless efforts of Ms. Fragogiannis during the hiring process, we could possibly still have this vital team understaffed. She goes above and beyond to create a diverse and dynamic team."
In addition to this, she takes every opportunity to mentor junior personnel. She holds monthly mentoring sessions for all the contracting department personnel. Additionally, she makes herself available to other civilians within OPM-SANG whenever they need guidance in their professional advancement and personal growth. "Being able to shape employees is part of being a leader. My goal is to always leave a place better than when I found it," she said.
One of the great benefits of coming to work in Saudi Arabia is the ability to travel throughout the Middle East and Europe. "I was able to take quick trips to Dubai, Bahrain and Oman, but because contracting was short-staffed, I was not able to do much travelling. Now that we have a bigger team, I plan on doing a bit more travelling before I depart next year," she explained.
Like other women stationed here, Fragogiannis plans to get a Saudi driver's license. "I am excited to be in Saudi Arabia to see the changes that are planned for the Kingdom, to be part of Saudi history, and have a Saudi Driver's license as a woman--it's about time," she said.
"The best piece of advice I could give to anybody who has orders to OPM-SANG, or is thinking about coming here, is to stay open-minded, take advantage of travel opportunities, embrace the culture, and be sensitive to how the Saudi leadership works," she said. "They have a different work environment then we do, but that's what makes being here and working in Saudi Arabia so interesting."