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Keeping the connection going

Thinking about joining the Naval Reserve Force? Lieutenant Commander Jonathan Otto would wholeheartedly encourage it.

18 January, 2024

For him, it’s getting to do something a bit different from his full-time role, with a different set of challenges. He’s the Cyber Security Operations Manager for Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency and the Executive Officer of Navy Reserve Force unit HMNZS Olphert, based in Lower Hutt.

He came to Waka Kotahi over two years ago, transitioning to the Royal New Zealand Navy Reserves after a career as a Weapons Engineer and cyber defence specialist in the Royal New Zealand Navy.

Growing up in Howick, Auckland, he attended Santa Maria and Macleans Colleges before completing a Bachelor of Engineering Technology (Electrical).

“I joined the Navy in 2013, starting as a marine engineer officer. I saw a lot of possibilities in the Navy, to do that next step of development beyond a degree. And I felt I had more to learn, as well as becoming a people leader.

“I had a number of really interesting roles in the regular force which led to my specialisation in cyber defence, including as an engineering manager in defence digital, establishing the Navy’s cyber team and in the cyber security and support capability programme.”

He left the Navy feeling great about the experience – which included overseas deployments in frigates – and feeling he’d tackled everything he could do in the defence cyber security role. But he was keen to keep contributing to the Defence Force.

Since joining Olphert, he’s been the Initial Training Officer and now the Executive Officer. “Both roles have given me some great opportunities to broaden my skills and contribute to the unit.

“One of the biggest perks in my view is the sense of comradeship and the culture of working with Navy people which is a difficult concept to explain to those who haven’t experienced it."

"Another fantastic benefit from being at Olphert is that we have the Reserve Small Arms Training Team attached to the unit, and as such I’ve never been at risk of falling out of date for my Annual Weapons Qualification!”

As well as his specialisation, his officer training has provided a useful skillset in the civilian sector.

“The Navy teaches you about being a leader and looking after a team, particularly during operations. It’s about having a calm, collective approach, when you’re under pressure.

“The Navy Reserves give you some really unique opportunities to both develop new skills, meet like-minded people, contribute to protecting New Zealand’s interests, and get paid to do it.”