Each month we interview a First Officer of the fleet as part of our “First Officer in Focus” column to get to know them better and learn more about what their positions entail.
This month, we’re interviewing the First Officer of the starship USS Astraeus, Commander Serala, a Half-Romulan/Half-Human female.
Promontory: You’ve been involved with 118 for a number of years with a number of characters. Is there a common thread across your characters? Perhaps something that reflects the writer behind them?
Serala: That’s a great question, and to be honest I haven’t really given that much thought. I have a love of all things Romulan, so I was excited when I was allowed to play Serala. Since then, I discovered the Rodulans and I have played a few of them as well. I really love their culture. I’ve also taken a recent liking to Orions, and I have two of those as well. For me, the culture of the character’s species is every bit as important – perhaps even more so – than the character’s backstory. Especially when I consider the fact that the culture the character came from was as much a defining characteristic of the character as their family, friend, socio-economic status, etc. And so, I gravitate toward species that have cultures that I find intriguing.
You’re now back to writing Serala, what made you come back to this character?
Ah yes, that is an excellent question. The truth is, my switch to Jaelyne Isa was only intended to be temporary. I had/have a story to tell with Serala, but I was in a lull in that story. I decided she needed some time away from the ship and crew in order to progress that backstory. At the same time, I was feeling a bit of burnout and it seemed a good way to reinvigorate my interest in the game. But from the start, I told Captain Mei’konda that I only wanted to play Isa for around a year. I think I made it ten months before I was aching to bring Serala back.
What have you found is the biggest misunderstanding of the role of FO?
I’m not really sure how to answer that question, if I am being honest. I am former Navy, so I already had a good understanding of the FO role; not to mention my extensive history with Star Trek lore. And my first First Officer was fairly transparent about his role with the crew, so I think I already knew the expectations when it was offered to me. If there was anything I didn’t fully expect, it was the fact that I am in charge of the mentoring program for the crew. That means that I have to ensure each player has an active mentor, that the mentors are checking in regularly with their players, and that I need to be able to help the mentors if they have any questions on how to mentor in a particular area. Another thing that kind of took me by surprise a few years ago was when my CO suddenly decided he needed to retire, and I was left in temporary command of the crew. While I always knew this was a possibility, I don’t think I was quite prepared for it to become a reality. It was a good experience for me, however, and the EC was quite helpful in getting me through that period as quickly and efficiently as possible.
You’ve been a first officer for 3 years or so. What aspects of the role have gotten harder or more challenging and what’s gotten easier over time?
Honestly, I can’t think of anything that has gotten harder. Like with most things, the more I do it, the easier it becomes. It was a bit awkward for me for a while to mentor players who at one time had mentored me, but that feeling passed fairly quickly and now I seem to have a good relationship with the crew. Those who have been with me from the beginning are easier to work with simply by virtue of familiarity, but I even feel comfortable with the new players – which, as my wife will tell you, is interesting considering that I am an introvert by nature.
What advice do you have for simmers who might be interested in leadership? Is there something they could do to prepare?
Number one: Sim often. Sim well. This is a collaborative game and if you want to move into a leadership role, it’s going to be important to set the example for the rest of the players. Simming often helps move the story forward and gives everyone something to do. I also try to consider how I can provide opportunities for the other players to have the spotlight for a bit. The next bit of advice I would have is to talk to your mentor and see what areas they feel you need to work on. The wiki has the requirements for advancement listed, but sometimes there are less objective goals that need to be met first, and your mentor (or other ship staff) will have a good handle on what that is for you. And my final piece of advice is to look for opportunities to help the crew. Is there an OOC task that needs to be done? Volunteer. These kinds of OOC activities show a vested interest in our community and that is leadership thinking.
Thanks for your time, Commander Serala!