This article is courtesy Sciences Po and was originally published on their website.
COUNTER-TERRORISM CONSULTANT & ADVENTURER
Following an agreement between Sciences Po and the Inlaks Foundation in October 2015, a recipient of the prestigious Indian scholarship will attend Sciences Po this fall for the first time. Neha Vijay Nair, Senior Security Consultant at Kawach Media & Databases, will pursue a Master in Advanced Global Studies & International Security. Find out more about her story below.
Sciences Po: A perfect fit
The Inlaks scholarship is awarded to 10 laureates each year following a difficult selection procedure involving a pool of 1,000 candidates and covers tuition fees, living expenses and a one-way travel ticket.
Neha Vijay Nair was one of the 10 recipients this year and will be pursuing a Master in Advanced Global Studies & International Security at the Paris School of International Affairs at Sciences Po.
Given the specific focus of the Master offered at Sciences Po, the university appeared to be a perfect fit.
“After working on countering terrorism and violent extremism for some time, I wanted to pursue further studies in security. I shortlisted the courses of my interest and a few reputed universities. I decided that instead of going for a generalised programme covering International Affairs and Diplomacy, I should focus completely on International Security and enhance my grip on it. And Sciences Po was perfect for that in all aspects.”
Moreover, the Master’s programme is tailored for professionals like Neha.
“My course is for candidates with an undergraduate degree and 5 years of professional experience and thus I will be sharing a class with professionals who already have a name in the industry. And this will provide me with an excellent learning and networking platform.”
Entering the world of network engineering
Originally from Bhopal, India, Neha graduated from Rajiv Gandhi Prodyogiki Vishwavidyalaya with a Bachelors of Computer Science & Engineering, something she’d known she would accomplish from a young age.
“Being a kid who was always interested in mathematics and science, I always knew that I would become an engineer (also because research was never my cup of tea). But, at a pretty early stage I realised that I am not into coding and software programming. Instead, I studied networks to understand how data and voice travel, and thus, after graduating, I became a network engineer.”
As a network engineer, Neha has worked on a number of projects, from assisting telecommunications and aviation companies, to acting as co-coordinator from the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Asia) region for the designing and handling of the Sochi Winter Olympics network.
These experiences with large businesses greatly shaped how she approaches her work.
“Working with telecommunication companies, stock exchanges and airports was an experience that totally changed my personality. I think that made me more dynamic and a better decision maker. Troubleshooting real time, live operating networks made me confident enough to understand and respond to situations within a limited timeframe. In an environment where a delay of a single minute equals the loss of millions, it takes a lot of conviction to maintain your calm, resolve the issue, and at the same time find the scope for further business development with the clients.”
The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics were also a particularly challenging project, but the challenge made the experience all the more rewarding for Neha.
“We started the preparation for the Sochi Winter Olympics around the end of 2012. Separate teams were coordinated from different regions to ensure 24/7 support. The project involved designing the network, supplying the right functional devices to the site, conducting simulation testing, making the changes, and then live monitoring and troubleshooting during the games. Those 18 months were the most hectic months of my career as an engineer, but they gave me a sense of real achievement and pride.”
Transitioning to counter-terrorism
More recently, Neha has been involved with Kawach Media & Databases, a security consultancy that she cofounded and where she works as Senior Security Consultant.
Neha’s start-up works in large part to counter terrorism and extremism by identifying individuals who interact with radical/terror groups on various social networking platforms and using intelligence analysis to pro-actively mitigate potential risks. Her clients include individuals, business entities and organisations such as law enforcement agencies.
The decision to shift her focus to counter-terrorism was not one that Neha made lightly.
“I was selected for the Indian Army, but I couldn’t join because of some family issues. Therefore, when I got the opportunity to work in counter-terrorism, I took it very seriously.
“I started with assisting a counter-terrorism consultant in the technical aspects of some of his projects. After doing a couple of projects, I realised that not only had I developed a lot of interest in the field, but that I am also good at it. While doing freelance projects, I got an offer to co-found a security firm and move to security full-time. I did not have sufficient financial backing at that time so I offered to help with the logistics and later contribute in parts through my earnings. This way I co-founded Kawach media and databases.”
A passion for adventure
When Neha isn’t spending her time making the world a safer place, she can be found trekking in the Himalayas, bungee jumping, rafting and going on wildlife safaris.
“I have always had a very close connection to nature, wildlife and adventure sports. My home is situated in the suburbs of Bhopal, a place which is a declared ‘Tiger Wandering Zone’. As a kid I used to go trekking in jungles with adventure sports clubs and spotted tigers many times. Now, even while working, I have kept my passion for adventure sports and wildlife alive.”