Please tell us about yourself
I am Neha Vijay. I am a Terrorism Analyst and till date I wonder how did a wanderer land into such a serious job?
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.”
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and uncommon career?
Be it trekking in the Himalayas, para-gliding in the mountains of Nepal, rafting in wild rapids or bungee-jumping from free falls, the only thing I was always serious about was my love for adventure. During a similar adventure trip in Nepal, I stumbled upon an opportunity that gave me a new direction. In a jungle camp, an established security analyst took note of my analytical skills, risk taking abilities and technical knowledge. Yes, I was a network engineer by profession then. I was offered a job in Counter-Terrorism. And since then it has been an incredible journey.
I have had the opportunity to assist the governments, law enforcement agencies and armed forces of the South East Asian Countries to come up with preventive counter-terrorism measures to mitigate threats. I have been assisting Police universities to design counter-terrorism curriculum. Currently I am looking at the joint initiative by ORF and the US State Department to map social media networks and activities of terrorist groups in South Asia.
What did you study?
I did my B.E. (Computer Science) from VNSIT and a Terrorism Analyst Training Course from S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, NTU, Singapore. Iam currently at Sciences Po doing Advanced Global Studies – International Security & International Relations.
Tell us about your work?
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.”
I work towards developing and providing Counter-Terrorism measures to Individuals, business entities and organizations such as companies, hotels, landlords, law enforcement agencies and financial institutions to conduct background checks on individuals approaching them as their clients.
At Kawach, we collect and collate the details of individuals who are in contact with terror groups through different platforms (Subject to detailed inquiries by law enforcement agencies), with the objective of preventing the entrance of such entities into vital installations and thereby averting terror designs.
I also analyse the trending events happening in different countries and write monthly country reports.
What are your future plans?
Following an agreement between Sciences Po and the Inlaks Foundation in October 2015, Neha Vijay Nair, a recipient of the prestigious Indian scholarship will attend Sciences Po this fall for the first time pursuing a Master in Advanced Global Studies & International Security.
She says, “And now with Inlaks Scholarship I would be heading towards a full-fledged career in Security. This fall, I will be heading to the Paris School of International Affairs, SciencesPo to study International Security. I am equally thrilled and grateful to have gotten this opportunity and hope to make the best of it. I believe I would materialize this opportunity to be able to make a significant contribution in making the world a better and a safer place. ”
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.”