Unforeseen risks can turn the world upside down, bringing even the most developed countries to their knees! Nothing exemplifies this better than what has been happening around the world for the last few months. Global Corporations operate in a very volatile environment fraught with unforeseen risks, where things change in the wink of an eye, rendering well planned business strategies meaningless. But every business needs to mitigate those risks to the best extent possible, by being prepared for it!
Akshita Mathur, our next pathbreaker, Security Advisor, monitors global trends and advises corporates on potential security issues or threats that could impact their operations.
Akshita tells Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal that her initial internship experiences opened up a world of opportunities in the corporate security sector and helped her hone the skills needed.
For students, corporate security is a very relevant career in the current times if you want to help businesses operate in a dynamic environment.
Akshita, your background?
Being a defense kid, I grew up across the country. My mother was a science and math schoolteacher, but I was always inclined towards the social sciences. I participated in school plays, events, basketball. Journalism was something I initially considered as a prospective future profession.
What did you study?
I eventually ended up doing my bachelor’s in political science, from St. Xavier’s, Mumbai because through my graduation I got inclined towards political science
Back in 2012 not many people had heard about this course or even knew what you could do with it as a career, but I decided to go for my Masters in Geopolitics and International Relations because the course fascinated me. So I went ahead and did my Masters in Geopolitics and International Relations from Manipal University, Karnataka.
I got a fellowship at The Centre for Air Power Studies while during my internship with them. The Centre for Air Power Studies is a premier Indian think tank which conducts research on strategic defence issues related to national and international conventional and non conventional security issues.I got the internship from my college where we were doing my masters. I was working on the Rise of Chinese Naval power and US rebalancing. However i was unable to continue my fellowship as i had met with an accident.
How did you end up in such a offbeat, unconventional and unique career?
I initially started out as a Researcher for a Govt. think-tank and I worked there for a year doing research on Shipbuilding and South China sea issues.
A security consultancy offered me an internship opportunity which introduced me to corporate security, and its various nuances. I spent the next 4 years working across Security consulting, as it offered a refreshing change from the academic side of this discipline. I had excellent mentors to teach and guide me on this exciting career path. Being a corporate security professional instills in you analytical and leadership qualities, which is very exciting, and fulfilling.
How did you get your first break?
My Master’s dissertation was noticed by the Govt. think-tank which offered me my first job, a research-based role.
My dissertation was on : “India’s Likely Naval Engagement IN THE NORTHWEST PACIFIC: Challenges And Prospects”. My dissertation was mainly inspired by my love for the Indian Navy and the guidance of my professors who thought I could do justice to this topic. After i completed my dissertation the National Martime Foundation that works on maritime issues contacted me looking at my dissertation.
Tell us about your career path
I was not looking to get into this field, I had different plans as a kid. It was more like this career chose me.
After I finished my internship I was fascinated with this field, I wanted to know more , learn more and hence I continued working at different roles with various consulting companies.
After my Internship, I finished my masters and worked with a government think tank for a year where i published articles and papers on Maritime issues and shipbuilding. After a year when I was exploring my options, i came across Mitkat and I applied for an internship there, this was my first stint in corporate security. In Mitkat i had great mentors who guided me and taught me about information security, open-source intelligence and I was working there on intelligence gathering and formulating assessments and advisories on ongoing issues that would have a direct impact on our clients.
After gaining some experience in the field and piquing my interest i worked as intern with Hill and Associates for some time where i was again doing similar work of writing advisories, monitoring and analyzing global events that would have a business impact on our clients. I also worked as a freelancer with them where i did city risk assessments for them.
I was looking for a permanent job in the field when i came across IIRIS. They were setting up their risk department and I as an analyst was responsible for monitoring and helping in laying the groundwork for setting up the department. Like i mentioned i had great mentors at every stage who helped me understand the work better.
Due to some personal reasons i wanted to shift to Mumbai and was looking for opportunities there when i got through International SOS. It is a medical and travel security service and I was working in the India travel security division as Security Specialist for South Asia. Here I worked on customized risk reports for our clients based out of South Asia, assisted clients with reports as well as calls on travel risks and business impact, such as during the Kerala floods , State shutdowns, Surgical strike etc.
I currently work as Regional Security Advisor for LinkedIn, deployed by Pinkerton where i am looking at operational risks as well as risks emanating from global events like Coronavirus for Linkedin employees and assets in APAC.
What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?
1. A new field of study: Making the switch from academic to business-oriented job roles, came with an adjustment period for realigning my thought process – the style of writing, and offering advice, specifically.
2. Extensive research-based writing: This was a personal challenge for me, as corporate security demands exhaustive writing and reporting skills.
I overcame both challenges with the guidance of my mentors, and sheer hard work. Reworking and perfecting every single piece of assignment I ever received, I find myself much more confident in my field now.
Where do you work now?
I work with Pinkerton India, for their Comprehensive Risk Management Services vertical. My job entails advising clients on corporate security – people and processes. At my level, a broad high-level understanding of risk management, business continuity protocols and processes is required. Being tech-aware is another requisite. There are rarely two days alike in terms of issues that we work on, so every day is different and a new learning.
How does your work benefit the society?
My work revolves around the safety and security of people, who work across industry sectors, offering various services to the society.
Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!
I was a founding member of a new vertical at one of the security consultancies early on in my career, partially responsible to get that practice up and running. That is till date one of the most fulfilling mandates I had the opportunity to work on.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
Work hard. Don’t be restricted by your grades. Be curious and always ask questions!
I intend to continue on this track for a few more years, get certified in specific courses while gaining experience, which I would finally like to see culminating in an entrepreneurial venture of my own.