Intelligence and Security – increasing demand for graduates January 12, 2012Posted by Jeff Riley in : Intelligence and security, Political risk , add a comment
I caught up with Luke Vile from BeecherMadden – a specialist headhunting firm that supply expertise to the intelligence and security sector. We published an interview with Luke last autumn http://bit.ly/zAJhz3 and he wanted to give us an update. You can contact Luke at Luke Vile +44 (0) 20 3036 0509 Luke.email@example.com
The good news for King’s students with an interest in the sector is that there is an increase in DEMAND. I asked Luke what was driving this.
“ A number of factors –
* Crises. For example maritime companies are having to respond to fragile security especially off the horn of Africa. This is driving demand both for consultancy and physical security. One of the consequences is that there is a need for more people who are able to analyse the situation in the region. In fact one of the students we placed from King’s College had done a dissertation on this topic so that was very helpful.
* Regional instability. Clearly the Arab spring has shaken things up. Egypt, for example, is no longer the stable country it was. Afghanistan is undergoing change as western forces withdraw. New regimes demand a revision in the ways organisations and businesses relate to countries.
* Legislation. Things like the new Bribery Act change the landscape as well as more countries adopt different rules. Buying a bank in Kenya, for example, requires different considerations now than a couple of years ago.
* Economic situation. While the economic crisis is by no means over there are emerging areas of stability and growth. So, for example, now banks are finding their feet again they may be able to consider engaging with emerging markets like Turkey.
* Graduates. Intelligence and security graduates are becoming a recognised resource in the industry. Employers know that students from colleges like King’s can provide excellent analytical skills, knowledge and a willingness and ability to get stuck in. Frankly even if they are put on a good starting salary they are going to be cheaper than an ex-army officer”
I also asked Luke who his clients were and what kind of student he wanted to hear from?
“Our clients include small, niche consulting security firms, the larger intelligence and security outfits and commercial professional services firms who by the nature of their size and range of activities will sometime have a need for the kind of personnel we aim to supply. Ideally we recruit people who can start work fairly quickly but I would encourage anyone with the kind of background that War Studies implies to get in touch.”
Writing Security briefings November 29, 2011Posted by Jeff Riley in : Intelligence and security, Political risk, internships , 2comments
We recently spoke to a consultant who studies at King’s College War Studies department and now works for a private security company working in high risk and emerging markets such as Afghanistan, Colombia, Gaza West Bank, Pakistan, Iraq and many more, including most recently, Libya. For the time being I have made the report anonymous. Part of the discussion focused on what goes into security briefs.
What does your company do? Mainly we provide physical security mainly but also have an element of analysis to support that function. For example we may be approached by an oil company drilling a new well outside of Basra. They provide numbers of staff, locations, dates and request protection for their operations.
We can provide things like access control, vehicle search, perimeter control, armed guards and cars to protect their staff wherever they need to go. This does mean there are a lot of ex-military staff on our team. However, I have no military background. I started as an intern working on Pakistan and Yemen.
Now I work with the Commercial Support team. I put together bids to win security work. This brings everything together - for example how our recruitment works, how our finance works, how we store our equipment. Also pulling in information from our people on the ground – what’s happening in such and such a small town. Or a high level report about what’s going in Pakistan or Iraq. I don’t do analysis work as such in this role but I still need to have a very good idea of what is going on.
What is the difference between this and working as a research analyst. As an intern research analyst I was writing more security reports rather than bids for work. For example on a daily basis I produce a short security report – A bullet point list of security related events that that have happened in the last 24 hours. Produced on a daily basis. On Pakistan it could be a fortnightly 8 or 10 page brief called ‘Northern Pakistan Explored’. Looking at Peshawar or a larger area which includes a graph that, for example, shows the number of IED attacks and the number of incidents of small arms fire. A monthly report Pakistan report is also produced. Similar reports on Yemen would look at security issues in the main cities. I also wrote more specialised briefs on energy security for a firm’s windfarm resources in an emerging market.
When writing for commercial clients you have to be brief and to the point. If you are worried about your engineers being blown up they want to know practical things such as where is it physically safe to go and not go. They want numbers and they want to know that you are talking to guys on the ground with military experience. If you throw in a few acronyms they like that. Essentially though it is just about being straight and to the point.
This work doesn’t involve client contact though your work does reache clients. My work in the commercial team involves much more client contact.
This succint approach can also help with applications by the way. Our senior managers have to read a hell of a lot of information every day and they can get irritated with what they see as long-winded stuff.
The interview for the internship. I think one of the reasons I got the interview was that I was able to include some basic previous work experience with the Canadian High Commission – it was the most boring job processing visas but it looked good on the CV. In the interview itself I didn’t bluff and pretend I was a world expert. I told them that I knew a fair amount but that I was also there to learn. Anyone who gives the impression of bluffing or blagging could end up producing unreliable material which could literally be fatal for our clients. I also had to deal with a really tough question on the difference between a threat and a risk – to be honest I couldn’t answer that then and I couldn’t answer it now. They questioned me on why I had said certain things in my application but also curved ball questions such as what are main risks of operating in certain parts of Columbia which I didn’t know too much about
Did the Internship impact on your studies? Yes. A significant impact to be honest but I had a very pragmatic view of it from the beginning and it had always been my intention to get the vital work experience. On the other hand without a Masters I would not have been able to get the internship. There isn’t a single intern I have met that wasn’t doing a Masters at King’s.
What tips do you have for current students?
* Intern early. I started early with the internship and it was crucial in creating a paid opportunity later.
* Get career clarity. If you want to be an academic you are going to need better grades than I was prepared to get. In which case internships wouldn’t be so important. Think tanks also need better grades but also some work experience. Interning is great. It was very beneficial for me. It is hard to get a foot in the door and the only way to meet people is to get an internship and establish a network.
* Cold call rather than email to ask about internships. It is easy to lose an email but a phone call is more direct. The worse that can happen is they say no. Do something that other people won’t do. There were loads of networking events at organisations such as RUSI and that’s also a good way to meet people.
What value did the course give you? The course is great and for this sector a Masters is really an entry level qualification. It isn’t designed to cover the operations side of the things I also have to deal with. What armoured car formations are proving effective or exactly what kinds of weapons are being used – things like that. Unless you have a military background you have to get that from people on the ground. I am still learning a lot and I still have to get input from other people. Though less and less as I get more experience.
Is it a male dominated industry? Yes, most definitely. Though partly this is because a high proportion of our staff are operations based and they are often men (ex-military). We have 70 permanent employees and 2500 contractors. The vast majority of the contractors are male. It is much more balanced in the area I work in.
You can find similiar articles by searching Careerstagged
This post updated April 3rd 2013
Defence analysts May 5, 2011Posted by Jeff Riley in : Industry Information, Intelligence and security, consulting, skills , 1 comment so far
Visiongain (www.visiongain.com) are business information providers with expertise in the Telecoms, Pharmaceutical, Defence, Energy and Metals industries. They regularly recruit King’s College London graduates particularly in defence analyst roles. I spoke to Sara Peerun Visiongain’s Commercial Director and Daniel Harrison the Head of Visiongain’s Defence Department
How easy is it for defence analysts to transfer to other sectors? We do have an aviation sector so the track across to that would be easier. Even though the research roles are all broadly similar we do encourage specialisation in one sector– even within broad sectors such as defence there are more layers of specialism. It makes a lot of difference to the level of expertise and productivity analysts can bring to their work. Having said that, a good researcher can move across to other sectors and be effective. Incidentally the work can also be a good platform for careers in consultancy.
Is there a career pattern? There is movement. For example our Pharmaceutical analysts often become medical writers. From defence they may move on to work for our competitors (people like Jane’s and Frost & Sullivan) or even work for our clients – people like Lockheed Martin. It’s a good channel into those industries. Typically doing market analysis and providing competitor information. Similar to what we do in fact.
What’s the difference between the reports your analysts write and that produced by a defence strategy consultancy. Our material is more ‘off-the-shelf’, geared to selling as many copies as we can. While consultants would provide more bespoke reports, typically for a single client. Focusing on a single piece of equipment such as helicopters, for example in Western Europe. Whereas we are much more concerned with providing a global overview of a particular technology sector.
On your job advert you specify ‘analytically minded’. How do you assess that? Well that’s a good question. I look for someone who is highly questioning and academic. Someone who won’t take things at face value and will look beyond the obvious. Be able to juggle a lot of different material, data and conflicting information and be able to come up with a plausible, realistic viewpoint. The amount of information available can be bewildering – especially for a new analyst.
You also specify ‘Highly literate with good writing skills’. What’s the distinction between this and academic writing? We provide formal business reports and need to use formal business English. We can’t use a journalistic style or colloquialisms. Graduates quickly pick it up. In addition they can be naturally very good in a qualitative sense – understanding the geo-political context for example. However, our reports have much more of a market focus and need a combination of both good writing and solid mathematical skills. We assess these through aptitude tests but someone with good GCSE or A level mathematics should have no problems.
What about research skills? Students who apply to us generally have good research skills. We use broadly similar sources – secondary sources in the main. We do, however, warn about the inherent bias of the internet – its overwhelmingly written in English and western oriented. Not so great for material on Japan, China and Russia for example and they have to factor that in. Also our reports contain at least two interviews with senior business people who are experts in the sector being researched. These are usually done over the phone as many of our interviewees will be overseas. Incidentally interviewing for primary research purposes is not something students seem to do during their studies. It does take some skill to persuade senior people to grant you an interview on the phone.
Related reports – Read an interview with a King’s College alumni working as a Visiongain defence analyst http://bit.ly/kQqEVI
Strategy consultancy in the defence sector April 29, 2011Posted by Jeff Riley in : Industry Information, Intelligence and security, skills , add a comment
David Hiley is a King’s College alumni. He recently joined Renaissance Strategic Advisors from IHS Jane’s strategy arm to help develop this USA strategy consultancy’s presence in the UK. I met him to talk about his new organisation and the kind of skill set needed for the sector.
Are your clients different than in your previous role? They are slightly different. Previously I was very much concerned with market studies for such things military equipment and military services. Anything from types of ammunition, tanks, light armoured vehicles. Things that attracts budgets from the Ministry of Defence, the US Department of Homeland Security and Department’s of Justice. in this work both at IHS and Renaissance I dealt with Directors, Head of business units, Heads of strategy, people in marketing. However, that area of work is only one pillar of what we do at Renaissance. Overall I’m very much more industry focused now and less government oriented which was a major chunk of my work previously.
The second pillar of Renaissance’s work is strategy support. This involves working with more senior levels in our clients. Typically CEOs, Boards of Directors – the kind of people the ‘market studies’ clients would report to. We advise on business direction – things such as acquisition, divestment, product development and support – all in the military arena. For example we recently advised a client in the defence electronics sector that had developed a range of products and needed advice on which of these they should focus on because they weren’t able to fund all of them. Which ones were most viable and how competitive is the market for these different products? Typical strategy consulting in fact. This is distinct from but founded on that marketplace knowledge I mentioned earlier. The Renaissance team has a number of consultants from a strong strategy consultancy background – firms like Booz and co, Charles River Associates and others whereas IHS Jane’s tended to recruit into consulting from its defence and market knowledge oriented staff – certainly at the junior levels.
The third leg of our work is Mergers and Acquisitions. Firms might be looking to divest part of their organisation or be considering several potential acquisitions to complete their portfolio and want advice on which would be the most marketable. Or clients might be equity firms looking to invest.
Why is Renaissance focusing on the UK currently? Well USA defence spending represents 50 per cent of the world’s total. We are pretty strong in the US and have strong relationships with all the major US defence firms but have much less work outside the USA. So we are now looking to expand the relatively untapped UK and European market. The other reason is to provide some European and ‘rest of the world’ perspective into work in the US. Having a base here will also help us work with clients looking to get into the US market.
The defence sector in the UK has traditionally been less amenable to working with consultancies – the take up of work has been far below what is typical in the USA but it’s a market that is going to continue to grow. We have a USP of defence industry expertise. There are competitors – PWC, McKinsey, Detica, KPMG. IHS to some extent on some of the market study work. Though we don’t have any direct peer competitors.
Given the differences you have outlined between IHS and RSA will it make a difference to the type of people you recruit from King’s? Yes and no. I continue to look for what I call ‘tank geeks’. People with an abiding interest in military equipment – the kind that build Airfix models or have Spitfire posters on their walls. That kind of expertise underpins everything Renaissance does in the UK at this stage. (The USA team have a more horizontal skill set – we all have the defence interest but they are also expected to be ‘spreadsheet warriors’, as well. Many have MBAs, for example.) So in the UK I still seek a similar profile in many ways but people with that profile aren’t always that easy to find. Typically students from King’s can be found on a continuum between a general interest in international relations at one end and a specialised interest in defence equipment at the other. Asking students whether they are more interested in the conduct of a war or the policy context of the war gives you a good idea of where they are on that continuum.
Our current concern is with the corporate world which means we need people who are more to the specialised end. At IHS it wasn’t so problematic because they also have involvement with government work, meaning analysts didn’t need to be so engaged with the nuts and bolts of defence technology. At Renaissance the international relations context element is important, but very much secondary to that. Not so much knowledge of technology, because that can be gained, but definitely an interest is essential. This is the foundation for all our work. As our presence develops in the UK we will need this to be increasingly balanced with business acumen. Bringing business in, for example, needs good people and networking skills. Understanding what a company might want or helping them choose between different options also needs additional skills. People won’t need to come in with them but they need to be developed over time to progress beyond the first one or two grades. The difference between a researcher and an analyst is the capacity to deal with the question ‘so what’. Research skills are a given for people at Masters level but, as an analyst, once you have your data set you have to be able to divorce yourself from the academic process and notions of ‘balance’ and ‘objectivity’ . Students who want to step into the consultancy industry need to be able to make that shift. To empathise with businesses, their market position, identify with their concerns and articulate what that data set means for that specific customer. This is likely to be different from any other clients – even if they are in a very similar line of work
Interning with The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies February 17, 2011Posted by Jeff Riley in : Intelligence and security, internships, think tanks , add a comment
Florian Lipowski came to King’s College London from Germany for an MA in International Conflict Studies. When he came back for his graduation ceremony in 2011 he talked to us about how he organised his internship at the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies while completing his studies. (http://www.hcss.nl/en/about/145/Work-with-us.html). Jeff Riley, January 2011
When did you do your internship? Well I went back to Germany to complete my dissertation and it was towards the end of that, in September 2010, when I was able to start an internship in the Netherlands. Actually I am still there for another two months or so.
How did you find out about it? Well now that I know how well known it is I’m a little embarrassed that I hadn’t come across it before it came up in a general web search. They recruit interns fairly regularly and one of the intakes fitted in with my timetable for completing my masters. Since then I have also found out that lots of students across Europe do know about it and rumor has it that they get about 20 applications a day for their paid internships.
What does the organisation do? It provides support and advice in areas affecting international and national defence and security with an emphasis on long term forecasting. It works closely with the Dutch Foreign and Defence Ministries and has an income from selling its reports and analysts’ work to a range of clients. Some issues that I’m currently working on concern resource scarcity, or the Beijing consensus and its implications for liberal democracy and capitalism. Typically HCSS tries to look 15-20 years ahead but some reports will give a more immediate perspective. Recently, for example, on the increasing importance of the Chinese military and its role in the ambitions of China on the world stage. Finally I should say there are around 30 staff but with the permanent affiliations with Dutch institutions there are always more people than that around.
Was the internship hard to get? I heard that they do get more than 100 applications for each post. Interns typically are often Dutch but the most recent intake comprises a majority of other nationalities. Very few from the UK, I have to say, though over half the analysts are King’s alumni.
Is there any reason why British students couldn’t apply? None at all. For example the language in the office and the reports are all in English. My current boss is from Palestine and he has no Dutch at all. Dutch nationals have lots of English language skills – I’ve even talked to some homeless people in English!
Things like accommodation are easily sorted. I sorted my own accommodation via an expats web site. Its decent quality – all IKEA but fine, including a big flat screen tv. It costs 675 euros, utilities included, but there are cheaper places. My allowance of 700 euros from HCSS means I need to use other resources. There are cheaper options though. One girl I know is sharing a lovely typical Dutch place with a couple of others and she is paying just over 325 euros including all bills. That means you can survive and even go to a club once a week on the allowance. I wouldn’t advise trying to get another job to supplement the allowance though. It is a full time internship.
What do you do on the internship? It’s a research internship. After an initial couple of weeks finding your feet you will be assigned to a programme. I was able to change to something I was more interested in after I was assigned to something. The analysts you negotiate with about this are fine with that and, in fact you are encouraged to voice your opinion and say what you want to work on. In any case typically you would have not just your main research project but also a subsidiary one so that introduces an element of flexibility. Projects vary from for example the
- ‘Pillars of Power’ initiative which explores how we can best measure ‘power’ in the future. It won’t just be a case of counting military ships and hardware but include other aspects of a society. This is an ongoing project.
- World Foresight Forum – A project concluding in April 2011 for which HCSS is a partner. This seeks to develop future roadmaps around global challenges such as climate change, resource scarcity, demographic shifts and the global financial crisis – all things which may affect prosperity and safety.
- Other topics included things like economic warfare, Beijing consensus and nuclear proliferation and tools of economic statecraft. This latter, for example is essentially a literature review with a mapping of what consensus and disagreements exist about how states will deal with each other in the future. For me this project had rather too much emphasis on analysing what other people say and not enough opportunity to express my own ideas.
What are you getting out of it? Well I’ve learned a lot about the importance of economics for example and have a good understanding the growing weight of China. You have to read so much and learn about topics that weren’t necessarily in the academic curriculum. The standard of work we have to produce is quite academic and not that different from university Masters level essays but do involve a more continental style ‘overview’ approach than arguing your own specific standpoint.
You are also working around highly qualified and high profile people. Often with PhD’s, or a number of Masters qualifications. Also people from other sectors such as engineering and telecommunications, not just international relations.
I’ve enjoyed being in The Hague as well. It isn’t the most exciting city in the world for sure but it’s a nice town and I’ve enjoyed making some new friends and colleagues.
I haven’t especially been using the internship to sound out potential jobs – I think my vocation lies elsewhere in a more practical and less desk based sphere. I know my fellow interns though have been excited about the networking opportunities the internship provides. My experience will provide evidence of things like multi tasking, teamworking, organisational skills and working to tight deadlines. It proves that you are considered worth some remuneration – 700 euros a month isn’t nothing.
Working for Control Risks January 24, 2011Posted by Jeff Riley in : Intelligence and security, Political risk , 1 comment so far
We recently spoke to one of our alumni from King’s College London who graduated with a Masters in Imperial and Commonwealth History from King’s. Less than a month later he started work with Control Risks – one of the biggest political risk outfits with offices in 35 countries. He came back to talk to our new intake to talk about his work but prefers to remain anonymous.
What do Control Risks do? It’s a UK-based risk consultancy that covers a whole range of things for different clients. We are involved with everything from corporate investigations, political and security analysis, security consulting in-country, kidnap-and-ransom advice, and so on. In short, helping our clients succeed in complex environments.
What is your role? I’m an editor. I do everything from compiling regional summaries to simple spelling and grammar checks to more in-depth criticism of the analysts’ reports; essentially ensuring that the written reports from our in-house analysts are solidly based and well written. While our in-house analysts know their stuff they may sometimes have errors creep in,
What helped you get the job? Well, I had a reasonable amount of internship experience and previous work, with a think-tank as an editorial assistant, for example, and with publications in India. I’d also built up some regional knowledge both of India and also several other countries through working on a business magazine there. I was also interviewed twice after sending in a CV and covering letter and I also had to do a 90 minute test editing some sample reports
How does the work differ from the analysts you mentioned? I work with the analysts to produce the reports – they do the bulk of the research and writing. They build up a lot of expertise on specific countries and regions – though we do have a small number of people who focus on global issues such as piracy and financial regulation. They’ll also do client presentations and speak to journalists and so on. Interviews are intensive – you can be interviewed by five people and will often have to give a sample presentation to a client, say a mining company.
What skills do they need? Regional experience and preferably work experience in one or more of the countries you’d be analysing. Languages are obviously useful, as is any knowledge or experience working in the areas that Control Risks tends to deal with most often – oil and gas, mining, insurance and shipping, for example, as well as political knowledge. Contacts in the given countries are also a massive plus. The material we produce is specifically designed for companies, so it might be useful to be able to demonstrate that you can write in a style that’s more suited to business or journalism than just a university context.
What would an analyst’s typical day look like? Most days would start with a review of newspapers – including our database that gives us access to lots of local newspapers. Fairly early on in the day a headline for a particular update on a given topic has to be sent to the editor. This update involves writing a 500-word briefing on an aspect of the specific project the analyst is working on. This is ‘predictive’ in tone: not just what happened, but what it means for the future. We also do longer 3- analysis papers dealing with longer-term scenarios, produce bespoke reports on particular areas or projects, and respond on a daily basis to client requests. There are occasional opportunities for analysts to take research trips to their countries of focus.
How easy is it to transfer from one region of expertise to another? Not that easy, frankly. You would have to demonstrate that you have the necessary expertise which is hard to build up when you already engaged with a region.
Do the analysts get training? They start out covering a whole region, picking up things from a range of countries and receive feedback from more senior people. They get opportunities to network and attend conferences and also get overseas trips to help with their research.
Working in Strategic Communications November 25, 2010Posted by Jeff Riley in : Intelligence and security, Political risk , 4comments
Tom Wein graduated with a BA in War Studies from King’s College London. He came back to talk to King’s students about his work with the Strategic Communication Laboratory (www.scl.cc/)
What was your background and what do you do I grew up in the UK and did a BA in the War Studies department. I had applied for Masters courses but I applied to Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) as well. SCL conduct social science research in difficult to access places such as war zones, the middle east, Russia and Afghanistan on sensitive topics such as terrorism. This research then forms the basis for potential strategic communication campaigns – a form of public affairs campaigns, or public diplomacy.
We don’t implement the campaigns but provide reports and recommendations in the form of PowerPoint presentation and massive written reports. This consists of quantitative and qualitative interviews, data analysis and statistics. I’m involved with the analysis as a team leader. I don’t do the research – I wouldn’t be very popular wandering around Pakistan saying, “hello, talk to me”.
What is the end result of these campaigns? Usually counter-radicalisation. Less persuading people not to join certain groups but more about ensuring that those who are ambivalent about or oppose these groups can stand up more confidently and openly. All our research showed for example that most people in the middle east don’t support radical groups but that they are reluctant to get involved with politics. Who our ultimate clients are may not be obvious to us – we get a lot of sub contracted work from the USA. In the UK we have done work for the MOD and the FCO. For the Singaporean government we did a project on how national service is perceived and how they people could be made more enthusiastic about it. We have an elections branch also who have helped on campaigns in the Caribbean for example. One well known ‘end-result’ example was a campaign we were involved with when we had to persuade Lloyd’s ‘names’ to continue investing despite heavy losses they had sustained on the markets. The video campaign worked so well that one senior Lloyd’s figure credited us with saving the company.
The founder of the company had his roots in advertising but our work stresses behaviour change underpinned by rigorous research that allowed us to demonstrate more clearly, step by step, why we are right.
What helped you get a job with just a first degree? Well, I think I was extraordinarily lucky but I had sent off lots of CVs. Admittedly it was quantity before quality and I relied on hitting the company at the right time. With SCL I think they appreciated my initiative and willingness to have a go. It was a young company and valued people who could be smart and adaptable while they were establishing themselves. Other companies who needed more specific sector or regional expertise may not have been so open to me. In fact now SCL are starting now to need more specialists and those with some expertise. We’re not talking decades of Chechnya experience or fluent Russian but some regional expertise. As well as the middle east and central Asia, expertise in central and south America would be of interest and the Caribbean would be of interest to our electoral teams. We get ad hoc projects in many different countries. Africa is another area of interest.
I was also helped by the fact that I thought I was being interviewed for an unpaid internship and it was only later i realised it was a job interview. – I must have been more relaxed. The fact that I had tracked them down in the first place also helped.
What other skills and background are helpful? Writing skills are vital and in a small team we need decent prose style. A communications or journalism background also indicates a certain independence and initiative. Other skills that would be helpful would be a psychology background or even web design for example – any ancillary ‘hard’ skills like that.
How academic is your social science work? The academic community helped design the methodology and we have many academics still involved. There is, however, a constant tension in what we send to our clients: readers such as the military who like clear cut answers and our other audience, social scientists, who are happy with caveats and qualifications and emphasize evidence. Our research has a commercial imperative that academic research doesn’t have. You have to work with material you have, in a confident manner. Material that sometimes in an academic arena might not be sufficient to produce a report at all.
We do visit the countries because you can find out things you wouldn’t find out otherwise. For example you can visit a market in the middle east and see youths wearing either Barcelona or Real Madrid shirts while a mall in the far east they would have either Manchester United or Liverpool shirts. This micro level detail could impact a lot on final recommendations. For example a recommendation that suggested providing a football league as a counter to boredom and excessive influence by a local mosque might include a recommendation to provide relevant club shirts to supply a higher level of interest and engagement.
In Afghanistan we have a permanent in-country research manager. This helps give us a competitive edge.
Where else should people look for opportunities?
- Albany Associates – Albany Associates is a UK-based, internationally-focussed company with a strong track record in delivering communications and public diplomacy strategies; consulting on media and telecommunications law and regulatory frameworks; advising on media infrastructure development including assisting the development of public service broadcasting and providing professional training and institutional capacity building” the main organisation. Almost all ex-British Army. In the USA (nb they do have a UK office)
- Bell Pottinger.
- L-3 Communications
- Political Risk is a related sector for which London is a centre such as Kroll, Control Risk, Jane’s and AKE (search careerstagged.co.uk for ‘political risk’)
- Job boards such as the Foreign Policy Association, Foreign Policy Magazine, UN Association for the UK, Young Professionals in Foreign Policy.
- The Washington Post article on ‘Top Secret America’ at http://projects.washingtonpost.com/top-secret-america/articles/ A very good list. USA focused but many of the organisations listed will have offices elsewhere – especially Dubai and you won’t need a USA work permit for those locations.
- Olive Group – http://www.olivegroup.com/ “Olive Group is a leading, global provider of integrated risk mitigation solutions to multinational corporations, governments, non-governmental organisations and private individuals”
What is a Crisis Management Analyst? November 9, 2010Posted by Jeff Riley in : Intelligence and security, Political risk, international development , add a comment
We held the first in a series of conversations with King’s College London War Studies alumni with Elettra Pauletto of ISS who is working as a crisis management analyst. The role combines very practical contingency planning for clients (eg if the building becomes unusable where can we continue operations from and how quickly?) to bigger picture political risk research. Elettra has joined other War Studies alumni working for ISS and you can read a more in depth case study at http://bit.ly/ckSe9I
In the meantime here are some other key tips gleaned from Elettra’s talk
- You will need something that gives you an edge. Typically this might be regional experience but in Elettra’s case she was able also to point to her practical experience working with an NGO in Africa. This was very good training for contingency planning and having an idea of the steps needed to be taken in the case of a power outage, for example.
- Any related experience will pay off – often in ways you don’t anticipate. Before the ISS job Elettra was doing a database job for a risk consultancy and, while it wasn’t ideal for her, it really helped her put together a good application. It taught a lot of the same skills needed and, even more importantly, gave her good contacts which helped shape her application
- Make sure you are in the loop about vacancies. Organisations that recruit in small numbers and in niche areas don’t do mainstream advertising. Lots of them though send out regular email newsletters. Elettra heard about her job in one of these. Make sure you get signed up.
Interning at IHS Jane’s Strategic Advisory Services September 24, 2010Posted by Jeff Riley in : Intelligence and security, internships , add a comment
Oliver Shorvon completed a War Studies Masters in 2010. We talked to him about his internship with IHS Jane’s Strategic Advisory Service (JSAS).
What was your background? Previously an Artificial Intelligence with management studies degree at the University of Sussex. I also had 4 years work experience. Two years in a technical role on a ‘new e-learning’ IT project and I worked as a consultant for two years for a firm who dealt with medical imaging systems. I suppose a lot of client skills.
What made you switch direction to War Studies? Well I’d always been interested in the subject but got dissuaded during my ‘A’ levels by my form tutor who told me that it wouldn’t really lead to anything (I don’t think he knew much about it actually). I’d always kept up my interest in defence and the defence industry through books, online sources and Jane’s Defence Weekly. I was familiar with IHS Jane’s prior to my Masters and that they were a firm I was interested in working for. I knew the qualification would make me of more interest to them.
How did you come across IHS Jane’s? Well I met them at the Careers in Conflict event in October and met David Hiley, one of their consultants and a War Studies Department Alumni. I remember afterwards talking to a friend about how I handled the networking side of this and it seemed I did a lot wrong. I just gave him my first name, for example. I did get his business card but then didn’t email him the next day and by the time I got round to emailing him at the end of the week I didn’t get a reply. The following February I did email him again because I wanted to get some industry insight after my personal tutor suggested that I ask to meet him for a coffee. By coincidence, I sent the email a couple of weeks before the Jane’s internship presentation at King’s and consequently saw him at the event instead.. He did apologise for not replying to my previous email and explained that he had been very busy at the time.
What was the interview like? I was interviewed for different positions. The consultancy one went well. I was asked questions about a press briefing on an item of military equipment I knew something about and tasked with demonstrating my research skills. I struggled a bit in an interview for the second position when they asked me which of the two roles I would prefer. I worried about being straight in my preference for consultancy but it worked out okay in the end.
What made you suited for the role? Primarily a keen interest in defence and I wanted to work in the Jane’s consultancy arm rather than publishing or online content, for example. I am interested in consultancy because I didn’t want to get locked into a single companies’ products but provide impartial analysis. Also I had a good level of knowledge though this I realised was secondary because the level you need is very specialised and they know you have to really pick it up on the job. Interest is key. The consulting experience helped but we had four interns in JSAS and they didn’t all have that kind of background.
What were you working on? Well a lot of it is highly confidential. It’s really niche. For example detailing the companies who deal in arms and entering them on a database. These are companies who like to keep a low profile – even the big companies. All the information is available through open source research but it takes some digging out. Other work, for example, could involve assessing the market for some defence equipment on behalf of a manufacturer considering entering that segment of the market. Who uses the technology, how much it costs – but current players aren’t naturally very open about that commercial information. Country profiles for example on how much is spent on defence and projections about defence budgets. An intern takes on the role of an entry level analyst. You have templates to work with and the team are very friendly and approachable and encourage that you constantly check that you’re on the right track but you get more confident about what you are producing as you gain more experience.
What did you get out of it? Well it was interesting in itself. I got lots of insight into what they do. It helped me clarify what I want to do in my career as well and it looks great on my CV – on a global basis. It is also a different type of research. I hadn’t taken the open research module and now I’m a much better at it. Through talking to the staff at JSAS I know about specialist blogs that help me keep up to date with the iindustry. You will be working alongside some really experienced and knowledgeable professionals who know how the industry works. This is great ‘big picture’ material. By the end of the internship I felt a much more confident defence analyst. You need to think laterally. As an example if you were tasked to create a list of all the aircraft grade aluminium manufacturers in a particular country, you could Google ‘aluminium manufacturer in country x’ or instead track down the country’s ‘association of aluminium manufacturers’ and use their list of members. . I’m a better writer now – the report writing at JSAS is different to academia and I have gained experience at writing with a defence client in mind in a way that I couldn’t before.
What was the downside? Well it was 2.5 days a week for around seven weeks – though I’ve stayed on after that. It’s travel expenses only but they are flexible because they know you are studying and most of them have done exactly the same. At times it’s repetitive and frustrating. The defence industry isn’t very open. Even big companies don’t have a lot of material readily available. So it can be tough for example, when you are getting nowhere with your research. This can be compensated by those moments of breakthrough when you suddenly access a layer of information you need.
* Get internships as early as possible – you can be overwhelmed in the beginning of a Masters but it is worth it. I left it quite late in the course and didn’t start until February, for example. Internships do help your studies and give you great networking opportunities.
* Make the most of the career events in the department and make sure you network properly. I also used the Careers Service for help with my applications and interviews. The practice interview questions definitely got me in the right frame of mind and proved to be excellent preparation.
You can find similiar case studies as this on www.careerstagged.co.uk search on ‘defence’ for example or ‘market analyst’
Working as a defence analyst September 15, 2010Posted by Jeff Riley in : Graduate recruitment, Intelligence and security , add a comment
Nick de Larrinaga graduated with a BA Hons in War Studies from the War Studies department at King’s College London in the summer of 2010. He has started work as a market analyst focusing on the defence sector. We talked to him about his job.
Jeff Riley, King’s College Careers Service – August 2010
What does Visiongain do? Visiongain are a business intelligence company. We provide specialist business information and organise conferences across a range of sectors such as Telecoms and Pharmaceuticals. I work for the defence sector of the business. Typically my clients are defence contractors and companies or organisations who want to be involved, or who are already involved, in the defence industry.
What do you do? Essentially my job is to write detailed and analytical market sector reports. You could accurately describe me as a journalist/defence writer, a market/defence analyst or an economic forecaster. My first report for example was on the military simulation and virtual training market, from 2010 to 2020. It assessed the market value of military simulation – ways of using computer technology to train soldiers. The customers could be businesses considering entering the market or even companies already involved who want to know where they are in the industry. Occasionally we provide specialist consultancy solutions for a single client but primarily our reports are aimed at the wider market. The reports are not just economic forecasts. We have to predict future trends; where spending is likely to be; how the national market is structured and what are the sub-sectors within it. They are substantial documents – 30,000-50,000 words, 200 plus pages of text.
It sounds a daunting project. How do you begin with something like that? Generally you start from scratch but sometimes you are updating previous reports and you can use those as a starting point. Research happens in two ways, firstly by using primary sources such as company statements and press releases. We look at quantitative material such as financial statements from companies in the sector such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing or Raytheon. Other media sources include publications and journals. The other research method we use are interviews with key people in the sector such CEOs or other senior individuals such as marketing directors. The interviews may be face to face in company offices, at industry events such as the Farnborough Airshow, or may take the form of telephone or email interviews.
Isn’t that hard to arrange? Actually sometimes impossible. I abandoned some research on counter-terrorism because people wouldn’t or couldn’t go on record to discuss the sector. For other projects though it has been straightforward; in established markets the large companies, who possess dedicated industry relations teams, will dominate. In contrast, emerging markets are typically populated by small-medium sized companies, who are eager to get their names out there and conduct interviews.
Was the degree helpful? Yes it was some parts have been directly relevant. Defence spending is driven by current and perceived future operational and strategic demands. Throughout my degree, current conflicts such as in Afghanistan have been at the forefront of much discussion and analysis. Understanding these conflicts and how they might evolve over time is key in enabling one to forecast how nations will be spending on defence in the future. Though this level of sector knowledge isn’t absolutely necessary having an interest in it is obviously useful and having studied it is an advantage. More generally the skills of research and analysis learnt from my degree are key and have been transferred into this role. Giving the length and depth of the reports we produce it can feel like being at a university, except that I’m writing the equivalent of half a PhD in six weeks; so the tempo of work is very different. In this respect you could see my role as a combination of the academic and the journalistic. However stylistically and in terms of content the writing differs extensively from either academic or journalistic writing in that it is market focused and is exclusively business to business orientated. Furthermore, the whole process of research, analysing, writing, editing and responding to editorial comments is quite unlike college work.
Did you get much training? I received some initial training from a lengthy presentation and considerable reading materials, however in many respects you’re training on the job. The first report title one receives after starting at Visiongain is always an update to a previous report, which provides you with an initial framework to utilise. Whilst reports are normally written to a six week timeline ones first report is normally written to an extended timeline of seven to eight weeks. This allows you the flexibility to learn from your own mistakes, whilstthe immediate responsibility and independence of work is refreshing compared to many graduate jobs.
Tell me about the recruitment process. Unlike many graduate jobs with lengthy and tedious application processes, Visiongain’s was clear and simple; they just wanted a CV. With my work experience – I’d interned for an MP during a summer vacation -,my academic track record (I got a first class degree and straight ‘A’s at A level) and my knowledge of the industry from my degree I thought I was pretty qualified for the job and I was pleased to be asked to sit an exam and interview. I’d noticed how few people on my degree were making it their business to get internships. We weren’t like law students who seemed pretty clued up about the necessity to do this.
The exam was a 1 hour exercise. It included a numeracy test, a case study analytical test and a proofreading exercise. For the analytical exercise I was given seven sources on defence spending and had to use them to assess the current market value for government spending on military helicopters. It really paralleled the work the job involves. Assessing a current market value, highlighting the key issues and forecasting calculated compound growth rates for next 10 years. Numeracy is important because we are known as a quantitative oriented company, and our reports feature extensive use of numbers, graphs and tables.
After this I proceeded to a one hour interview. This was with my line manager/editor plus the company manager. Questions covered included typical HR questions – ‘how do you cope with deadlines?’ type questions and more sector specific questions such as how I have done research and made analytical assessments.
What about your career progression? Well in the short term my next project is quantifying the military avionics market. In the longer term Visiongain has a fairly flat structure – you are either an analyst or an editor, although Visiongain also has extensive sales and e-marketing divisions. It’s also a fairly niche industry, although we do have several competitors. On the other hand my experience here would be useful not just for other companies in the sector but other commercial organisations concerned with economic forecasting and market analysis. There’s a strong parallel there for example with investment banking. The sector is also expanding. For example Visiongain’s defence sector has now expanded to double its previous size; and two of us here are King’s War Studies graduates.