Thanksgiving gift from NII alumni – Khushbu Pratap nee Jithra

When we heard Khushbu Pratap’s name cropping up in Gartner’s explanation on its Magic Quadrants, we thought we would ask her about how her experience working at NII had been. Below is the unadulterated heart-taking-a-leap-of-joy response!

My time at NII has been the most rewarding experience in my short professional history. I am talking from the time NII was about 22 people including admin staff! (Ed’s note: we are 80+ now with offices in Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Delhi, and UAE!) Wow, little did I know I’d be writing such an email as NII alumna 🙂 . My tenure at NII holds a very special place in my overall professional and personal growth so you should excuse me if this reads like a short memoir.

Some of the things I loved and worked great for me:

Guidance — I would be stating the obvious by thanking KK for being the mentor that he is. I run out of adjectives for how well he has helped guide many of us. His leadership has not only transformed NII but it has also permanently shaped the future course of our individual careers. He is a change agent himself!

Excellent team to work with — I think the mix of people we had were all starting out their careers. Though the competition was rife, we all learned together. There was a very generous exchange of information and ideas at all times. This is one of the primary reasons for my five year long tenure at NII.

Exposure to new projects — International consulting exposure was one of the reasons my resume stood out for my current employer. Friends, it is not every day that you get the opportunity you have right now to service international customers and learn about different work cultures.

Opportunity to make mistakes — Mistakes made during projects (my own or those of peers) in past are now case studies for me to avoid. The team meetings you have are a treasure. When your colleagues share customer stories, stay awake and learn. The benefit was not limited to any one role – I have the privilege to be a more seasoned consultant, trainer, and auditor.

Opportunity to present on professional platforms — Successful public speaking was one of the minimum criteria required for the analyst position. The fact that NII gave unlimited opportunities to present and make my own brand along with that of the company’s helped in a big way.

Encouragement and incentive to write research papers — illustrated research too was a minimum requirement for the analyst position. My experience with conducting pre sales meetings and executing consulting projects helped to during the interviewing process. Also, at my time, we were incentivized to write articles for SecurityForum, IIA publication, and NII blogs. I thank my stars it was that way J.

Some of the things I was not particularly fond of but worked great for me:

DIY activities — these were travel, logistics, and planning your own trips. It worked great because I now know the insides of how the process works and no one can fool me on how much time it will take to schedule visa interviews, book international travel, prepare visa paperwork, insurance etc. Though cumbersome, I just know more!

Writing sales proposals and security advisories — I would drag myself to complete these. However, I can now tell customers what to expect from vendors and I review their RFPs as well as RFP responses and help them negotiate with the vendors. The security advisories expanded my knowledge horizon on different technologies, web services, and networking equipment. Knowledge of vendors is instrumental for being an analyst.

Being an auditor that lacked grey hair! — Some audit assignments at NII put me in a position where I was conducting audit interviews with people twice and sometimes thrice my age. Their approach towards the interviews could pass off as a comedy sitcom episode right now! However, knowledge of the technology and understanding of the business process helped me change their attitude towards me. So, do not let your age speak for your knowledge.

Teaching myself concepts I had never heard before at the time — PCI DSS, ITIL, BS 25999, SOX 404, SAS 70, COBIT, ISO 20000 are examples of standards and frameworks that are self learnt. At the beginning it seemed like diving all alone into this chest of jargon and new concepts but it ultimately helped fuel an entire compliance practice and of course, on the way, I had the opportunity to gather experience. So, I think being bold, not losing focus, and keeping at it pays off well.

And here is a random list of things I cherished at NII. I think these small things made a big difference to how much I liked working at NII.

Open door — we were able to walk into the work space of our peers and seniors at any time we requested. We could talk freely and voice our opinion without fear. There was no false sense of seniority or pretense of being busy.

Learning together — on many occasions our seniors learnt with us. I learnt many things from my team when I was leading the practice and we collectively learnt a lot from our customers. Learning was second nature to us and no one was pushed in the corner to do it individually.

Healthy criticism — NII felt like a second home because you could be told you were wrong and not feel awful about yourself. I remember I was told to improve and I did. At first it does not feel great but at NII I learnt to rise above the fact that I am wrong and it has been pointed out. So the best I could do is act to change it. Fortunately, there was always someone to help you change it!

This has helped me immensely in my current research peer review process. All analyst research is heavily critiqued by fellow analysts. But that happens because they want you to excel and refine the research.

Well, I must thank KK to urge me to write this email, it has brought back some beautiful memories. And if you managed to stick around for the sign off, I would like to reinforce that you are in a great place and in very good hands of your seniors. Make the most of this time, do the best for your customers, you’ll be surprised they will remember you for long after the project is complete.

So before I choke or exceed reasonable reading character limit, my best wishes to all of you!




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