How do you support NNSA?
I am the Program and Policy Advisor for the Office of Nuclear Smuggling Detection and Deterrence, where I lead outreach efforts with international organizations, civil society, and foreign partners focused on improving the global capacity to counter radioactive and nuclear material smuggling.
What is your personal or cultural background, and how has that shaped you and your approach to your career?
I am a first-generation Indian American woman. My family consists of lawyers, doctors, and engineers, which is often regarded as the conventional job for individuals with an Indian background. My career path felt pre-determined until I moved to a small town in Nebraska and went to a school where I was one of the few minorities. I felt as though I was seen and treated differently from my classmates on a regular basis. This period in my life sparked an interest in pursuing a career focused on policy and international affairs. Over the years, my approach to my career has been simple: to be open and network/learn from individuals from all backgrounds.
What did you study in school and how did it impact you personally and professionally?
I earned my master’s degree in international affairs with a focus on nuclear policy that helped me develop critical thinking skills and innovative approaches to problem solving, and led to an extensive network that helped advance my career. On a personal level, being introduced to a network with individuals from different backgrounds and diverse experiences broadened my view and helped me look at various issues from different perspectives.
The best part about my job is being able to think outside of the box to come up with creative approaches and strategies to conduct outreach with new partners in hard-to-reach countries.
What led you to a career in nuclear security?
I took a class in nuclear security that was taught at the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI). This class inspired me to pursue a career in nuclear security and I started off my career as an intern at NTI.
What is the best part about your job?
My role involves managing the development and advancement of bilateral relationships, which includes identifying ways to develop new partnerships. The best part about my job is being able to think outside of the box to come up with creative approaches and strategies to conduct outreach with new partners in hard-to-reach countries.
What is your proudest accomplishment while working at NNSA?
Supporting the drafting and development of an agreement (Terms of Reference) that allows our office to work with international partners on counter-nuclear-smuggling issues. Since its inception, I have facilitated and managed the signing of 22 agreements.
Tell us something interesting about yourself.
Dance has been a key part of my life. Growing up, I took classes in Indian classical dances and was on a dance team through college. In 2010, I traveled to India to volunteer at a non-profit to teach English and dance to children with special needs.
Do you have any highlights from your time supporting NNSA?
I supported and managed our office’s 20-year anniversary that required extensive coordination that lasted over a year and had multiple stakeholders. This included coordination with the Administrator’s office, other NNSA offices, and the interagency. The event included participation from Congress, interagency offices, NNSA sister offices, the press, NGOs, think-tanks, and academia.
Why do you think diversity and inclusion is important to your profession?
They are important to any profession. In this field, we deal with complex policy issues and, in many cases, our jobs involve dealing with international partners. Having a working environment filled with individuals from different backgrounds and experiences leads to an increase in innovative and creative ideas and it creates an environment for looking at policy issues from diverse perspectives. It is also important to foster an environment of inclusivity to encourage those from different backgrounds to make their way up in this field in leadership positions.