Veryan Khan


What do you do as Associate Publisher and Editorial Director at Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium (TRAC)?

I wear a lot of hats - from organizing what new topics will next to be analyzed to assessments of new activity. I manage a number of people day to day; I do a lot writing and correspondence; as well as TRAC maintenance. I also spend a lot of time on social media monitoring jihadist activities directly.

What is a typical day like?

I wake up early and check emails and Twitter right away. Sometimes that dictates the entire rest of the day. If there has been a major attack, we immediately go into crisis mode connecting what we know, with what we can find out from our sources. Writing analysis to give to our subscribers immediately. Otherwise, I try to set large time slots aside for on-going projects. Covering activity worldwide, ends up in daily maintenance of group profiles, articles and TRAC Insights.  Though TRAC covers all aspects of terrorism, I particularly focus on jihadist groups located in SAHEL, North Africa, Middle East and Pacific Rim. I still have to monitor other editors who specialize in other areas (separatist, anarchist, racist, etc..) hence why I said I wear a lot of hats above.

I usually have at least one scheduled meeting a day. Though I take breaks during the day my day doesn’t usually end until very late, I always need to check that something hasn’t happened even after my office is closed, so I am checking emails and Twitter accounts periodically after office hours.

What does TRAC do?

TRAC is a digital intelligence repository. We cover all aspects of political violence worldwide - from every ideology. This involves offering information in a number of different ways from group profiles to regional threat assessments to analysis of incidents to constant monitoring of militant activity on-line and assessing it for our subscribers.

Why did you decide to switch from a career in philosophy academia to working on terrorism?

I worked for Beacham Publishing while teaching, when they decided to take on TRAC (my concept), I realized that the project was too vast to continue teaching at the same time. I still guest lecture when asked.

Tell us about working as an Associate Publisher and Editorial Director for Beacham Publishing.

Same company I work for now, just under that title I edited Beacham Publishing’s series on American Social History. That was a two year project, that actually was printed (opposed to on-line).

You were adjunct professor of philosophy at Virginia Commonwealth University and Georgia State University. What was that like?

Interesting, I taught medical ethics to pre-med majors, I expect they all practising doctors by now.

You hold a degree in Philosophy and US history from Washington College and an MA in Philosophy from Georgia State University. How do you use them in your daily job and would you recommend these degree to the readers?  

I am a big fan of the liberal arts. Both subjects taught me critical thinking and writing skills that are translatable to many fields of work. Both History and Philosophy have been critical to helping me do what I do daily.

Why the interest in terrorism?

I have always had a fascination with terrorism. While working on my Master’s Degree the 1996 Olympic Bombings happened. I was living in Atlanta at the time and realized that the area of philosophy I wanted to focus on was more about the morality (or lack their of) of terrorism.

What are the particular advantages and barriers a woman pursuing a career like yours might face?

Because my name is unisex people are often surprised to find out that I am female. There are very few people who do what I do, and the percentage of women is very low from that number. However, I have hired many women and find them to be terrific at this line of work —they tend to be able to juggle a lot of things at once during crisis situations.

What would you recommend to a young woman who would like to pursue a similar career?

It's a tough career to break into but it's one of the few that being young and strong willed will serve you well. One of the problems I see with the current strategies for countering extremism is that it all comes from the older generation At least in the area of jihadism, we need more young minds who can relate to what that generation is thinking and feeling. With the rise of social media monitoring, in many ways you can make a name for yourself now easier than in previous times. Several analysts I know created a career for themselves because they got out there and reported what they were actively seeing via blogs. They became recognized as authorities because they got better and better at what they were reporting as well as being first to find and understand a problem before others who have security clearances.

What was your first job and what did you learn doing it you still use nowadays?

I have had a lot of pretty interesting jobs when I was in High School - from working on a CAD machine for an architect, to proofing film for a wedding photographer, to working for a salvage yard. They all shaped me in some way, every work experience brings something you can use in the future, even if its just good interview fader material.

What are the most and least rewarding aspects of your career so far?

Most: Connecting dots — when I realize that I have connected something before anyone else has its very rewarding. Least: Working the number of hours a day it takes to be successful.

What are the key skills that make you good at what you do? How did you gain them?

Picking out the important, critical, tiny details in reams of primary resource material and remembering exactly where and what happened later when an associated item comes to light. It takes a lot of practice to learn how to find them, a lot of patience and hours and hours of reading.

What is the toughest lesson you have learnt?

Being able to balance work and home life.

What has been your biggest challenge and how did you tackle it?

Time management, the urgency of covering terrorist events, and learning to prioritize what needs to get done first. 

What achievements are you most proud of?

Receiving the Library Journal “Reference of the year” award.

Do you have a role model and if so who and why?

Both of my parents because he have always instilled a great work ethic and a drive to succeed.

Veryan Khan | Editorial Director and Associate Publisher | Beacham Publishing

23 years' experience

CV in brief

Studied MA in Philosophy at Georgia State University | BA in Philosophy and US History at Washington College

Previously worked as Associate Publisher and Editorial Director, Beacham Publishing | Adjunct Professor - Philosophy, Virginia Commonwealth University | Adjunct Professor - Philosophy, GA State University | Financial Data Analyst, Blimpie International

Find her online LinkedIn | Twitter | NPR interview | TRAC profile

Exclusive email interview 28 August 2015