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Women of security: Anas Wihaib



From the value of integrity in security to building self-belief, Anas discusses her career successes and challenges in an inspiring interview which showcases why Anas has made security her career of choice. As a Co-Chair of the Women's Security Society (WSS), Anas also works towards supporting and motivating others on their career journeys, working collectively with WSS to inspire women across the industry and take on challenges to create further positive change and increase opportunities for women to advance their careers.



What is security and what does it signify for you?


I am proud to say I started very ignorant as to what security means, with a very black-and-white view that it always involved either policing or a security officer. Today, I understand security to be multi-dimensional, the hidden works that sit as part of our everyday actions. From the day you are born, the hospital security, to the travel, with airport checks to your everyday essentials which require screening and authentication, we assume security in all that we do. Today it can be argued that its symbol status, the ‘safety and security’ of a location signifies wealth, development and growth of a nation.


Security is making sure spaces are kept safe and people are confident around the people, spaces and scenarios that they expose themselves to. Security is unique in looking at each scenario as a whole, assessing each situation as a stand-alone before making decisions on how to move forward. The fact that there is no ‘one size fits all’ makes it a very special subject area. You are consistently calculating and mitigating risk, and making a difference, that is what makes the industry so special for me.


Security is also understanding human behaviour, essentially an instinct that can’t be taught and why continuous experience in the field is so important. Whilst of course looking at known data trends and intelligence is an outward display of the field, mannerisms and behaviours are just as important to understand motivations behind what raises security concerns, in all its forms.



Could you describe the journey that led you into the security industry?


My movement into the industry started off in the traditional route of education, whereby I originally started in the science, completing a Forensic Science Degree before moving on to combine politics and science and focused my Master’s Programme on Countering Organised Crime and Terrorism. Throughout my studies, I worked within the retail industry, I used this opportunity to observe how security was being utilised by the retail and hospitality industry. This experience inspired me to focus my dissertation on ‘The impact of Business Crime across England and Wales’.


My first role was with a small not-for-profit company of 4 individuals. When I landed this role I felt very lucky, I could build on my education to move me to a more practical role.

It was here, I was fortunate enough to work on a number of crime reduction initiatives across London to build my understanding of the types of security challenges across London.

I went on to build on my experience and managed a Guardforce in London’s West End, which taught me, for the first time, the real-life challenges faced by front-line staff. I began to build my long-standing partnership interest and I worked closely alongside the Metropolitan Police and British Transport Police, and it was here that I understood the value of public/private partnerships.


I was keen to understand what security meant outside of the UK, and within this moved to a Security Consultancy Role, whereby I was able to move onto international projects. This was fascinating, I was able to learn first-hand how cultural changes shape how security is adapted and adopted across the world. It was a great chance to learn what security means around the world, is it just ‘the what you see’ HVM, barriers and VSS, in some countries yes. In others, it extends to their personnel, and how they introduce the ‘softer’ side of security to their people, where the subject can, at times, be seen as quite invasive.


More recently I have moved into the world of Corporate Security. This built my understanding of the importance of security in private business, globally. Security is a core service that allows some of the world's most important projects to be executed.


These roles all taught me the value of integrity in security, both within community-facing roles and the most sought-after big corporations. Today I am still passionate about raising the profile of front-line staff, and their transferable skills, roles and values that I have seen throughout the years. Raising the profile of security as a career is key.



"These roles all taught me the value of integrity in security, both within community-facing roles and the most sought-after big corporations. Today I am still passionate about raising the profile of front-line staff, and their transferable skills, roles and values that I have seen throughout the years. Raising the profile of security as a career is key."


What inspires you about this sector?


The people, most importantly, how much they all genuinely care. The roles across the industry vary and yet within any role in security comes responsibility. The responsibility security individuals hold varies, from looking after one person, to at times in the thousands, despite this those in the industry are pushing to achieve and do the best for the customers/public/business they serve.


Security is at its basic the backbone of society and that’s what makes it the most special to me. It is the reason you are allowed to walk freely on the street, experience public spaces without fear, and speak freely without worry. The huge impact that security has on everyday life, its evolving nature, is what makes it truly inspiring.



"Security is at its basic the backbone of society and that’s what makes it the most special to me. It is the reason you are allowed to walk freely on the street, experience public spaces without fear, and speak freely without worry. The huge impact that security has on everyday life, its evolving nature, is what makes it truly inspiring."


What do you consider your biggest success in your career?


I have had the privilege of working on a multitude of amazing projects to date that has allowed me to meet some great people in the community. I would say my biggest success is being part of the response and recovery team and operations for the London Bridge and Westminster Bridge terror Attacks in 2017. Knowing that I had played a role in training and working with businesses in the area beforehand to allow them to be prepared for lockdown procedures was very rewarding. Despite the shocking and devastating consequences, I was proud to see a community come together and push towards fighting for a better, more secure future for the area. This memory will sit with me forever.



Have you had any setbacks and how did you deal with those?


It may sound ridiculous but my ambition was probably also a setback. I often felt I didn’t have the confidence or progression capabilities within my career. It was once a real worry for me, I was very eager to grow my career exponentially in my early years and at times, the anxiety related to this was actually a setback. It was only once I explored and understood that developing my skill set could be achieved in any role, despite the title, status or company that I realised progression was inevitable, it was due to come, and will come at the right time. Today, I ensure that daily, whatever the role I go out of my way to learn something new and that is the right ambition to have.


"It was only once I explored and understood that developing my skill set could be achieved in any role, despite the title, status or company that I realised progression was inevitable, it was due to come, and will come at the right time. Today, I ensure that daily, whatever the role I go out of my way to learn something new and that is the right ambition to have!"


Do you think there are good career progression opportunities for women in the security industry? What could be done to create more opportunities?


It is definitely getting better, slowly! Today I am seeing more women within the field, more women asking about what they could do and understanding that they can bring a unique perspective into any workforce. With diversity (in all shapes) comes growth. I spoke earlier about human behaviour as a base for security, if we understand human behaviour from the perspective of a female we will gain new problem-solving methods. Again, what I love about security, your experience makes you valuable, your experience allows you a varied voice on the table that is always helpful in looking at a security challenge differently.


I am proud that in 2022, I took on the role of co-chair of the Women's Security Society, which is really unique in driving women into security, specifically those starting in their careers providing a safe space for them to explore security amongst some very successful women and male allies.


"I am proud that in 2022, I took on the role of co-chair of the Women's Security Society, which is really unique in driving women into security, specifically those starting in their careers providing a safe space for them to explore security amongst some very successful women and male allies."


Do you have any role models or mentors who have inspired your career?


I have worked with some great inspirational people along my journey, too many to name. If I had to name a few, however:


Hannah Wadey - my first female CEO, who showed me the importance of encouraging women and girl power! Whenever I doubted myself, her glass-half-full attitude, allowed me to see the positive and rewards in all I was doing. Hannah also placed trust in me to deputise for her, this was the first time I gained exposure to the C-suite, the challenges, difficult questions and the reality of business. This has been an experience which has shaped how I see business today.


Jayne King - My first official mentor. We spoke about: What does a career look like? How should it be shaped? Where should I be at 30? Jayne helped me rationalise my thoughts, explained to me the importance of the transition phases of a career and that there is no ‘one size fits all’. Today I am lucky to work alongside Jayne in the Women’s Security Society, where together we can help reassure women who may have had the questions I once had.


All staff members have ever managed, who have taught me self-reflection, patience and the importance of understanding people’s circumstances. These are lifelong lessons for management and personal interaction too.


Lastly, which may sound very strange, more difficult clients and management over the years, have helped to shape me professionally in a great deal. Reflecting back now, they are the reason that I grew, pushed and endeavoured to learn more. Thus, in a way, they have also been silent mentors.


"Lastly, which may sound very strange, more difficult clients and management over the years, have helped to shape me professionally in a great deal. Reflecting back now, they are the reason that I grew, pushed and endeavoured to learn more. Thus, in a way, they have also been silent mentors."


What advice would you give to women who are starting or transitioning into the security sector?


Network, work hard and show your care for others.


Network: Often a daunting concept. This, however, is the perfect way to meet like-minded people, or gain inspiration from those that can give you an understanding of the routes to take to get to where you want to get to. Listen hard, observe closely and genuinely, and meet some great people.


Work hard - I am a big believer that your work will speak for you, it is the only playing field we all have that can’t be taken away from us! Whilst we don’t all have innate talent (me included!) I do believe my hard work has allowed me to push boundaries and grow in the field.


Care for others - We are all humans at the end of the day and our relationships (including professional) will undoubtedly vary, there is always a need for empathy in your interactions. Your care towards your employer, colleagues and staff will keep longevity within that relationship.



What inspires you?


Problem-solving and challenges! I am still a big believer that humans need challenges to remind themselves of what they are capable of, without this we can become complacent or even worse, forget how much we are capable of. This is one of the reasons I have stayed in security, as it reminds you at the end of some very difficult days, just how much you can push, grow and learn on a daily basis. Sometimes you can reflect in one week on what different problems you have solved, and the people you have helped and remember just how great you are!





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