Venessa Ninovic

Venessa Ninovic

Alumni spotlight

BCCJ 2018

Tell us a bit about your life and career after UNSW.
I am currently an intelligence practitioner with a government agency, with years of experience in the public and private sector in tactical, operational, and strategic intelligence. I am also a speaker and blogger in my spare time, sharing my knowledge and thoughts with the intelligence community. It is because of this; I was awarded the Australian Institute of Professional Intelligence Officers (AIPIO) ‘Emerging Intelligence Professional’ in 2022.

I have always had an interest in crime, and it was within the first few years out of university I realised my interest for the intelligence sector. It first came to light when my sister Melanie was doing a capture the flag competition looking for real missing people online, doing open-source intelligence (OSINT). That’s where my interest in OSINT began, and I was amazed with the amount of information you can find online, and how it can be used for a good cause.

Reflecting on your first year at uni - did you imagine yourself doing what you do today?
I could have only dreamed of doing what I am doing now. I am at a place where I am very content with my career, noting that it took a lot of work to get to this point. As time goes on, you realise what you like, what you don’t like, and you have the option to narrow your focus on one specialised area. Your career is what you make it, if you find something that interests you, dive headfirst and learn all that you can, you never know where it can take you!

After high school, I was a little lost with what I wanted to study at university. By the time I started my criminology degree, I had already done half a political science degree at a different university. However, in that degree I did one elective subject on criminology. That one elective was all it took to make the switch and I never looked back. I knew I enjoyed watching crime shows and learning about crime in general and having that encounter of criminology made me want to learn more. In my first year of the Bachelor of Criminology I was not aware of what the career options were for the degree, or what my goals were.

How did your time at UNSW help shape who you are today?
My time at UNSW helped me understand my love for research and writing in general. Learning both qualitative and quantitative research methods and report style writing within the Bachelor of Criminology has shaped my career as I still use those skills to this day. 

What were your most memorable experiences while studying at UNSW?
During my introduction to law subject, I was required to spend some time in a court room, to sit and observe the proceedings and take notes of what I witnessed. This later turned into an essay which I really enjoyed writing. Attending the courts was a fascinating experience, and one that actually really helped me in my career. As my first role out of university was a Court Officer for the Department of Justice, I was in charge of managing a court room at Downing Centre. Having the pre-existing knowledge of the court room, and the processes that took place, really assisted me when starting my new role.

Why is the study of criminology and criminal justice important?
It's unfortunate, however, crime is a constant in our society. The world will always need criminologists and intelligence analysts. It is important to understand the reasonings behind someone’s behaviour, why they offend, why they reoffend, and the way the current justice system works. By knowing this, that then leads into preventative measures.

Methods of crime are constantly evolving too, with the aid of evolving technologies like AI, which is something that fascinates me personally. It is an ever-evolving landscape, and although crime is a constant, the methods in which crimes are committed are constantly changing.

What are some common misconceptions about working in the field of criminology and criminal justice?
That you’ll either be a police officer, private investigator, or work in research. The reality is there is a wide range of roles that are relevant to the degree, which it’s great!

What is one of the biggest challenges you face in your field of work?
Intelligence analysis is largely research based and data driven. Working with large amounts of data with the limited time you have been set to complete a report can be challenging. So, learning to manage your time is something I have had to learn over the years.

Cognitive bias can have a large impact on intelligence analysis. Having initial beliefs can shape every stage of the intelligence cycle, and ultimately lead your analysis astray. This is why working in a team, seeking differing opinions and doing different analytical techniques is so essential in the work intelligence analysts do.

If could you change one thing in the law and justice system tomorrow, what would it be?
Bring in more education and assistance to help stop reoffending, to understand the background of the individual – and how that shapes them and their decisions. Nearly everyone has a background story, and it needs to be heard and understood before progressing forward.

What advice would you give someone considering studying a Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at UNSW?
Universities offer a vast array of courses to choose from, and in the end, I am glad I chose a course that I thought would be interesting, and it definitely was. Criminology is a fascinating space to do a degree in, as there are so many facets of crime to learn about – psychology, history, law, society, you name it.

Choosing a degree is a big decision, but if you have an interest in the reasonings for criminal activity, and the theories behind it, I say go for it. Reach out to others who have done the course (perhaps on LinkedIn) and ask them questions – what did they think of the course, would they recommend it, and look into the differing roles criminology alumni have – do these roles interest you? Deep dive further and look into those roles yourself, do you see yourself in a role like that? Is that something you might enjoy?

What advice would you give current criminology students approaching the end of their degree, as they look ahead at their early careers?
I would recommend getting your resumes and cover letters reviewed – having a second set of eyes on a piece of work is always worthwhile (spoken like a true intelligence analyst). In all honesty, when I was studying, I was used to writing long essays, and this practice transferred onto my resume and cover letters too, when the reality is recruiters don’t have the time to read length items. So, keeping it short and sweet is key.

Don’t narrow your searches for jobs, cast a wide net, as this degree is so diverse and there a range of career options waiting for you. From finance, to cyber, intelligence, research, privacy, policy, justice, keep your options open and try not to be too picky – getting your foot in the door is the main challenge after university.