A Real Confidence Booster

Harsh Nigam’s experience in the MEM program gave him the knowledge and comfort to make key decisions as a risk management specialist with Western Union.

Harsh Nigam

As a risk management specialist at Western Union, Harsh Nigam (MEM ‘22) knows one bad decision can have a massive impact on the company and its investors.

That he's comfortable helping assess those risks and make critical decisions is a testament to Northwestern's Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program, he said.

“The program definitely helped me boost my confidence,” Nigam said. “I was not a confident person. I was always scared about not being able to understand the business side of the technical work I was doing. Now, after MEM, I know the business case behind these things and how much impact I can have on an organization.”  

Nigam joined Western Union, a global money transfer and payment services provider, in August. The company allows people to move money into and around all but two countries on the planet – Russia and Iran.  

Nigam is part of a team tasked with ensuring that each new technological feature Western Union plans to offer is thoroughly vetted to comply with regulations everywhere it will be used. He and his colleagues also examine these potential product offerings to ensure they will confound even the most sophisticated cyber-criminal.

Dealing with potential cybersecurity concerns is where Nigam believes he has the biggest impact within Western Union.

"A single decision of mine can impact the cybersecurity risk to Western Union,” he said. “Let’s say I have given approval to a product that later experiences a cyber incident.  Potentially, Western Union might have its revenue impacted and our customer’s positive view of the brand could go down."

Nigam serves better as that guardian at the gate because of the MEM program, he said. When he started the program in 2021, he was flush with technical knowledge and wanted to match that with better business sense.

The MEM program gave him exactly what he was looking for.

“Now, I’m not just a normal engineer. I know what is happening behind the business, how it's going to be impactful,” he said. “Many engineers don’t know that what they are doing is going to be impactful in the market, but if you know about all of these things, it makes you much more well-rounded.”

Classes in economics and accounting were central to his growth and development, as were the program's offerings in project management and business strategy.

“I was a technical guy. I didn't know about finance. I didn't know about accounting. I didn't know about marketing,” he said. “All of these things I learned in the business environment at Northwestern.”

That knowledge led to his newfound confidence, and that confidence is now leading Nigam to a more successful future, he said. Because of that, he recommends the MEM program to professionals looking for a similar boost in their career trajectory.

Just don’t expect to passively sit in a classroom, he said.  

“Don’t come to MEM if you want to just learn theoretically,” Nigam said. “You will be learning and you will be implementing. If you want practical knowledge, then MEM is the best choice.”

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