CIA to McKinsey: Tara Maller is Managing Risk
January 20, 2021 · Interview,Mckinsey
CIA to McKinsey: Tara Maller is Managing Risk
Tara Maller’s career is evidence that there is no “right” road to success. Rather than following the beaten path, Maller has followed her passions and has lead an extremely diverse and successful career.
Maller graduated from Dartmouth where she majored in Government with a concentration in International Relations. She then proceeded to get her Masters in International Relations from the University of Chicago.
Following Chicago, Maller went to work as a Military Analyst for the CIA. At the CIA, Maller’s work focused on the insurgency in Iraq. She credits her time here for being a vital building block for her career, as working such an intense and high pressure role early on prepared her for many of the challenges she would encounter down the road.
Maller has always been extremely passionate about public service and doing what she can to serve her country. Her time at the CIA only reinforced this feeling, motivating her to seek out future opportunities where she felt she could make a real impact on critical challenges facing our country and be “in the arena” whether that be through work or using her voice in the media.
After her time at the CIA, Maller spent 5 years getting her PhD in Political Science from MIT. Her areas of concentration were International Relations and Security Studies. She had observed that many of her more senior colleagues at the CIA had either military experience or other higher degrees that helped them move forward in their careers. Couple that with her own academic curiosity, Maller decided pursuing a PhD would make sense to enhance her expertise and advance her career.
She then went on to work as a Managing Director at BrightWire, a geopolitical media startup, leading a 25 person team that worked to write exclusive news for banks, hedge funds, law firms, and other businesses. She embraced such a leadership role and gaining managerial experience during her time there.
Following her stint at BrightWire, Maller wanted to return to one of her most fundamental passions: public service. Maller looked to pass on her passion for service and giving back to her country through The Franklin Project at The Aspen Institute.
Led by General Stanley A. McChrystal, The Franklin Project, now known as Service Year Alliance, worked to promote national service and civic responsibility. She spent two years working as Communications Director and helping the organization spread its valuable message.
Prior to joining the Franklin Project, she also worked on a shorter term global terrorism risk assessment project where she worked with terrorism & homeland security experts to assess the risks associated with different groups, geographies, and tactics.
Tara would continue this work for two more years at The Counter Extremism Project, a not-for-profit, non-partisan, international policy organization. The group was formed to combat the growing threat from extremist ideology. The group is led by a renowned group of former world leaders and former diplomats.
Maller served as their Spokesperson and Senoir Policy Advisor, speaking on a wide range of topics pertaining to terrorism and extremism. She also met regularly with many Democratic and Republican offices on Capitol Hill about these issues.
As if Maller wasn’t busy enough, during her time working for both the counterterrorism projects as well as the Franklin Project, Maller was a consistent presence on news networks across the country. Maller used her political expertise and extensive experience with global terrorism to be a frequent national security analyst guest for CNN, MSNBC, Bloomberg, Fox News, and more.
Maller had hoped to eventually do TV, but the opportunity came earlier than anticipated when one day she had to fill in for a colleague for political commentary on CNN, she seized the opportunity. She worked without an agent and with no formal media training. She advocated for herself to land appearances as an expert in the national security and foreign policy realm.
Tara’s tenacity and accomplishments were able to speak for themselves, but Maller also felt extremely comfortable on air from the start (often appearing on short notice for breaking news related to terrorism & other national security matters) and she truly enjoyed being able to reach a wider audience. Producers and bookers took note and Maller quickly became a respected terrorism commentator for the biggest news networks in the U.S.
Maller loved being able to connect with viewers in real time and see her work having an immediate impact on millions of people’s lives. While being a commentator is much different from pushing policy in Washington, it was another rewarding way Maller felt she was making a difference by explaining foreign policy and national security matters to the public and providing her expertise and insight.
In 2018, Maller joined McKinsey & Company as a Risk Manager for the Public and Social Sectors (in the United States). Her portfolio primarily covers government clients. She has worked on a wide range of topics from work in the defense realm to work related to COVID.
She has extreme admiration for the quality of her colleagues at McKinsey, and loves being in a position where she is doing work directly related to supporting the government.
When asked what career advice Maller could give to readers, she was quick to say do what you love and do work that showcases your strengths and where you feel you are really making a difference. She also stressed how important it is to surround yourself with leaders who challenge you and make you better as well as people who make you happy. She also feels it is important to work with people and for people who welcome differences of opinion and debate.
Through a tenacious work ethic and an unrelenting drive to make her country a better place, Tara Maller has led an incredibly successful and unique career so far, and Rebellion Research looks forward to seeing what she accomplishes next.
Written by James Rhinelander
Edited by Alexander Fleiss