Updated: Jul 30, 2020
Aashna’s dive into the development consulting space was an informed and conscious choice. While she was inclined towards a career in consulting since her college days at SRCC, she gave herself enough time to explore both the academic & professional facets of the sector through her journey at the Young India Fellowship.
“Having a clear mindset and consciously availing opportunities that aligned with my vision, were the key enablers for getting an admit to Sattva.”
-Aashna, Analyst, CSR Advisory vertical, Sattva Consulting. Sattva Consultancy is one of the top development consultancies in India.
The First Steps:
For Aashna, your search for the best-suited role for you in the sector should start off with robust research. Besides browsing through company websites, she feels that getting first-hand accounts from people working in the sector is instrumental to develop a nuanced understanding.
The three-way framework that she suggests for your search is –
Have detailed conversations with professionals working in the sector
Gain relevant short term experience to test the waters
Conduct thorough secondary research to learn about organizational values & culture
To gain a hands-on understanding of the space, one should follow journals like the India Development Review, where top professionals from the sector regularly contribute their key learnings. Once you have a fair idea of the organization, searching for its people on LinkedIn and requesting them for insights is always a great idea!
The Recruitment Process:
Aashna too started off her search along similar lines. Post shortlisting a few organizations that aligned with her values through extensive secondary research, she went ahead with her preparation.
At Sattva, following her CV shortlist, she was asked to submit an assignment to test her problem solving skills. For this assignment, she prepared an elaborate PPT deck highlighting the problem statement, conducting a thorough landscape analysis, and then went on to suggest solutions that could be implemented at scale.
This was followed by a couple of rounds which integrated case rounds with personal interviews. Her interviews were a mix of testing her problem solving skills and her in-depth knowledge about her past endeavors.
“The interview process can’t be standardized, and to a great degree, depends on the candidate.”
What worked for Aashna:
She prepared anecdotes from her journey to key questions that could be expected in an interview, well in advance. She felt that being completely honest with her interviewers about what she knew, as well as her areas for improvement totally worked in her favor.
Her Journey with Sattva:
Aashna’s experiences at Sattva have been fairly diverse. From working on research projects, setting up meetings, making PPT decks, and reviewing reports, a typical day in her Consultant life is very dynamic.
“Since I was working directly with the Principal on a CSR Project from the get-go, my learning curve was very steep; although I did take a couple of weeks to figure things out."
From interviewing C-Suite executives to preparing Business Sustainability Reports, she got a chance to avail cross-cutting opportunities across domains. She also got to devise a few strategies for both corporate clients & non-profit organisations working in the healthcare domain, which she’d been really passionate about.
For her, most development consulting roles can be broadly summarized into two categories:
Frontend Client Facing: Where you’re strategizing, brainstorming, and rigorously solving problems along with your clients, while implementing things on the ground
Or Backend Research: Where you’re involved with extensive primary & secondary research, conducting interviews, relaying insights, suggesting solutions to the key stakeholders of any project
[Note to the reader: These broad categories are meant for a better understanding of the reader and are not very precise representations of their work. More practically, their role depends on the organizational/ team structure, project deliverable, client asks and other factors.]
Likely challenge for a development consultant and what you can do:
She thinks, a key issue that most development consultants come across is a disconnect between their work & the on-ground impact resulting due to the same. As someone orchestrating the projects & spearheading solutions, she’s always made it a point to establish a solid connection with her beneficiaries, conducting field visits every quarter, checking in with her NGO partners every now & then to gain a better understanding of the actual impact of her work. Besides quick problem solving, she suggests anyone entering the space to develop a solid knack for managerial abilities.
She has often come across people entering the development consulting space post their MBA from top B-schools. Apart from MBA, other preferred higher education avenues are MPP/ MPA, among others. Once she gains relevant experience in a few years, she too plans on finishing her higher education & coming back to Consulting or setting up her own social enterprise!
“Unlike management consulting firms that are generally on the lookout for Economics, B. com and Engineering graduates, the impact consulting firms value diversity and reward passion over academic pursuits.”
The diversity at Sattva comprising B-School grads, people from top fellowships in the country, and those interested in a career in public administration have contributed immensely to her learning experiences. She hopes to utilize her learnings in the space to continue creating a positive sustainable impact.
PS: Aashna is also willing to guide a few young aspirants through their preparations for jobs and internships. Do reach out to us on our LinkedIn Page, to get connected with her.