Updated: Sep 6, 2020
Immediately after completing her undergraduate degree from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University, Akshita joined the Quality Council of India (QCI). Her brief stint at QCI was followed by her engagements with other reputed social sector organizations including J-PAL, Chief Minister’s Good Governance Associates (CMGGA) and BCG Social Impact Practice. She currently works as a Consultant at Dalberg.
Akshita plans to pursue higher education but wants to explore the sector enough to find out what fits for her in terms of both interest and capabilities. This pursuit is what has shaped her journey in the social sector so far. In our interview with Akshita, we discussed her journey so far, what her recruitment process at Dalberg was like, and the advice she has for young individuals looking to work in the social sector.
What got her interested:
Snippets from Akshita's journey
Akshita’s interest in the sector peaked while volunteering with Make a Difference for almost a year during her graduation.
“I saw first-hand the stark disparity in the opportunities that people have and how even basic needs are not fulfilled for everyone. That’s when I decided I really do want to work in the sector.”
Akshita initially toyed with the idea of appearing for the UPSC exams immediately after college. However, since she did not meet the age criteria to take the exams at the time of her graduations, she decided to join QCI instead.
“At QCI, I realised there is more than one way to make an impact in the sector and I also wanted to make a more informed decision about what it is that I wanted to do and how it tied up with my long-term aspirations”.
With a new perspective that she acquired at QCI, she started exploring other opportunities in the sector, which finally brought her to Dalberg.
Preparation for Dalberg:
During her interview preparation for Dalberg, as well as the other reputed organisations she worked at before that, Akshita tried to focus on two major things:
1. The behavioural aspect, i.e., the clarity of thought regarding why one is passionate about something as well as the ability to articulate it well.
“Have a solid reason for why you are interested in joining that particular organisation and how that fits into your long-term goals – it has to be genuine, because that is something interviewers can easily pick up on, and it can be a big turn-off for them if it seems rehearsed.”
2. Problem solving skills, i.e., whether one is able to take a problem, break it down to smaller parts, and identify the different parts they should be focussing on in order to have the desired impact.
Akshita mainly focussed on case study preparation and on building her knowledge about developmental challenges on the ground by reading newspapers (she emphasizes on reading one newspaper daily) and other social sector journals. She also reached out to friends and seniors who had cracked similar interviews in the past and did mock interviews to get real-time feedback from them. She believes solving a couple of cases every day really helped in improving her structuring as well as her ability to communicate well with the interviewer while solving the cases.
“It is really hard to come across cases specially tailored to the development sector, so case books focussing on the corporate space are a very good starting point. The idea is to build the skill set, and that is very much transferable. If one has that skill set and is also well-versed with the social sector, they are in a strong place to make it through those interviews.”
Recruitment process at Dalberg:
Akshita’s recruitment process at Dalberg consisted of her applying through the online portal and having a short screening test focussing on basic quantitative and language skills. This was followed by four rounds of case interviews. Additionally, the case interview rounds would often start with a short conversation regarding things like why she wanted to join Dalberg and what excited her about the sector, followed by guesstimates or interview cases tailored to the sector.
“They are very particular about getting people who are passionate about the sector because they are very passionate about the sector.”
Akshita believes her problem-solving and communication skills helped her with the process at Dalberg, along with her prior experience in the development sector.
“Having solved a few cases and having some experience in the sector so that my answers were grounded in reality is what I think really helped me. If I look back on my interview at Dalberg, I think I was able to draw on my prior experiences at both BCG and CMGGA to come up with pragmatic solutions.”
Journey at Dalberg:
Snippets from Akshita's journey
At Dalberg, Akshita has got the chance to work in the education and youth employment space so far. Typically, her work involves a lot of travel and field work, working on presentations and Excel modelling, interviews with experts and clients, and her work streams largely vary with projects.
Dalberg’s work culture is what really sets the organisation apart for Akshita. She believes the organisation is genuinely interested in the well-being of their employees as well as their long-term goals. A lot of people move on to grad schools, start-ups, impact investing and other similar roles.
“Dalberg, as an organisation, believes in building up leaders for the development sector. The organisation truly invests in you and looks at you as a person rather than a resource, so the leadership is always very supportive of whatever it is you want to do if you are moving on from the organisation.”
Several times in her interview, Akshita emphasized on the following two points:
1. There needs to be a lot of introspection about why is it what you want to work in the social sector, because a lot of people venture into it for the wrong reasons such as thinking of it as a launchpad to a great B-School. You need to make sure you are joining for the right reasons and are ready for some of the challenges that you might face.
“Once you know why you are in the sector it also truly reflects in the conversations you have with people – especially your clients. It helps you serve them better and also stay motivated through whatever challenges you might face in the sector.”
2. Constantly keep yourself updated about what is happening and how you can better improve your skills.
“The development sector really needs people who are not only passionate but also truly sharp and smart about the way they are solving some of these problems. So make sure you keep your skills updated, whether it is by the way of reading or attending seminars, or deeply investing in the work you are doing at the organisation so that you are constantly looking for mentorship and feedback from people you are working with.”
Recommended Reading Resources:
Despite her busy schedule, Akshita ensures that she is at the top of the developments in the sector. Following comprise her staple reads:
Hindu, Indian Express, New York Times
Blogs by Chris Blattman
Additionally, especially since the pandemic, she has also been trying to attend as many webinars and talks as possible to keep herself updated.
“Once you are passionate about a sector, you realise how important it is to stay informed. Dalberg has a great culture of people engaging in conversation and sharing resources they like relevant to the development sector, so it acts as a great external incentive as well.”