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Automobile Engineering to Senior Manager at Pratham - Understanding Anna’s Journey


Picture credits: Pratham Education Foundation


Annapoorni Chandrashekar, referred to as Anna by her friends, completed automobile engineering from SRM University, Chennai in 2016 and pursued the Young India Fellowship immediately after that. She also co-founded an ed-tech start-up called The Climber while she was still doing her UG and is now working as a Senior Manager, Digital Innovations at Pratham, an NGO that focuses on high-quality, low-cost and replicable interventions to address gaps in the education system.


Read on to learn how after a degree in Automobile Engineering, Anna is impacting the education system in the country.


Anna’s first steps in the Social Sector:


Picture credits: Pratham Education Foundation


Anna delved into the social sector while she was still pursuing engineering. Her first tryst with the sector came through one of Enactus projects with the weavers of Kanchipuram. Her next tryst came during her final semester while she was working with Amrita nano-tech labs. While her project was around stirling engines, Amrita nano-tech lab also had a project on solar lighting deployment in different communities.


Anna expressed her interest to work on both the projects and made time for the same. As part of the solar lighting project, she travelled to Kondagaon in Chhattisgarh where she worked on deploying solar lighting for the community there. It was during this project that Anna understood the different dynamics that play out in the remote parts of India and developed a better understanding of the role of caste, religion and gender in rural India. The place was also a conflict area and had a huge naxal influence. All of this left Anna with a a lot of learning and a good understanding of ground realities.


The Fellowship Experience:


While at the Young India Fellowship (YIF), Anna had an opportunity to intern for Dalmia group on their CSR project. The project involved helping rural women entrepreneurs in the villages of Uttar Pradesh. This gave her a more practical understanding of the ground realities and she could juxtapose it with the theory she was learning at the Fellowship.


When I joined the YIF, I realised I could either join a private consulting firm or further explore the education sector, post the Fellowship. My experience in Chhattisgarh and Dalmia Group then heightened my drive to explore the social sector. The courses in YIF further drove home my interest and instilled in me the concept of working at a scale

While Anna believes there was a common thread of the social sector in almost all the courses in the Fellowship, courses like Culture and Communications, Political Economy of India and Women, Society and Changing India helped her understand more about the realities of India, the magnitude of problems and opportunities to make a difference.


Her Pratham Journey:

Picture credits: Pratham Education Foundation


Soon after YIF, Anna was looking to work with an organisation which had operations in diverse communities. Having already been acquainted with the education sector, the scope of the problem that Pratham was trying to solve interested her. She joined Pratham in 2017 as a producer for an 8-month long project which tried to gauge how a digital program was received in a community. From then on, she has gone on to work in different projects at Pratham.


I liked Pratham’s work because they worked within the existing government infrastructure and always had a long term vision of scale and sustainability. Pratham being present in around 22 states and union territories, also gave me an opportunity to understand up close how a program that can function in Gujarat can be implemented in another state like Assam.

Anna currently manages projects related to Pratham’s digital intervention where she works on supporting her team’s creation of digital content and technology enabled learning products.


Recruitment Process:


Since Anna initially joined Pratham as a consultant for a specific project, her interview process was different from usual interviews. However, having been in the organisation for 3+ years now, Anna has interviewed many applicants and below she enlists the general interview process along with what the interviewers look for.

Round 1 - Candidates are to submit their CV and write a Statement of Purpose for the role they are applying for. The expectation from this round is that the candidates are well researched about the organisation and the job description before applying.


Round 2 - Data analysis (if it is a technical role) and writing skills based on a prompt. Expectation is that candidates can analyse large data sets using R or excel and present a story on what the data is about. In the writing round, importance will be given to how concise and structured candidates’ essay is and how relevant their knowledge about the sector is.


Round 3 - The next step of the process is a field visit for a couple of days. At the end of the visit, candidates will be required to submit a short report on their experience and observations. The idea is to gauge the insights the candidates draw and their ability to interact and learn from co-workers, communities, and most importantly, children.


Round 4 - Personal Interview. This is an HR interview, covering details about the candidate’s personality rather than their skills.


Preparation:

Anna believes that preparing for Pratham is no different from preparing for any role in any social sector organisation. As a thumb rule, she calls for the candidates to be updated on policies and challenges in the thematic area of expertise of the firm they want to apply for and have a good understanding of their work.


Reading recommendations:


Anna recommends few resources to get a better understanding of the problems plaguing the social sector and different thematic areas:


Books: Development as Freedom and Poverty Famines by Amartya Sen. Poor Economics by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo (incidentally it was this book that introduced Anna to Pratham)


Magazines: EPW, SSIR and IDR.


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