Updated: Aug 14, 2020
Finding Her #Why
Returning to India after travelling in the US and Europe at a very young age, made the contrast between the lifestyles and state of development very evident for Pallavi. This helped her decide very early on that she wanted to study Economics to get a better understanding of why such disparity across countries exists and to subsequently work in the social sector.
Following her undergraduate studies from Lady Shri Ram College (LSR), Delhi University, she did the Young India Fellowship that helped build the perspective on how interconnected and intersectional development issues are, owing to the various subjects she got exposed to at the Fellowship.
Pallavi is currently a Programme Management Associate at TechnoServe, and her interview with Impact Connect covers her journey right from her internships in college to her work at TechnoServe, as well as the advice she has for individuals looking to work in the social sector.
Why Pallavi Prefers #On-Ground Work Experience
During her undergrad, courses like Political Economy and Development Economy built her interest in working on the ground by pursuing a field-related role, especially so in the agriculture sector and rural markets.
“We have a large population that is rural and engaged in agriculture, in villages so interior that they're cut off from the formal economy. But I found that conversations around these were completely missing. And to me, that seemed like the first place to start.”
Her curiosity to understand the grassroots better, pushed her to pursue field internships where she would directly interact with rural households. As someone who was determined enough and knew what she wanted, she ended up completing three such internships. One of her internships was with a local NGO based out of Hyderabad called Andhra Pradesh Mahila Abhivruddhi Society, her second field internship was with Asmat, an NGO set up by four alumni from LSR and her third was with an agriculture-tech non-profit called Digital Green.
“I realised I was learning a lot more just by being on the ground, than through research papers or articles.”
The Final Leap
Following her internships, Pallavi was confident she wanted a job that would require her to immerse herself with the context of the end beneficiary. Thus, her interest in learning how programmes are designed and implemented at a large scale brought her to Technoserve. A nonprofit organisation operating in 29 countries, TechnoServe works with enterprising farmers, youth and women to build their capacity and enable access to better information, finance and markets.
The Recruitment Process
Round 1: Test in critical writing and research skills (Duration 30 mins)
Round 2: Microsoft Excel Test
Round 3: Case Study Round – You will be asked to analyse an incomplete data set and provide observations followed by a set of questions on the same. (Knowledge of statistical tools and how to operate them in Microsoft Excel or R is a must.)
The first 3 rounds are not eliminatory. Based on your cumulative performance in the 3 rounds, you will move to Round 4 and Round 5, both of which are eliminatory.
Round 4: Personal Interview – You will be asked to walk the interview panel through the approach you took to solve the case study in Round 3; you will also be further tested on your analytical abilities through puzzles or small case studies.
Round 5: HR Interview to check for organizational fit
(Note to the readers: This is not the exact process that was followed for Pallavi's interview but has been revised and updated to fit the changes, as it stands today.)
“They seemed happy with my answers because, you know, I grew from my experience on-field from my internships. Because working in a village is a whole different ball-game – the environment is very different from what you would experience in a city and even other social sector jobs. And the role they were interviewing me for was based out of a rural location, so they were looking for someone who was not completely new to living in a village and interacting with people in a village.”
What Worked for Pallavi
Pallavi believes her background in Economics as well as her on-ground experience during her internships helped her navigate through the recruitment process.
“I had done a lot of qualitative and technical research work during my internships as well as a fair bit of communication work, especially at the grassroots..”
Pallavi’s Journey at TechnoServe
Since joining TechnoServe, Pallavi has worked on two projects so far. Her first project was a small-scale project working with 3,000 farmers, across two districts and in collaboration with two FPOs. Additionally, she worked on piloting a rural skilling programme. To this end, she assessed both demand and supply of the local job market, identified skills to train people on, designed the training modules and facilitated the training programmes, got recruiters on board and had a recruitment drive at the local level.
“For various reasons, the pilot could not be scaled-up, but nevertheless I got incredible ground level insights into the education and employment landscape in rural India because of the programme.”
Her second project was a much bigger project, working with almost 12,000 farmers across different value chains, in collaboration with multiple FPO and NGO partners. In this project, she has worked on designing tools to test FPO growth and administering the tools across all FPOs. Currently her work mostly consists of working on concept notes and proposals, analysing data to ensure goals are met, and stakeholder management. (Pallavi is currently working as a *program management associate* in the India team.)
Figure out how you would define ‘impact’. A lot of work in large-scale or international programmes might be organisational in nature and not directly related to the community. There is thus a need to adjust the expectations a little.
Map out the kind of players in the social sector (stakeholder mapping) – grassroots organisations, NGOs based on varying size and scope of work, social sector consultancies, social sector enterprises and start-ups, etc.
“The kind of work that counts as development-related is very diverse, and often depends on the organisation. It is thus important to figure out the kind of roles or areas you will actually like to work in.”
Do your primary and secondary research – talk to people.
“Unless you talk to people before, you wouldn’t know much about the kind of functions in the organisation or how the organisation is set up.”
If you are sure you want to work at small NGOs working closely with communities or on the grassroots requires, you need the mindset where you are sure you can drive the work. Being entrepreneurial would definitely help!
Look at the sectors the organisation has projects in to get a better understanding of the terminologies that could come up in the case interview. (Learn the social sector jargons!)
Note: Impact Connect helps you with all these recommendations, in different ways. Follow the page to know more!