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From Engineering to Education: Sayak's journey so far

Sayak is a Mechanical Engineering graduate from SRM University, Chennai. Immediately after his graduation, he worked at MuSigma for a short while, followed by going for the Teach for India Fellowship. He is currently working as a Project Associate at Leadership for Equity (LFE), an organisation which uses research and systems change principles to strengthen the effectiveness of government school systems in Maharashtra.


From having a background in engineering to now working with the Government of Maharashtra in the education space as a part of his role at LFE, read on to understand Sayak’s journey in the social sector so far and how he prepared for his interview at LFE.

Sayak with some of his students from Teach for India

Sayak’s Background:


During his undergraduate studies, he was a part of AIESEC for two years, and also worked for the Enactus chapter in his university. One of his experiences that stood out both from the resume perspective as well as a learning experience, was his experience with a social entrepreneurial venture called ‘The Climber’. With a strong intention to bring about a positive change in the education landscape, this initiative, though unintentionally, became an anchor for his later career decisions.


What Made Sayak Change Gears:


Straight after graduation, as a decision scientist at Mu Sigma, Sayak was involved in monetizing programs for the platform of a Fortune 500 company. However, in a short span of just a few months, he was taken over by the constant thought of whether he wanted to continue with a desk job- crunching numbers. His will to work in the development space pushed him to take a step back from the world's largest pure-play Big Data Analytics and Decision Sciences company with a unicorn status in the US to jump into the social impact space.


“While working there, I realized that I was spending a lot of time in front of a laptop crunching numbers for some decision that needs to be taken by a corporation, but that really did not make me happy. Upon introspection I realised what I wanted to do was similar to the work I had been doing with AIESEC, Enactus, and Climber, and especially in the education sector."


Sayak spent the next few months trying to understand the different kinds of roles available in the social sector and exploring the different Fellowship programmes in the social sector by reading about these opportunities and speaking to people in his network.


“I understood that if I really wanted to be in the development sector and wanted to understand it, I needed to be on the ground and figure out how things move. So I applied for a few fellowships and eventually chose to join the Teach for India Fellowship.”

Sayak's Teach for India classroom


Learnings from the Teach for India Fellowship:


1. Every child is unique and ‘one size fits all’ is a lie:

From his experience, Sayak affirms that every student has unique learning needs that must be met with a customised learning plan. Thus, there is a strong need to innovate and redefine the education space to create a more engaging learning environment.


2. It takes a village to raise a child—the role of a community:

As a close observer of students' learning process, his experience of working with the community project during his fellowship made Sayak a strong advocate of community engagement for a strengthened child development model.


3. A systems approach to community engagement in child’s learning:

His TFI experience enforced Sayak’s belief in a “mass approach” for a student-centered learning; one that is not just limited to the student’s family but also includes the neighbourhood, community at large institutions, as well as the local governance bodies.


The Teach for India experience gave him not just a strong grassroots understanding of the education problem but also a much deeper insight into why it is considered a vicious social evil. With a strong will to work at a larger scale to tackle the problem, Sayak joined Leadership for Equity.


Leadership for Equity’s work:

Leadership for Equity’s aim is to improve the effectiveness of the existing Government system to deliver quality education at scale. The organisation co-creates Government programs using existing government resources and people in three key areas. These are:

  • Teacher Professional Development

  • Officer Professional Development

  • Advisory/Advocacy Vertical for the State Leadership


Recruitment Process at LFE:

  • Initial Screening: Sending in resume and a letter of intent covering why one wants to be a part of the organisation and what is their interest in working with the organisation

  • Second Round: Assignment based on different prompts. For Sayak, the prompt was “There is a particular training session you need to design for a group of officers. How would you design the entire session, what would your space look like, and how would the interaction in your space look like?”. Similarly, another prompt in the same round was “If you want to run a program for building skills in officers working in the education sector, how would you chart out a need-analysis plan for this session?”

  • Third Round: Questions based on the plan created in the second round as well as HR questions

  • Final Round: Interview with a Project Manager and the Chief Programme Officer of the organisation consisting of questions of a more technical nature


Preparation:

  • Coming from the Teach for India Fellowship, Sayak had a deep understanding of the institutional level workings and implementation loopholes. Following his initial screening at Leadership for Equity, the organisation provided them with literature to supplement their understanding before testing their problem solving skills.

  • Developed a more nuanced understanding of the projects implemented by the organization. Going through the project reports gave him a direction for his preparation.


Sayak’s Journey at LFE:

From Sayak's time at LFE


Sayak’s role involves working with the SCERT in Maharashtra, which is responsible for quality primary education and teacher education. He has been working on adoption of technology in education in Maharashtra. The team is working on a national e-learning platform called ‘DIKSHA’ aimed at helping teachers, students, and parents engage with the curriculum. The platform had originally been introduced in Maharashtra as ‘MITRA’ by SCERT with LFE and later was adopted by the MHRD in 2017 and was scaled across the entire country.


Reading Recommendations:


To stay updated on policy and social sector information as well as to prepare for social sector jobs, Sayak recommends the following resources:

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