From a cushy corporate job to the development sector

I spent over 16 years driving operational excellence to derive value and efficiency for several corporates. I was good at it and I enjoyed every bit of it. Therefore, my transition to the development space was initially a trial with no long-term commitment.

It may not be an easy transition for everyone either. Corporate life provides some financial comforts. The larger the organisation you leave behind, the more startling is the perceived difference in the sector, and so, it takes time to acclimatise. The basic amenities of large corporations like air-conditioned offices, travelling in comfort, food and beverages in abundance and sometimes just the option of moving to another role in the same organization gives comfort. Unlike many others, I consider myself fortunate that I could quit my job even though there was a reduced pay cheque and I could take the plunge without worrying.


“There is no way that a handful of us can comfortably solve the issues that confront us, given their enormity and complex nature.” Credits: Shrutee Ganguly

From the outside it seemed like a space that was unorganised and largely depressing, mainly because all the success stories somehow do not reach outside a selected few. Never did I think that my values, skills, aspirations or even courage, to see reality upfront will align to the needs of the sector. Until then, participating in employee volunteering activities, making donations, frequent visits to old age homes or rehab centres, and even making myself heard by counting the failures of our social system during lunch table conversations, was the closest I had done to make a difference.

Giving back to society originates from the most inherent human need to nurture positive thoughts and recognise self-worth. It is this journey to self-realisation, feeling worthwhile, experiencing gratitude and leaving a legacy behind, that attracts many people.

But I wanted to go beyond the donation of money, material or labour. I was interested in efforts that have scope to scale and sustain.

Tackling the challenges head-on and doing something about it, is the DNA of this sector. Problem solving is required extensively to ensure every challenge, small and big, is quickly dealt with. My new role gave me an opportunity to use my skills of not just problem-solving, but also building systems and processes where data played a role. In addition, this sector has respect for honest efforts. I had the privilege here to work on many functions which were first in many ways like working with partners and helping them grow by building their capability. This sector has so many people with intent, yet corporate brings an organized and systematic approach to the transformation. Together the results are worth taking a notice.

Having said all that, what this sector does not prepare you initially is the magnitude of the problems that we may encounter. There is no way that a handful of us can comfortably solve the issues that confront us, given their enormity and complex nature. So, working together with same goal at various levels of our socio-economic classification, is our hope to bring collective impact on the ground.

Corporate experience is a definite plus. The tools and techniques which often work for making profits are tweaked to generate better social ROI. Projects selected are based on social importance along with strategic alignment to have long term impact. Change management, which is restricted to a few stakeholders in the corporate world has a much larger connotation here.

Some of the radical work in the sector today requires the best of organisational practices, process expertise and thought leadership by the people who have been there and done that.

The best results are delivered by people who have the choice to do something else, but choose what is important – no money and no designations can alter their grit. They are achievers and have chosen to follow their life’s calling. During my transition, I have met many such incredible people who have largely influenced my thinking today and will shape our tomorrow.

India is maturing as a country, where the need is to balance modern practices with old traditions. As the saying goes, deeper the roots, more difficult it is to shake the tree. Often there are moments of uncertainty, as there is no quick success. So, what really drives us? And my answer to this is simple. Here we are not in the business of selling hope, but hope is what drives our business. In other words, the only driver is to create impact and make a change. The mind shift becomes more real when the ‘I’ becomes ‘we’ and ‘them’ becomes ‘us.

I know I am here for my own selfish reasons. Where else will I get to meet amazing people, witness stories of perseverance, learn from real life experiences, apply skills to solve challenges and to top it all rebuild my faith that the world is getting better.

I think I can safely say that I am here to stay.

This blog was previously published in Qrius.

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