3 years at HERD and still a beginner!

New to the NGO World

Summer is pleasant for many and so was the summer of April 2013. I had just left my beloved school GEMS where I had spent memorable 8 years (5 years of studying and 3 years of teaching). I didn’t know what to expect as I was completely new to the NGO world. My interview itself was a bizarre one where I was unnaturally honest about what I knew and what I didn’t know. What I knew about HERD was just through the website which had mentioned that it was a health based NGO primarily working in TB. I applied looking into the vacancy for Research Officer who would be working in a migration related project. I hadn’t expected that I would be selected but the rest was history. I remember the first staff meeting that I attended where my colleague Sudeepa asked me from which college had I studied Public Health. That was the world I was entering into.

First Project – Failed Project

It is not a good sign for any professional career to start miserably. My first project that I was given responsibility of was a failure. I made several mistakes. I didn’t know how to handle the project – I had no experience beforehand and most importantly I couldn’t envisage the problems I would be facing. It was clearly lack of competency. I realized that project management is a different science but that realization was very late. It badly affected the reputation of the organization and I was the major reason behind it. Clearly, the days were dark for me.

Opportunity knocks another door

A door closes and another door opens. Well that reads good only in rare cases. Luckily, it also happened to me. If I was working in any other organization and I would have been a failure in my first project, there are seldom occasions that the organization lays trust upon you. Luckily, I was working under a leader Sushil Sir who was a champion visionary – who could see the bigger picture and was willing to take risks. I had offered no promise whatsoever that I would be doing better in my next tasks but he tried his luck and I was in no mood to let it go. One Sunday morning, I was called to office along with other colleagues to discuss with some calls for proposals that organization to bid for. There were 2 calls that the team decided to bid for and a small team of 2 that included me were given a task to develop the first draft of the proposal. It was a new task for me and my colleague Ramila. I had no clue what a proposal would look like. We looked into a previous proposal sent by HERD and developed a similar one adapting to what was required for the call. Luckily, the proposal that we had prepared was accepted and we won the bid. It was a big moment of relief for me as it was the first sign that I was of some use to the organization. This was July 2013. I haven’t looked back ever since.

A big responsibility to take over

A big moment came in September 2013. It was about 6 months that I joined HERD and I was again tested. My colleague Bikesh had to take over another project leaving me to handle an important implementation research project on media and urban health. It was a new project for me as well as the organization. Experience counts while you learn from your mistakes. This time, I was more prepared. I had learnt how to communicate regarding earlier phases of project design, how to take advice of experts, engage them and ensure that all project deliverables are on track. I left no stone unturned for this project as I sensed this was a big opportunity for me to regain the trust that I had lost.

Continuous effort and continuous encouragement

The media and urban health project opened many doors for me. I began to feel more confident. This also developed in me greater interest to contribute more to the organization. I started reading more articles, reviewing them, editing reports, helping colleagues to document project activities. I began searching for calls for proposals, started discussing with senior team members, discussed ideas with them, listened to their ideas, began understanding the nuances of research and development better. During this period, I didn’t look at the watch. I was happy to stay additional hours in the evening. For me, every hour spent at the office had to be worthwhile.

During this process, I received great support from the organization. I was highly motivated by Sushil Sir to keep moving ahead. I was also greatly motivated by substantial increment in my pay and position as well as learning opportunities through participation in trainings and workshops and visits overseas. I kept on contributing, learning and enjoying my work.

New avenues, new challenges

My work – basically proposal development, communication and project management was continuous and relentless. Deadlines had become a routine business. Research Uptake and social media came as a new avenue for me. Alike proposal writing, this was a completely new piece of cake for me. I had no clue what it meant and how was I required to go about it. By this time, I had developed a unique habit of being curious to know about things myself. So, I started exploring, reading and practicing quite a lot. I spent considerable amount of my ‘off-hour’ time researching about them and practicing little by little. I started learning the trade gradually. Nothing is perfect at the beginning. As always, I was greatly motivated by Sushil Sir to keep trying. I think he had sensed that if there is interest and commitment, he was willing to take the risk of being patient and waiting to see the intended outcome. I couldn’t fulfill to his expectation completely but he didn’t demotivate me. Instead, he showed me the ways where I could improve.

Reconstruction and the reinvented me!

The April 2015 Earthquake and the reconstruction efforts has been another mirror for me as I have begun to realize the infiniteness of human abilities. I had never realized that I would be having 70 Research Uptake publications in a year. I hadn’t imagined that I would be handling 8 social media accounts on a daily basis nor had thought that I would be writing about 1000 word daily reports on a daily basis for a month during the media monitoring period. I had never dreamt that one day I will be making cartoons and videos. It is all about putting your imagination and efforts.

Some Achievements in Summary

  • Development of about 70 Grant Proposals with success ratio of 60% contributing to generation of about 7.5 million USD for the organization as project funds
  • Core project involvements in 5 projects with varying roles and responsibilities
  • Contribution to publication of about 80 Research Uptake outputs, making the organization number 1 in Facebook page under NGO category and reaching 1800 likes in less than a year; enhanced reputation of organization through Twitter and LinkedIn

What next and what to the organization?

For the institutional benefit of my experience and expertise, I will now spend considerable amount of my time transferring my skills and insights to my colleagues – especially the younger ones so they take up the responsibilities and make my achievements over these years more meaningful one. 

Over 3 years I have realized that two most important qualities that you need to have is the aptitude for learning and the attitude for commitment. So, I pledge to continue my advent achieving these two qualities.

Therefore, even after 3 years at HERDI am still a beginner as I am learning all the time!

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