We sat down with ILSS Alumnus Ishmeet Singh and spoke to him about his transition journey, experience attending The ILSS Leadership Program, current work, his future path within the sector and more. Here are excerpts from the interview:
ILSS – What made you consider the social sector as your second career? What has the transition process looked like for you?
Ishmeet – I chose this field with the vision to give back to my community in any area which could make a difference while also making it the foundation for the next 25 years of my life. My aspiration was to work and contribute in the area of public health. The current situation of public health has only further determined my resolve.
How did you choose the path you eventually took to serve in the Social Sector? How did you leverage the ecosystem (ILSS community and beyond) on this path?
Exploring avenues and speaking to family and friends in the sector helped me understand my options. I started from the area of health and asked myself, “What can I do given my experience and current stage of life?” Public health became an area where I could acquire skills and contribute; assessing time, commitment and resources were essential while making this decision.
There are many resources available once you start looking. My priority was to acquire skills and knowledge in the sector. I used online sites to access courses and programs, including a certified diploma course in public health. The next stage was understanding the developing sectors and opportunities for a transition candidate. “How does one build networks in this sector, and where to look for jobs?” I then came across ILSS – India Leaders for Social Sector on social media, attended a few webinars, and decided to give it a shot.
What is the work you and your organisation are involved in now?
Piramal Foundation focuses on improving the lives of marginalised communities by strengthening Government systems and leveraging the power of youth (through fellowship programs) with the spirit of service or “seva bhava”. My work is primarily in the Piramal Swasthya vertical – strengthening areas of the health system. I am leading the Digital Bharat Collaborative, which is focused on supporting state governments in their digital transformation journey and using technology to improve the accessibility, availability and quality of public health services for the communities.
Why was it essential to invest in your leadership journey?
My experience is in general management, leading large teams, sales, marketing and digital technology. You must invest in your leadership development skills if you are serious about creating an impact and have decided to have a second career in the development sector. Combining this with your multi-sectoral experience will help you contribute meaningfully and shape the cause you pick.
What was the “unlearning” and “relearning” process – What was challenging and straightforward? What are the rewards and the pains in this work?
For me, it was all new learning! I don’t feel you need to unlearn anything. You are what you learned till now. You will learn new ways and skills and navigate the way through uncharted waters and your experience and knowledge will hold you in good stead.
The most significant opportunity & challenge I faced was managing diverse team members and stakeholders. Unlike my corporate teams, the motivations, incentives, and aspirations vary among the NGO teams, donor organisations and government stakeholders. A smile from a beneficiary and a genuine acknowledgment of impact by the stakeholder can be gratifying. However, it may be tough to get to it.
What do you see as your future path within the sector? What are the most prominent developmental challenges the country is facing right now?
Every area has many challenges, and we are yet to mature on the development journey. Strengthening government programs and mobilising communities to engage in their development journey is a task every citizen should be involved in, in some manner. At an individual level, your journey and work must give you meaning, learning, joy and pride. Inspiration is everywhere.
What responsibilities do we, as citizens, have to contribute to the social development sector?
“Social Development sector is part of nation-building just like any other sector that builds the country’s economy, values and culture. As citizens, every activity we involve ourselves in, must serve the purpose of personal growth and community welfare around us. It is our responsibility to remain honest with this philosophy.”
Could you highlight the key challenges/opportunities and key levers/strategies critical to the cause you work for?
Our organisation has deployed many high-impact solutions to strengthen government service delivery across three sectors- Health, Education and Water. The focus has been to complement the efforts of the administration in each ministry to build leadership capability and tech solutions and enable the adaptation of new and improved processes to impact the direct beneficiary experience. It requires a lot of patience and control to build capability and support for the system to change and deliver, instead of diving directly to take charge of executing the program.
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