ATMA Consulting | 16 March 2018
Atma’s Accelerator program is designed to help NGOs working in the field of education become bigger, better and stronger. The Atma team responsible for on-ground program implementation is made up of a diverse set of consultants who are committed to quality education for all children.
Delivering the Accelerator program involves working with the leadership teams of multiple organisations and executing projects on their behalf, enabling them to become successful, scalable, and sustainable. Abishek Maroli is the Lead Consultant for the Pune Accelerator program and works with a portfolio of 3 organisations that work towards providing access to quality education to all students. Abishek has 7.5 years worth of experience in the education sector where he predominantly held operations-heavy and external-facing roles. Through these roles he was involved mainly in setting up systems and processes for different stakeholders.
Over the weekend a few NGOs have reached out to us expressing their interest in our capacity-building program. After studying their websites, I set up time to meet the founders of the NGOs to understand their organisations better. Over the next month, our team thoroughly evaluates these NGOs thoroughly through Atma’s due diligence process to ensure they’re the right fit for the Accelerator program.
Onto the next task: research. One of our current Accelerator participant organisations (a.k.a. ‘partners’) is looking to redefine their salary bands; they want to be competitive with respect to remuneration in order to attract and retain the top talent in the industry. Along with exploring open positions on different organisation’ Careers page, I spend time speaking to HR Directors at different NGOs, some of my contacts working in this space and a few hiring consultants I know through my LinkedIn profile. I compile all my findings in an easy-to-read report which I will present to the partner organisation later in the month. Additionally, I spend some time planning an interactive pay differentiation workshop that will help them prioritise which factors (years of work experience, previous pay, educational degrees, etc) they believe are the biggest priority when it comes to compensating their employees. The planning process requires me to think through the content for the workshop, facilitation techniques I want to employ, the time I’ll spend on each section and thinking through the best possible utilisation of the physical space for the workshop.
One of the projects I’ve been working on is a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for our education NGO’s daily school operations. Today I get to spend the entire day observing all activities that take place in their schools carefully noting down any best practice I witness. This will help me create a comprehensive document to capture all activities and procedures of school operations. The partner (organisation) plans on using this tool to induct new School Leaders to their team.
I reach the school at 7:30 AM and participate in a school team meeting that’s purposeful and is aimed at reviewing the objectives for that day. The rest of the morning is spent taking copious notes on all planned activities in the school which will enable me to remember the subtle details of all the school’s activities. During the lunch break, a few teachers invite me to eat with them. They’re curious to know how Atma runs and what kind of impact we’ve had so far and I’m only happy to talk about the work we do!
I spend the second half interviewing the School Leader, the Lead Teachers, teachers and students. Having gathered plenty of notes and observations, I return to the Atma office to begin structuring my burgeoning collection of notes into a reader-friendly document. I will spend 3 more days just like this observing some of their other schools to capture best practices from their entire network.
One of our partners needs to hire a Project Lead. They’re looking for an all-star — someone who will oversee all aspects of their projects, assist with the fundraising goals and manage some of the junior staffers. In the previous week, I had sat down with the entrepreneurs and zeroed in on the skills and experience they’re looking for. I had also created and circulated a job description on various forums and had shortlisted 6 candidates who I’d be interviewing today.
I have my interview questions ready and I begin interviewing all the candidates. The Consultant role provides a great opportunity to interact with diverse individuals wanting to apply their skills toward providing access to quality education to students from varying backgrounds.
Once all the interviews are over, I pour over my comments on each of them and compile detailed notes on all of them. Since my primary role as a consultant here was to teach the entrepreneur how to identify the right candidate for any role, I go over the criteria we had laid out and discuss each candidate with the entrepreneur.
Today is a big day! I’m going to present my remuneration research to the partner organisation and conduct the pay differentiation workshop to help them differentiate remuneration for new hires.
I reach their office early to set up the room the way I had planned — a couple of chart papers stuck on their pin-boards, the projector connected to the laptop, and the white board ready to capture all the insights generated during the pay differentiation workshop.
Through my presentation, I walk the organisation leadership through the pay being offered at some of the top NGOs across the country to allow for some industry benchmarking. They pledge to revisit their budgets and the fundraising goals later in the quarter so that they can improve the salaries at their NGO.
During the second half of the day, we go through the pay differentiation workshop and it isn’t going as smoothly as I had hoped. A couple of the participants disagree on a few key points and facilitating the convergence process among the group has taken up extra time. However, we’re able to come to a consensus before the day ends and the leaders of this NGO are now able to articulate their philosophy when it comes to differentiating pay for new hires within the same band or level.
Fridays are earmarked for internal team meetings, check-ins and other work that couldn’t take place during the week.
I start off with a meeting with other Accelerator consultants. During this meeting, we share our biggest successes and challenges from the week gone by. I narrated my experiences from the week and receive constructive feedback on improving my session facilitation from a few of the other consultants. Once this meeting ends, I spend some time tying up some loose ends with projects, replying to emails and scheduling meetings for the coming week.
I spend the second half of Friday in solution-oriented, 1-on-1 check-ins. I sit down with our competent volunteer, Eva who has been assisting me on some of the projects to understand her challenges and where I can maximise my support to her.
Last task of the week: a check-in with my manager. She’s eager to hear more about my week and how all the partner meetings went. After I share some of the experiences over the past week, she asks me a very important question — “what are your biggest take-aways from this week?”. I spend some time pondering over this question and note down what comes to my mind. She guides my reflection in deconstructing the week and helps me identify a couple of avenues of additional support I can provide my partner organisations. This will help me showcase my value-add to the partner organisations and I’m leaving my check-in feeling excited for the week ahead!
Found the work we do interesting? Apply for roles at Atma by writing to [email protected]