02.05.2009

Neil Jain: Young Professionals Initiative

Fellowship, Programs, Progress Reports

SEPT 15, 2008 – MAR 15, 2009
YOUNG PROFESSIONALS INITIATIVE
AHEMDABAD, INDIA

Neil Jain, August 2008 Fellow
Indicorps

orientation-aug-08-151Background and Project Vision

In the early part of this decade, Anand, Roopal, and Sonal Shah came together to form Indicorps – an organization focused on the development of India at a grassroots level. Indicorps strives to do two things: (i) engage young Indians to take personal and collective responsibility, and do something good for India; (ii) encourage young leaders to give 100% of their true efforts to understand their true potential and the process of making change. Indicorps has been successful in running a one year fellowship program that has attracted an eclectic group of accomplished recent college graduates and young Indian professionals with impeccable credentials (PhD in physics, architect, management consultant, electrical engineer, masters in public health) and amazing talents (singer/songwriter(s), hip-hop artist, spelling bee champion, football player).  However, Indicorps has not been able to attract certain demographics – young Indian professionals in their late-20s and/or early 30s that have a substantial interest in giving back and might have some flexibility in their careers/jobs.

As an August 2008 fellow, I am responsible in understanding how we might be able to best utilize the skill sets of young professionals in the US workforce, while still having some impact on their outlook to India.

My vision for the project is to help Indicorps pilot a Young Professionals Initiative (“YPI”) in mid-2009.  For YPI 2009, Indicorps will partner with organizations (Government, NGOs, Socially Responsible Businesses, etc.) that have a need for people with specific professional skills (i.e. Finance, Legal, Marketing/Branding, etc). YPI provides an avenue for young Indian professionals with significant professional experience to contribute that expertise to the land of their heritage in a meaningful way.

YPI strives to differentiate it from other programs, as
•    Other programs are fee based
•    Do not place individuals based on skills
•    Projects are not tied to heritage – lack of cultural identity
•    Other programs do not challenge the individual to be ‘self sustainable’ in the field – offers constant support that allows individual to become dependent on system

Project Goals and Future Plans

My main objective was to have at least a pilot launched by the time I leave my fellowship year.  To achieve this task, I was required to find partner organizations suitable for the pilot as well as market/outreach the initiative to attract people from abroad.

I have faced much difficulty in finding appropriate organizations.  Initially, the idea was to approach NGOs, however, as Indicorps already has an established based with NGOs through the fellowship, we decided to explore government organizations.  For the past few months, I have been meeting with different government services and have only found a select few that are willing to take on people as well as provide some mentorship to the young professional.  In addition to government services, I have expanded my search to include socially responsible businesses as well as social entrepreneurs and any organization that would fit as a good partner.

The future of YPI consists of finalizing organizations, starting a marketing campaign, and putting together the application.

Project Implementation Progress and Future Plans

Unfortunately, as laid out in my first project plan, by March I was hoping to have the pilot launched.  Yet, I realized my timing was way too aggressive and did not account for the number of organizations I would have to meet as well as creating the entire program from scratch, albeit tremendous support from Indicorps.

I hope to launch the program by May/June to have the young professionals stay on for 6 months afterwards.  During their time here, I hope to create an orientation that gets to think bigger than themselves and raises questions these young professionals may have not asked before.

Additionally, I hope to have weekly meet-ups/discussions to ensure the Indicorps experience is not one of just working all the time to complete a task.

Understandings

Not to be cute – but I understand less than I did before this year began – which I have to say is a really good thing.  Questions have been raised in my mind that I HAVE to choose to ignore.  I may choose to ignore them but at least I am aware of them.

•    What is my vision?
•    What is my passion?

I think these are the two biggest questions that have been raised for me throughout the year.  I do not have an answer for either question, but am hoping to think about these points more and more as time permits.  I guess a fear that I have is I do not find my true passion – at least one that is sustainable as a career.

Living in India for a year, has definitely made me think more about my relationship with this country.  My relationship started off pretty rough in the beginning, but over time I starting to appreciate this place more and more.  I am not sure I can ever be here long term, especially since my life is back in America.

Personal Growth / Realizations

How do you answer this question ½ through a program that is a one year journey?  The way I look at it is if I walked away from it today what would have changed inside of me.

A year ago, I would walk into a room and I see a woman squatting, moping a floor.  I would think to myself, I can never have someone be a servant where I live.  However, now I would have a better appreciation for her story and trying to understand what she is facing on a daily basis – and not just thinking I am a better person for saying I would never do that.

Self-awareness – not only about myself and how my actions affect other people, but also they affect my surroundings.  No matter what I believed to be true before, I do not live in a bubble.  My existence and resource utilization impact the rest of the world.  If I decide to use unnecessary amounts of water on a daily basis, it not only impacts me, but a person halfway across the world and future generations.

Skills.  Even though I have worked in a cubicle and have become extremely proficient in Excel, my skills are transferable to other arenas.  I have the knowledge that no matter what problem is thrown at me I can solve it with diligence and effort. On a different note, not being stuck in the finance grind, I actually have a better appreciation of financial markets and how they function.  I guess stepping away from it all makes you see the bigger picture better.

Leadership.  Indicorps stresses leadership capacity building, but I feel as though this is one avenue I have not benefited as much as others from this program.  To call myself, a natural born leader is not accurate, but as someone who has led many clubs in college and multi-billionaire deals, I already saw my potential.

Lastly, I firmly believe, that my personal growth will not be tomorrow or one year from now, but this experience will be one that benefits me ten, fifteen, twenty years down the road.

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