Soumya Jayaram is the Chief Financial Officer at Rang De. She is a Chartered Accountant by training and prior to joining Rang De worked with ICICI bank for a decade approximately. When not busy managing Rang De’s finances, Soumya dabbles in photography, pottery and baking.
It’s been approximately 8 months since I joined Rang De as CFO. A conversation with a friend contemplating a career switch recently got me thinking about my journey so far and then I couldn’t rest till I had penned these thoughts down. I had been a Rang De supporter for a while before I joined the team, and already identified with Rang De’s work and mission. Once I decided to quit the corporate sector, Rang De became the obvious choice for me, falling squarely in the field of finance but different enough to be exciting and challenging. For me, at least, working in the not for profit sector isn’t a bid for sainthood or a turning away from the material world and its comforts. In fact, it is about engaging with the problems of the material world in a sustained manner and about being a part of the solution as opposed to being a part of the problem.
So for anyone reading this, who may or may not be contemplating climbing the fence to this side of the field, here’s what you need to know:
First up, your skills are valuable and you can make a difference. I personally know a few career professionals who at some point or another have contemplated a career in the development sector, but have not taken the plunge because they believe that it will mean starting from scratch and learning everything anew. That isn’t necessarily the case. At the end of the day not-for-profits too need to find solutions in a cost effective, efficient manner, just like for-profit organizations. That’s where you can help. Plus, most of the folks that I have met in this space are more patient and forgiving than their peers in the corporate world.
Secondly, doing your homework beforehand is important. Identify the cause you feel deeply about ( children’s rights, concern for the elderly, wildlife conservation, poverty alleviation et al) and then narrow down your search to organizations that are working on these issues. Not all of this will be google-able, so talk to your friends and their friends. Read more. Make an informed choice.
Thirdly, if you imagine that in the not-for-profit space your workday will be considerably shortened and holidays aplenty, well then I hate to burst your bubble. Just like in any other job, the good days and the bad ones will be mixed up with routine days filled with numbing paperwork and meetings. But, here’s the really important bit, your professional goals instead of chasing an abstract number will become centred on helping people and communities who haven’t had the privileges that you and I were blessed with. It is an excellent motivator, one that will drive you that much further.
And lastly, don’t be afraid. This change becomes easier if you think of it as a summer fling, rather than a lifelong commitment. You spend time together, learn from each other, and if it doesn’t feel right you both part on amicable terms. So, give yourself a year to start with. A year is a good time, not so short that you won’t be able to make a meaningful contribution, and not so long that you can’t get back to your old life. But at least there won’t be a “what if” in your life.
At Rang De, we are looking for motivated professionals to join our small team in Bangalore. Have a look at our careers page, and get in touch ! Those on sabbaticals are welcome to apply.