“As Long As One Has Hope, There Is Nothing One Cannot Achieve; Everything Is Born From Hope”- Shubham Gautam – Best50 – Class Of 2017
I believe that I am a compassionate, self-motivated and team-oriented individual with diverse interests and a vision to create value in every endeavour I undertake.
I come from a traditional Indian family and was born in Meerut, the town where the first-war of Independence of India was fought in 1857. My grandfather was a freedom fighter in the same war. Inspired by my family’s accomplishments, I was determined to pursue my dreams and setting examples for others to follow since a very young age.
In school, besides excelling at academics, I took lead in various extra-curricular activities. Throughout 3 years of undergraduate study, I bagged the merit cum need scholarship disbursed by the Government of India. I won several accolades in debating and group-discussion at both intra and inter college level. As a college senior, I was elected as the president of the college NSS unit (Government-sponsored public service program) where I was responsible for managing end-to-end operations of the unit and also launched a social enterprise called “Project Padhaku” aimed at providing education to the less fortunate. These activities, especially debating, helped me develop leadership skills at a young age.
My accomplishments in school and college helped me bag one of the best placements in the University – Consulting practice at Ernst & Young. I was one of the only 23 analysts selected from all over Delhi for the Analyst Program. I was involved in finance transformation projects and have gained experience in strategy, project management and change management. I was handpicked to manage one of the most critical projects at Barclays. I worked along with my team to create a strategy for managing 1.5 million USD innovation fund allocated for transport automation and received exceptional client feedback for the presentation on estimated savings hypothesised for the next 6 years.
Passionate about making a social impact, after 2 years at EY, I decided to join Teach For India corps member (Teach For America in India) on a sabbatical. I consider my two years as a teacher of 40 energetic children in a severely underresourced municipal corporation school in a low-income community in Delhi to be nothing short of life-changing, where I ended up learning more than what I ever taught. I faced many challenges as neither the children nor other stakeholders had the belief that these students could get the same opportunities that other kids with privileged backgrounds get. With countless struggles in the classroom, home visits & field trips undergone I was able to take a step forward towards changing the mind-sets of people. In an attempt to create an impact beyond my classroom, I co-founded a social enterprise, Hulchul, for the social inclusion of disadvantaged children impacting 16 schools and 300+ students. I partnered with another NGO to create a school library and develop the school’s sports infrastructure securing over 1200 USD in funding for the same.
Give us an instance when you failed miserably and how did you overcome that downfall?
During the first 4 months of teaching, I failed at achieving the level of academic growth that I had envisioned for my kids. This was because of a couple of factors: Firstly, I taught grade 2 students who had no exposure to English. Secondly, at most times my kids were way too young with differential age groups and learning curves. In my strive for perfection, I sometimes got too self-critical which came out very clearly during my debrief sessions. My manager provided me with the feedback on how I should keep on persisting in my efforts and give the process its time. I took this feedback to heart and continued with my efforts without being too harsh on myself. I continued to break down my vision into achievable goals and celebrate small successes. Doing this, I set myself up for growth so much so that my students made double the academic growth in the coming 3 months than they did in the previous 4 months.
What is the biggest risk that you have taken so far and why?
In a world as fractured and divided as ours, education can be the greatest equaliser. Watching my mother volunteer tirelessly in a nearby minority school during my growing up years, I was always conscious about making a social impact. I launched a social enterprise ‘Project Padhaku’ in college in 2010 and regularly taught 8-13 year-olds under a tree. While their enthusiasm to learn was unbridled, it was painful to see that these children are mostly ignored under the existing educational system. Determined to make an impact, I made the risky decision of quitting EY at the peak of my career and joining the Teach for India fellowship.
In retrospect, I consider my two years as a teacher of 40 energetic children in a severely underresourced municipal corporation school in Delhi to be nothing short of life-changing. I ended up learning more than what I ever taught. I faced many challenges as neither the children nor other stakeholders had the belief that these students could get the same opportunities that other kids with privileged backgrounds get. With countless struggles in the classroom, I was able to take a step forward towards changing the mindsets of people. I partnered with another NGO to create a school library and developed the school’s sports infrastructure securing over 80,000 INR in funding for the same. In an attempt to create an impact beyond my classroom, I co-founded a social enterprise, Hulchul, for the social inclusion of disadvantaged children impacting 16 schools and 300+ students.
Reflecting upon my TFI experience, I feel incredibly satisfied with what my kids have achieved and how much they’ve grown as human beings. All my daily challenges have developed into multiple skills that are required to work efficiently in ambiguous situations, something that I am extremely proud of.
If you had a magic wand, what is the one problem in India that you would magically wish away? Explain why.
India represents one-sixth of humanity in terms of population. Over half of it is below 25 years. By 2020, the average age of an Indian is expected to be 29 years. India’s working-age population will increase by 240 million over the next two decades. It explains India’s workforce potential in the coming years.
On the other hand, my stint with Teach For India exposed me to the hard facts. Delhi alone has approximately 400,000 students who can avail free basic education under the economic weaker section scheme against 30000 odd seats in around 3000 schools. This implies, in best case scenario, almost 37000 children under the age of 6 will not attend school in Delhi alone.
My country needs immense capacity building to educate and train its youth, not only to tap their energies into the economy but also enable them to have a fair shot to improve their situation.
I realise that during my time at Teach For India, I was able to scratch only the surface of a deep rooted problem. Thus, if I had a magic wand I would want to magically solve the problem of educational inequity in India.