From London to Panchkula: My 100 weeks in Haryana
Helen Creighton
October 21, 2020

In December 2018, I packed up my London based UK Civil Service job and relocated to New Delhi to join Samagra. Almost immediately, I was posted to Panchkula to start working with the Government of Haryana. It’s safe to say, it was a radical change.

The first question from many upon my arrival was, understandably, but why are you here? A good question to which there are multiple possible answers.

  1. Governance: Coming from the civil service, I was keen to understand how the Indian governance system worked, what I might learn from it and how I might, in my own very small way, contribute towards improving it.
  2. Management consulting: Alongside understanding governance, I was also keen to develop the hard and soft skills that a stint in management consulting offers.
  3. Personal challenge: Probably most of all, I wanted to put myself into a completely new situation, to really push myself and see how I would deal with new challenges.

Now that I am almost leaving, I can step back to ask myself a question - how far have I met these goals? And what are the takeaways from the nearly 100 weeks I have spent in Haryana?

Governance - 8/10

Working as an outsider with multiple departments, districts and officials across Haryana, the thing which has really stood out is the importance of last-mile delivery, and the real effort (and skill!) it takes to build a critical mass to implement things well. I realize now that working in London I was often far removed from the ground reality of my work - I didn’t have an instant feedback loop on how decisions we took on Monday would play out in Aberystwyth on Tuesday and Inverness on Wednesday. The Samagra experience has been an important reminder of the value of a real-time connection to the field and the need to invest in generating positive momentum among all stakeholders, from the state to the block level, to bring about systemic change.

Management Consulting - 8/10

Samagra has been a fantastic place to build all kinds of skills. I have never worked in a firm anywhere which takes professional development so seriously and pushes team members to grow so much, in such a short span of time. I have gained so much more than I thought I could, across everything from problem solving to stakeholder management, technology to leadership. I am looking forward to taking the same growth mindset back to the UK!

Personal Challenge - 9/10

Some of the challenges I have faced have been very predictable. From language barriers to unfamiliar foods, cultural miscommunication to just feeling overwhelmed by work--it’s all been there. Slightly more surprising is the challenge I had not bargained for--but then who could have foreseen a global pandemic?

There have been points when these challenges have felt insurmountable--and there was once even a time when my partner very seriously suggested that I quit. I did not, and hence the key takeaway for me has been resilience - not wishing away problems, ignoring them or giving up, but facing them headon and slowly navigating through them until you can see them in perspective.

Bonus Round - 10/10

The one thing I had not fully factored in before embarking on this journey was the organization I was joining. It sounds a little crazy to move 4,000 miles to work for a firm you don’t know all that much about, but somehow that’s what I did. Having found Samagra on (true story), it has been a wonderful bonus to find that it is a community of some of the best people I have ever worked with. Every single person at Samagra is completely committed to pushing the envelope to achieve great things for citizens, as well as great things for their colleagues.

For the last two years I have taken it for granted that I work with a fantastic group of people - sadly, they are the one thing I can’t take back with me!