I felt the weight on my shoulders lift off, as the wheels of the plane did the same. The stress and sleepless nights from the previous month suddenly seemed to exist only in an abstract life. I was ready to move to India.

Fast forward a week and I’m walking to the office for the first time. The weather is boiling and I’d underestimated the distance. My shirt is drenched with sweat by the time I reach the office and I open the door reluctantly, knowing I look more than a bit foolish. My team’s POC (point of contact), a more experienced American expat, takes one look at me and immediately bursts out laughing. “I remember my first day in India,” she remarks, “let me go get you a towel”.

Here we embrace failure and constantly hunt for the elephant in the room. “Problem first, solution second,” is a company mantra.

This is what I’ve come to love about SocialCops. In another company, somebody might have ignored the ridiculousness of the situation and left me to soak in my own sweat, averting an uncomfortable conversation in the process. But not at SocialCops. Here we embrace failure and constantly hunt for the elephant in the room. “Problem first, solution second,” is a company mantra for both internal and external decision-making. This guiding philosophy allows us to challenge ourselves and grow in unique ways. It also enables us to be flexible and dynamic in the way we approach our work.

culture values, data for impact fellowship

When I first joined the company, I was a member of the content team. I realized the position wasn’t a fit after my first month. I voiced my concerns and people told me to be patient — an opportunity to try something new would appear organically. I was a bit hesitant. But they were right. The opportunity presented itself a few weeks later.

Another team within the company was short on people for a week, as several of its members were away at meetings with clients. We also had a huge dashboard demo coming up. It would be unlikely the team could deliver the dashboard with the resources had on hand. One of the project managers who knew I had experience working with data asked if I could pitch in. It was a big risk for him. If I messed up, there wouldn’t be time to course correct and showcase a completely polished product. I accepted and spent one of the more exhilarating weeks of my life working day and night with him on what would be my first dashboarding experience. After some internal discussions, I wound up switching to the research and analysis team on a permanent basis.

I continue to find that no matter how much I invest myself into this company, it is always willing to invest even more in me.

The work that I’ve done in this role has far exceeded my expectations when I joined the company. I’ve worn all sorts of different hats, doing everything from writing an e-book on sampling techniques during my hack week to presenting on why businesses should care about the SDGs in front of the CEOs of some of the biggest companies in Papua New Guinea. Some of the highlights of my time here have been managing a project in partnership with the UNDP, designing workshops for NGOs to help them understand how they can use data to better inform their programs, and getting to watch the Prime Minister launch the DISHA Dashboard we served as the technical partner on. My workdays can be difficult and even frustrating at times, but they are almost never boring!

Check out case studies for our work with the Government of India, UNDP in Papua New Guinea, and more.

The way this experience has pushed me to grow in new directions stretches far beyond hands-on work experiences. I remember one particular week where everything felt off. I was working harder than ever but kept hitting various walls within my work. The head of my team, sensing something was wrong, pulled me aside after a meeting and suggested we have a chat. The next day, we stepped out for what I thought would be a quick coffee around 8 PM. When I checked the time as we left the cafe, I was shocked to see it was almost 10:30. The first thing I saw when I woke up the next morning was a flood of encouraging messages from her, along with articles that gave actionable points on the issues we’d discussed the previous evening. The timestamp on the messages? 2:30 AM! I continue to find that no matter how much I invest myself into this company, it is always willing to invest even more in me.

“There’s only one way to jump off a cliff. Jump!” – Prukalpa Sankar, co-founder, SocialCops

So what does this mean for you, the reader? If you’re on this blog, I’m guessing that you’re probably at least considering applying for the Data for Impact Fellowship. But if you’re anything like our typical candidate, you also probably have some reservations. You’re inspired by our mission of using data intelligence to solve the world’s biggest problems, but also don’t know if this is really the right path. You’re a high achiever with high aspirations who probably has other job opportunities from reputable firms that feel a bit more like the “right thing” you’ve spent your life seeking. If this description fits you, I’ll leave you with this quote from Jerzy Gregorek, “Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.” Or as our co-founder Prukalpa loves to exclaim, “There’s only one way to jump off a cliff. Jump!”