State Team Leader - AP Technical Agency- ICDS Systems Strengthening and Nutrition Improvement Project (ISSNIP)
David R. Damara
1. Introduction about your job / career, define your career?
Ans: My name is David R Damara and I have a Masters degree in Social Work (1994) from Osmania University and MPhil in Social Work (1998) from Delhi University.
I have around 17 years of programme management experience in public health and development sector. I am currently engaged with Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) as State Team Leader – Technical Assistance in a large nutrition systems strengthening project (ICDS programme which is implemented by Women Development and Child Welfare Department) supported by World Bank. For the last five years, I have been holding leadership responsibilities in developing and implementing holistic interventions in areas like child health, and populations most-at-risk of HIV. Before this job, I worked with FHI360 (Family Health International) for over nine years. At FHI360, I worked as a Programme Officer, Programme Manager and later as Associate Director, leading a large, comprehensive program for HIV affected children and their families in the state of Andhra Pradesh (AP). Prior to FHI 360, I worked with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), where I was instrumental in designing the HIV/AIDS strategy for South India. Before CRS, I worked with Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust (HLFPPT) and managed HIV prevention programs for most-at-risk populations.
I started my career with a grass root level NGO in Hyderabad working on issues related to street children, slum communities and women development.
2. How did you first become interested in your current professional position?
Ans: After my graduation
3. Qualification required for this job?
Ans: Master’s in Social Work is one of the required qualifications, but I have colleagues from various backgrounds. These include Master’s in any of the Social Science subjects (Sociology, Psychology, Rural Development etc), MBA, Medicine with nearly 10 years experience in Public Health, Programme Management, Monitoring and Evaluation etc.
4. Personal qualities / skills required for this job?
Ans: Senior level responsibilities only come with experience. Every single year adds to your profile and experience at every level counts. However, there are some skills that are expected. Over the period of my working years, I have developed the following skills:
5. Best aspects of this job?
Ans: There are several aspects that make my work very exciting. Every morning I come to work with a long list of tasks that I need to complete and every evening I go back home with a satisfaction that my work is like that one drop of water that makes the mighty ocean. The satisfaction of contributing to the effort of improving the lives of disadvantaged children and their families is immense. Besides, I get an opportunity to travel and meet various kinds of people – people in need, people who like me are willing to spare their time and efforts in building the lives of the poor. Last but not the least – salary, which makes my life and the life of my family a comfortable one.
6. Challenging aspects of this job?
Ans: There are several challenges in my job. Some of them include:
7. Your secret of success in your career?
8. Give us some interesting accounts of your academic /education days?
Ans: Initially, as a student Social Worker I had many questions about a career in Social Work. As time passed by and when I started interacting with various professionals, it became very clear to me that I will pursue a career which involves working and helping the poor. An important thing that a student needs to do is…meet as many working professionals as possible which will help in developing your interesting and also build relationships which eventually materializes into job placement opportunities. This was possible for me in a city like Hyderabad.
9. How did you plan your career?
Ans: Right from the day I joined Social Work, I had a fascination to work with International Development Agencies. This focus was never lost. Good communication skills, inter-personal relationships, understanding of the issues that I am working (health, nutrition, child labour etc) and most importantly having a mentor (senior already working the field) are some of the important ways of building my career.
10. Describe your experience of your first day at work in your first job?
Ans: My first day was at a slum near Golconda fort. My job was to arrange lunch for children who were attending the summer camp. I was deeply disappointed, but my colleagues assured me that things will not remain the same every day. Rightly so, every day since then has been a new one, with new experiences.
11. Your major achievements have been in …….which opportunities steered you on that path?
Ans: Initially, the desires to explore and learn new things have helped me.
12. Being a leader / social worker yourself what do you think you possess as a leader/social worker that sets you apart from other leaders?
Ans: My ability to relate myself to people and their issues sets me apart. I don’t provide solutions to their problems, I build their capacities to solve their problems on their own.
13. How as a leader / social worker, do you go about developing yourself today?
Ans: One has to read a lot to understand what is happening in various spheres of life. We can’t rely solely on what we learnt in our college, we need to update ourselves to be a leader.
14. What keeps you so passionate about working in social work?
Ans: Through my work, I build evidence which contributes to policy changes. Any policy change improves the lives of people and that gives me satisfaction.
15. What are your current ambitions for the next phase in your life /career?
Ans: I am currently working at State/Regional level and I would like to contribute at National and International levels.
16. Your reading. How this does helps you in your personal and professional life?
Ans: My thoughts and perspectives have come through reading. And reading is a never ending thing. It contributes to my professional learning and refreshes my personal life.
17. What are your interest / hobbies?
Ans: Cricket, quizzing, reading and traveling are my interests.
18. A family bonding experience in your career?
Ans: A happy family life builds a successful professional life. Family first and everything else follows automatically
19. Tips for aspiring professional social workers?
20. Bitter experience in your career?
Ans : Unless you are employed within the government, most jobs are time bound and project specific and that’s bitter reality. We need to be ready with new skills and work in new places for the next job. Our comfort zone gets rocked ever so often.
21. How do you relate with other professions and professionals?
Ans: I work with various professionals – doctors (public health and nutrition), engineers (WASH and watershed projects), management professionals (micro-finance) etc. Each one has their role cut out and we as Social Workers have our own role. Each one is like different parts of the body – hands, legs, eyes, heart….everyone has their own role to play for the body to function well. So, never think we are of any less value…..
22. What is your opinion about the need for social workers association?
Ans: Though there is a need for such an association at every level…district, state and national…attempts have been unsuccessful for the simple reason, Social Workers have obsession for power. No one wants to be an ordinary member and everyone wants to be the office bearer of such an association and that craze for power is solely the reason why such an association has failed to take off in our country. I am saying this based on my personal experience of starting such an association in Hyderabad.
People who wish to form such an association have a very narrow view. People think such an association will serve as a platform for providing jobs to new pass outs….which is not the only purpose. While a professional association should strive to promote the interests of the members, this association should also work for policy changes in the country.
23. Not all social workers are documenting their experiences in their profession, can you please throw some light on it.
Ans: While it is important that we need to gather evidence through our work which will contribute to micro and macro changes, there are some issues that we need to consider. First, any programme has its own documentation which consumes a lot of time leaving no time for social workers to document their personal experiences. Second, field level workers spend a lot of time in service delivery and there is no time for them to write their experiences. Finally, a good lot of social workers lack documentation skills. With the advent of technology, professional associations should encourage social workers to maintain their own blogs which will contribute to the body of knowledge.
24. What are the most challenging aspects of your job/career?
Ans: There are several challenges in my job. Some of them include:
25. How do you balance career and other aspects of your life?
Ans: Work life balance is something that needs to be finely balanced. Improving efficiency at workplace comes through proper scheduling of priorities, which when achieved gives ample time for personal life.
26. What advice do you have for someone contemplating a career in social work in a professional position similar to your current position?
Ans: Social Work like any other career provides rewarding experiences if pursued diligently.
27. What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?
Ans: Improved lives of disadvantaged communities bears testimony for my efforts – no better reward. Other aspects include – good remuneration, international travel, meeting people from various backgrounds and cultures.
Dr. Sreenivasa Reddy
Careers in Social work