From Investment Banking to Public Health: An alumna’s transition into the Development Sector

By Anodya Mishra

“There are three key points I always follow while working on impact projects - scalable, sustainable, and collaborative,” said Sanya Pawah, an Indian alumna of the Civic Tech Institute at Equitech Futures. 

Sanya is a graduate of civil engineering from Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology where she secured a position in the top 10% of her batch. Thereafter, she joined JP Morgan Chase & Company as an Analyst, working with global stakeholders to pilot payment solutions for diverse industries. After two years of working in investment banking, Sanya made a bold decision to transition into the development sector by working for a government consulting firm. It was also during this period that she was selected for the Civic Tech Institute, and balanced her work and the program simultaneously. “An Equitech alumni, who is a dear friend of mine, directed me to Equitech Futures, and told me 'just close your eyes and apply,' and I did, and everything changed after that. Equitech bridged the gap between my prior understanding of technical tools, data analysis and the practical application of these tools to address complex societal challenges in real-world scenarios.”

The classes at Equitech Futures carved a path for Sanya to pursue her current role as a Senior Analyst at the Clinton Foundation.

“I came to Equitech with minimal knowledge about AI, and how it can be leveraged in the development sector. Today, I am part of a project which uses hand-held X-Ray machines embedded with AI technology to help in detecting tuberculosis in patients. It’s remarkable to be a part of something so significant, especially in a country like India where the number of tuberculosis incidence cases is the highest.” Sanya further explained why this initiative is important. “In a normal scenario, chest X-Ray diagnosis comes only towards the later stage of tuberculosis prognosis, but through these portable hand-held devices, we are able to conduct a quicker and more efficient diagnostic for all symptomatic and vulnerable groups - leading to a shorter time frame in the journey from diagnosis to recovery”

Sanya had to divide her time between her work and the Civic Tech Institute. However, her determination to enhance her skills in her professional domain served as the anchor for her diligent efforts. She shared, “There were days when my workload was overwhelming, and I would have to miss a class. But, the faculty was immensely helpful. They would assist me to make up for the missed class, and patiently supported me while I caught up on the coursework.” 

Sanya spoke about her learnings from the different courses within the Civic Tech Institute. She said, “The Civic Tech Toolkit class by Abhilash Mishra was a brilliant introduction to AI and data science. I learnt about how an AI functions, the algorithms used to create robust AI systems, the challenges one might face while feeding data into these systems, and how these systems are being used in the field of public healthcare and climate change."

"The course on Civic Challenges delved into climate change in detail, which was interesting because even though I knew about the harmful effects of climate change, I wasn’t aware of basic things like how our day-to-day actions are causing these problems. In short, these classes taught me the answer to the ‘whys' enabling me to further understand the 'hows.' And it’s important to understand 'hows' because we can come up with solutions to societal challenges only when we understand the problems.”

Sanya further said that the Community Action Lab and the Writing Lab at Equitech Futures assisted in connecting the dots from all other courses. “Writing and communication are vital organs to problem solving, and these classes helped us articulate our ideas in a structured manner,” Sanya remarked. 

In September 2023, Sanya founded Pankh - a non-governmental organization dedicated to empowering young students by facilitating access to study and work opportunities to foster financial independence. She shared, “My mother and I had started this initiative during the coronavirus lockdown in India, when a lot of people had lost their jobs. We especially wanted to help women, and we started training them in vocational courses. This year, we decided to take our initiative further and develop it into an organization.” 

Sanya expressed a desire to pursue a masters in the coming years to further solidify her career in the development sector.

She said, “I will always be grateful to Equitech Futures for being a turning point in my career. I feel like a lot of doors have opened now, and all I need to do is walk through them. I also hope to work alongside Equitech through their research labs because the work my peers are doing there is inspiring and I look forward to collaborating with them.”

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