Dhivya Sivaramakrishnan is a Project Manager on the Delivery team for the India Division at Dimagi. Dhivya has a background in sociology. She completed a fellowship in Rural Leadership Management, working on issues such as livelihoods and women empowerment in remote villages with tribal communities. Dhivya has been with Dimagi since 2017. Read on to learn more about Dhivya’s story and why she chooses to stay at Dimagi.
Please tell us a little about your background and journey to Dimagi.
I come from the development sector and have also worked in the financial inclusion space. When the organization I worked for pivoted to the Fintech sector, I realized I preferred the development and social impact space. I was very interested in intertwining technology as a part of making an impact on underserved communities. I was tracking Dimagi for a year before I decided to apply. I sent cold emails to folks at Dimagi to determine if Dimagi was actually walking the talk. Convinced this was the real thing, I finally applied and started with Dimagi as a Project Analyst (what we used to call Field Manager in those days) in 2017.
Describe a typical day in your role.
I manage a bunch of different projects at the same time, including leading efforts on designing our new product line. The projects involve designing and deploying digital solutions. It might be for a mobile or web-based application, a reporting system, or another digital solution we design after understanding the problem. As the Project Manager, I facilitate the projects and take them to the end and, in some cases, also heavily backstop the post-deployment aspects.
I also support the Partnerships team in figuring out how to pitch CommCare and Dimagi to our clients – both existing clients and potential new business.
I am also involved in internal initiatives such as Divisional OKRs, team engagement or recognition, and streamlining our efforts, so the team functions seamlessly.
So my day is packed with a lot of meetings, jumping from one project to another, or an initiative I am working on, and working with and unblocking team members to meet high-quality deliverables.
What are the skills necessary to succeed in your role?
A project manager needs to have experience managing projects end-to-end and leading project delivery teams. Being resourceful, identifying skillsets/project needs, and having a good pulse of the strengths and areas of growth of the team are critical to successful project management. It is a balancing act of understanding the partners and having the team deliver a high-quality, innovative solution that will work on the ground while working with available resources (finances and people).
Communication is another requirement for success in this role, as you are working with a variety of internal and external stakeholders. That also requires an agile approach. Things constantly change, so being comfortable with an unstructured environment is essential.
The Project Manager needs to have the ability to grasp technical concepts even if they have not built and implemented an application. Technical knowledge is essential so they can explain a particular solution or product to stakeholders and convey the value that CommCare can add to the project. It also helps when guiding teams to explore potential options, suggesting alternate designs, or subscription options.
The ability to work with cross-functional teams is also an essential skill to bridge the gap between the functional and technical.
What is the most rewarding part of your role?
Going to field visits, meeting with Frontline Workers, shadowing them on their routine, understanding the problem statements from the stakeholders, and then using that information to design technical solutions that make a difference in the lives of the users and community members is very rewarding. You have to listen to what they are saying and sometimes take off your technology partner hat and instead put on a program manager hat and think about how you can add value across different projects. There is no one size fits all kind of approach.
What challenges do you encounter in your role?
Deciding on whether to delegate, step in to build capacity, or do it yourself to meet timelines is especially difficult when faced with competing deadlines. The strategy also depends on the project. Projects are different, but so are the teams working on them. So the strategy used for one might not work for the other.
Another aspect is finding the right balance and making sure your team is doing well. As a project manager, when you are in the midst of things, it’s challenging to take a step back and be objective, but that is important for team health.
What, in your opinion, is the main difference between a Project Manager (PM) and Technical Project Manager (TPM) role for the India Division Delivery teams?
In most cases, you will see both a PM and a TPM on the projects. The PM is responsible for bringing in the right resources, understanding requirements, and ensuring that the team is approaching the design of the solution in the right way. The TPM is needed to execute that and support the core design of the solution efficiently and innovatively, where possible. The TPM is also required if the project demands a more advanced utilization of CommCare or integration with a third-party tool. In some cases, the TPM might be resourced to a project for the first couple of months during the initial design phase, and then the Technical Project Analysts develop that and reach out to the TPM for guidance as needed.
You have been with Dimagi for over five years. What makes you stay?
Dimagi is a company that walks the talk. Being transparent about the vision and the five-year plan, talking about our core values and which direction we want to head in, and involving the employees in these discussions (especially being honest about the unknowns) is something that I really appreciate. At Dimagi, the people are an essential part of the pinwheel. A lot of thought is being put into developing a clear growth path within the organization for the employees. While we have a long way to go, the efforts are in process, which is always positive. There is always a lot to learn and many ways to add value for our partners. And, of course, you get to work with a brilliant bunch of colleagues.
What excites you most about the future of Dimagi and the India Division?
Dimagi and India Division have come a long way in establishing ourselves as an organization capable of being a technology and program partner. We have been able to cement partnerships with existing clients and form new ones. I am excited to see where this growth leads to.
Another exciting development is CommCare Connect. I am excited to see how we might be able to launch various pilots, especially to amplify the lives of Frontline Workers, which is one of our focus areas, and learn from these pilots and experiences and develop a new product line.
And, of course, the focus on team engagement and recognition in general. In the hybrid way of working, there is a lot that can be done to make teams come together, whether in person or remotely, and that division leadership is focusing on this makes me very happy.
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