Asha’s encounter with Rocket Learning was serendipitous, discovering the organization’s potential while working at SEWA Bharat. Drawn by its promise of collaboration with the government and a mission to revolutionize education, she became the inaugural member of the Uttar Pradesh team. Now leading 40 individuals, Asha is shaping the educational landscape in the state, leveraging technology and community-driven change.
We met with Asha to learn about her professional evolution, passion for social impact, and the profound changes she witnessed during her tenure at Rocket Learning. This is not just her story; it’s a chronicle of collective aspirations and the unwavering commitment to shaping a brighter future through education.
Q: How did you first discover Rocket Learning, and what drew you to join the organization?
A: I learned about Rocket Learning through a friend while working at SEWA Bharat. The idea of collaborating with the government to bring changes to public schools in Varanasi intrigued me. Despite not fully understanding the tech side, the chance to work with a large number of children and make a difference got me on board. Over three years, I’ve moved up from a program manager to leading the UP team.
Q: What motivated you to pursue a career in the social impact sector?
A: I grew up in a small lower-middle class family in Delhi and attended public schools in the city. We faced economic hardships at times, and I was exposed to social issues quite early in life. In eighth grade, my tutor became my mentor and encouraged me to join social clubs and theater workshops. Over the years, through street plays and public discourses, I spread awareness about topics that affected my community. As with other families around me, my parents gave me two options: opting for a job or get married! I chose the former and the social impact sector was my obvious choice, driven by a desire to work with people and make a positive impact.
Q: Can you share the impact you’ve witnessed during your time at Rocket Learning?
A: At first, it was difficult for me to see the tangible impact of our work because it all seemed like big numbers and new tech terms. But as time passed and I spent more time with children and parents and witnessed how much they love our program and how efficiently they were using it, I came to see it as a game-changer. Parents ditched private tutors for our tech, and the community mindset shifted. It’s not just stats; it’s about real changes in behavior and mindset. Our retention rates are high for a reason. We see parents and children interacting with our content three to four times a week and continuing in our cohort willing year after year. That means we are doing something right and it could be our focus on human-centered design.
Q: You often talk about human-centered design. What does it mean to you?
A: Human-centered design is straightforward—it’s about understanding the community we serve. It’s about recognizing their unique perspectives and designing solutions that make sense to them. We don’t need to solve; we just need to talk and listen. We are also committed to an iterative design model, so we are constantly adapting our product based on feedback from the communities we serve. What resonates with parents in Maharasthra may not work for parents in Uttar Pradesh, and we are quite cognizant of that!
Q: Why do you think early childhood education is not getting the attention it deserves?
A: The challenge lies in societal priorities. It took us a really long time to convince people from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds of the importance of a polio vaccine. But we got there. Early childhood education is often overshadowed by more immediate concerns like daily struggles and economic hardships. We need to reset expectations and realize that change in educational priorities, especially for the youngest members of our society, is a gradual process.
Q: What stands out to you about Rocket Learning’s work culture?
A: Rocket Learning’s work culture impresses me for its straightforward commitment to employee well-being. In my professional journey across various organizations, I’ve rarely seen this level of focus on creating a positive work environment and prioritizing mental health. The attitude towards mistakes as opportunities for learning, along with benefits like period and paternity leaves, is refreshing and not something commonly seen in Indian work culture. The flexibility given to employees for short breaks without consequences contributes significantly to a positive work dynamic. What’s notable is the consistency in upholding values, even amid substantial growth. All employees, regardless of tenure, enjoy the same benefits, fostering loyalty.
Q: What are your expectations for Rocket Learning in the next five years?
A: Looking ahead at Rocket Learning’s future, I’m keen on the new elements we are building using Artificial Intelligence into our systems. The potential efficiency boost, especially with auto-correcting worksheets, could streamline processes. The recent launch of the Anganwadi worker leadership program in our state looks promising. It not only holds potential but provides a platform for workers to learn from each other. In the coming years, I hope for continued focus on implementing the National Education Policy consistently. Collaborating with the Ministry of Women and Child Department has the potential for significant changes and improved policy implementation. I am excited for all that we are doing!