Staff Speak with Hitesh Rawtani
“I’ve always wanted to work in the education space” says Hitesh Rawtani – Manager, Technology at Teach For India, “I wanted to use my skills to leverage technology within the sector.”
Hitesh graduated from Thadomal Shahani Engineering College in 2005 and spent the next five years at Mastek – programming, designing and prototyping to deliver ERP solutions for insurance clients based in the UK – moving on to work with Morgan Stanley and subsequently a mobile application startup that had him shuttle between Jaipur and Mumbai for three years. It was then that an opportunity to volunteer with a Teach For India classroom, through a friend who was a Fellow, came up. “Even in 2009, when the program was new and I had nothing to compare it with, I saw a lot of potential. In 2014, I witnessed the Maya Musical unfold – it was an out-of-the-world experience! To see kids from such tough backgrounds perform at that level signaled that Teach For India was on the right path and was doing a phenomenal job of providing a holistic education!” he remembers.
The inspiration finally led him to join the organization as a part of its ambitious Technology team.
“I saw technology as an explicit part of Teach For India’s vision – be it improving classroom efficiency at a micro level or strengthening strategy at a macro level. The idea of using data for social change, specifically to empower teachers, students and schools – is what drove me to dive right in. My personal goal is to empower stakeholders both within and outside the Teach For India network to collect data and build a system that visualizes and provides actionable insights,” he says.
This goal is now a full-fledged project called ‘Path’ – an application that aims to help educators plan, conduct formative assessments, understand how a particular student has mastered a subject and even transfer knowledge between classrooms! Be it large scale projects like this or strategic solutions to day to day efficiency requirements, Hitesh has dabbled in them all. The day before Institute (the five-week residential training program for Fellows) commenced earlier this year, the team wondered if there was a better way to share the assigned housing details with the new cohort instead of sorting through reams of excel sheets. They spent that night coding and testing a feature that sent an SMS with the room information based on Salesforce data and implemented it at registration the next morning. This not only saved the organization many person- hours but provided more accurate information to everyone!
He sees his colleagues as remarkably open and approachable.
“I’ve never come across a situation where someone at Teach For India has refused me time. I used to think of myself as an empathetic person and felt it was a strength I singularly brought to the table. Here, it’s a way of life,” he says with a smile, “Everyone effortlessly places themselves in other people’s shoes. If anyone has a different perspective, it’s in everyone’s benefit to attempt to entertain it.”
Ed-tech conferences, events like the American School of Bombay’s Unplugged, discussions with Teach For All partners, and online communities and courses are some of the avenues available for Hitesh to keep himself up-to-date. Today, Teach For India’s Technology team is also closely observing classroom technology that was provided by external partners. The Nalanda Foundation had provided learning modules on tablets and Apple has donated tablets to classroom in Ahmedabad and Bangalore. “We’re doing exercises to see how these programs are running – how limiting or liberating they are – and if more applications can be used. It’s exciting!” He’s proud of the sheer impact the team has had and has also developed a practice of reflection. “I have never reflected on my behavior and my past in such a religious way. We have fortnightly team meetings, quarterly step-backs and we’re guided by the support, inspiration, learning framework. We’re always learning from our mistakes,” he shares.
After almost two years at Teach For India, Hitesh says he’s glad to be in the space he dreamt of. “When I traveled to the UK to meet clients in my past roles, I would compare things to India and find a vast difference. I’ve realized that everything eventually boils down to education. If we can provide a certain level of education to each and every child in India, we’ll be in a better place.”