Krishna Ramesh: Associate Director, IDinsight
Balancing the benefits and blindspots of international experience, embracing a culture of ownership, and staying connected to the team and mission while working remotely
About our Guest
This episode’s conversation is with Krishna Ramesh, an Associate Director and the Africa Lead for Data on Demand at IDinsight. IDinsight is a mission-driven global advisory, data analytics, and research organization that helps global development leaders maximize their social impact.
Krishna is from Botswana, and based in Zambia, and first joined IDinsight as an Associate four years ago out of an interest in working on policymaking in Southern Africa. He has since been involved in setting up IDinsight's partnership with the government in Ghana, and establishing IDinsight’s operations in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Ghana. As the Africa Chief of Staff, Krishna was responsible for developing new relationships across the continent, implementing IDinsight’s regional strategy, and overseeing staffing across IDinsight's Africa offices. In his current role, Krishna leads IDinsight's work with government partners in Zambia and Malawi, as well as IDinsight's expansion of Data on Demand in Africa - an initiative intended to make high-quality data available to decision-makers much faster and at a fraction of the current cost. Krishna holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Cambridge University, and a Master’s degree in International and Development Economics from Yale University.
Everyday Leadership in Action
Here are a few highlights from the conversation with Krishna:
Leverage your international experience but be mindful of the blindspots it creates: Krishna, from Botswana, had opportunity to study abroad at Cambridge and Yale during his university years. Upon returning to the region, he started his first professional role at IDinsight, where he spent time across several country offices and collaborated with staff at varying levels and nationalities. He felt empowered by his time abroad in the UK and US and was able to pull from his past interactions with others from around the world to more easily relate and collaborate with his range of teammates. He also noticed that his time abroad had created blindspots, such as not having built up more experience locally during his university years as some of his colleagues had, which required humility to acknowledge and navigate. He also had to learn quickly that communicating decisions must be done carefully across different cultural contexts and personality types.
Ownership and trust go hand in hand: The organizational culture at IDinsight instills in its leaders that they can take on as much ownership and leadership as they are willing and able. Leaders embrace other more junior leaders who are ambitious, rather than seeing them as a threat, because it means they will have strong leaders under them and allow themselves to step up further. This requires a strong sense of trust at every level. Krishna’s first role was very hands-on and he saw firsthand the importance and reality of the details of collecting data, before then earning promotions that put him at higher levels. By having done the work himself, he knew how to assess new leaders and develop trust in them taking over ownership of certain responsibilities.
Staying connected to your team and mission in remote setting is crucial: Building professional relationships in remote work setting can be challenging and requires being even more intentional and proactive about making time for activities such as conducting onboarding sessions so that you can learn about new team members’ journeys and get to know them more on a person level. Because Krishna has not been able to frequently visit many of the country offices that his work touches, he also has maintained regular touch points through calls. Since he also doesn’t get as many opportunities to visit partners on the ground, he has leaned into partnerships through more discussions about their work in external settings so that can stay connected with the impact that IDinsight is helping support.
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