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Sharon Weir is the founding partner at “The 4th Wheel” a Social Impact Assessment company based out of Mumbai and Ahmedabad. She handles the operational and strategic functions of the 4th Wheel as it takes on the CSR strategies of behemoths such as TATA Power, Ford etc.

Recently we caught up with Sharon and had the opportunity to chat about her current role, the challenges she faces being the founder of an Impact Assessment Startup and some of her philosophies for maintaining a cutting edge, new age approach to CSR strategy.

Tell us more about your company

The 4th Wheel is a full service CSR Strategy company that Develops, Communicates and Evaluates Developmental Programs.

How is your team set up?

We have a very flat organisational structure coupled with a lean team. We give the members of our team ample room to take on multiple projects at once.

We have 3 main groups:

  • Design: With one full time and a part time designer
  • Content: With 3 content developers
  • Strategy and Business Development: With one strategy and one business development role each

We also have a fantastic board of advisors that is always guiding us and challenging us to innovate and push our boundaries.

What is your company culture like?

We emphasise on a young dynamic team that is capable of taking on multiple roles. We want people to have a fresh perspective on social programs and are willing to dedicate time and effort into trying new things and taking risks.

How does your team communicate and collaborate?

We are very active on Slack and are constantly in touch about projects through that medium. We limit team meetings to once a week, the agenda of these meetings is usually to get up to speed on the different projects we are working on.

We like to set deadlines for each project we take on with specific timelines set for appraisal of each project. We also encourage our team to let us know if they fall behind on deadlines so one of the other members can swoop in and lend a hand.

How do you hire new people?

We use Angel List and Linkedin as our primary hiring resources and usually conduct two to three rounds of interviews.

The first round of interviews is usually to gauge their ability to solve issues. We put them through situational problem solving exercises and also gauge their grasp on theoretical concepts in the field.

The second is to check to see if they are cultural fit, how they think and act under pressure. This is especially important as we work with big corporates who expect a high degree of professionalism.

What advice would you give others looking to hire new people?

Right now I believe the job market is at its most challenging. One needs to be stringent in the hiring process it follows. We like to test our potential employees with 2 month internships to see if they can take on the enormous expectations their roles demand. Since we are lean team we expect people to be able seamlessly juggle roles.

We like using LinkedIn for identifying potential new hires. We hope to transition though, to using our personal professional networks for experienced new hires.

Tell us about your own personal journey

My journey was pretty organic in the way I started the 4th wheel. My masters thesis in college was based on creating awareness about the CSR field in India, where I was able to identify pitfalls with the same. We then worked one step at a time by taking on research roles for organisations and slowly transitioned to taking on more responsibility and became a full service agency also taking on strategy and consulting roles for CSR programs.

How is the Of10 co-working space helping the 4th Wheel grow?

Of10 has allowed us to seamlessly transition from Ahmedabad, where we are based out of, to Mumbai. The networking effect at a place like Of10 is huge and it gives us access to a number of resources one can tap into for advice, collaboration and business development. Our company culture is such that a creative environment is essential to the development of our company. Of10 also puts us in touch with a variety of like minded individuals and leaders that help us streamline our business processes.

What advice would you have for young people entering the CSR field?

The best advice I can give anyone entering the CSR field is to “know your stuff”. I know it sounds cliche but it is essential that you are well read and well educated in your areas of expertise. Since you are working daily with large corporates, room for error is minimal and knowledge is the key to reduce errors.

Understanding the global CSR landscape, strategies and methods is imperative to becoming a valuable resource in the industry.

Tell us about the SDG workshop you will be hosting at Of10

The idea behind the workshop is to ensure that we do not only stop at acknowledging problems in the field but we also brainstorm concrete solutions. We are getting the best minds in the field together for a day to talk about actionable steps we can take to solve pressing developmental issues.

We believe by using Data, Technology and Partnerships we can make a massive dent in the archaic way social programs are implemented in India.

Everything is on us. All you have to do is change the world.