Most of us have heard this before: to change the world, we must use our passion as our North Star and let our happiness be the measuring stick of our success. Our Global Recruitment & People Innovations Senior Associate, Diana Waka, aptly embodies this mantra. When she took a break from her previous job, Diana had no idea that this would be the breakthrough she needed to find her passion for people and to understand what legacy she wanted to have — to create a meaningful impact in the lives of young people. Read on to learn about Diana’s journey, work, and future plans.
Tell us: Who is Diana Waka?
She is independent, logical, calculated and self-driven. I have taken multiple personality tests and have one consistent trait — conscientiousness. Though introverted, I love human interactions. I am approachable, a good listener, a loyal friend, a loving daughter, and sister, and a devoted people professional. I am good with my hands, which brings out my creative side — I am gifted in drawing and in textile art. Additionally, I am extremely passionate about mental health, an area that is not as widely known in our African society.
How would you describe your role to your grandma?
I would tell her I lead the organization’s recruitment initiatives for our global teams and countries where our operations are comparatively newer – Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, and Uganda.
I also focus on Organizational Development with a key focus on advancing our People & Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives. Currently, I am working on setting up people-centric structures and policies and then collaborating with our human resource teams for implementation. An exciting project I am working on right now is our organization’s performance management process, which allows our management to evaluate a staffer's work performance, identify strengths and weaknesses, offer feedback, and set goals for future performance. The system will help measure past performance data and provides the organization with feedback on how to make better decisions in the future.
How did you join One Acre Fund?
To answer that, I need to give a bit of context. I graduated with an undergraduate Degree in Architecture, and because I worked through university, I established myself in the construction industry. After graduating, I worked as an architect for another year. When I took a break, I joined a Mastercard program that equips young professionals with life skills for career progression. During one of my classes, a One Acre Fund professional came to talk to the class about the organization and informed us about One Acre Fund’s Young Professional Program, which offers internship opportunities to promising young professionals. I applied, and after a thorough interview process, I joined the organization’s internship cohort in 2017.
During this time, my love for people management came to the fore – particularly after completing my internship and being entrusted to lead the Young Professionals Program. I helped interns with their onboarding process, frequently checked in with them to align on goals, worked through challenges, and liaised with their managers to assess their performance. My aha moment was when one of the individuals came to thank me for supporting and helping them grow during their internship. A new passion was born! I wanted to impact people's lives by sharing my knowledge and skills to help them achieve their goals.
Why did you decide to have a career in agriculture?
My career in agriculture was a coincidence, and I am glad that the stars conspired in my favor. Agriculture is the pathway to a lot of positive change in Africa. I respect organizations like One Acre Fund, which equips farmers with the necessary resources and support to succeed. Like many Africans, I also have ties to agriculture because we have a family farm and use One Acre Fund products. My grandmother says that each time she’s opted to use other brands, her yields were negatively affected — she is glad that I influenced her into being a One Acre Fund farmer and that she now enjoys better harvests.
What does impact look like to you in your role?
Impact is when I see our teams grow to their full potential owing to smooth staff processes that recognize team members who contribute to the organization. Additionally, I work to bring the right people into the organization – ambitious people who will help us meet our goals, increase our reach, and innovate to offer farmers the best products and services.
What about the work culture at One Acre Fund excited you when you joined? What excites you now?
Before the COVID pandemic, the onboarding period had what we called ‘farmer homestay.’ Staffers would live with smallholder farmers for a few days to experience their highs and lows. This gave staff an excellent avenue to connect to the organization’s mission of putting farmers first.
One Acre Fund allows me to network with professionals worldwide, allowing me to expand my knowledge and experience different ways of doing things. One of the reasons I enjoy working at One Acre Fund is the work autonomy, flexibility, and freedom to express myself.
Have you experienced any challenges in your role? How did you overcome it?
During the pandemic, the organization went fully remote. My role revolves around people — the lack of in-person experiences was challenging for me. Currently, the organization has implemented policies that inspire a feeling of togetherness — for example, in-person work weeks and team retreats where we interact and connect.
What is one thing you often look forward to during a work week?
Conversations! The highlight of my week is when I get to connect with someone beyond work. Our team has made it a tradition of having informal chats, which help us connect, boost team morale, and create avenues to make meaningful changes at an individual level. Additionally, I love it when I can tick off my to-do list exactly as I had planned.
What has been a career-defining moment for you?
Transitioning from architecture into a people-centered career taught me a lot about myself; I learned more about my interests and skills, and it guided me to find my passion for people and project management. I am happy that a coincidental presentation by a One Acre Fund staffer led me into a career I love. That chance encounter has opened up new opportunities and experiences and allowed me to grow my career, network with key stakeholders, build good professional relationships, and become a proficient recruiter. I love that my current role allows me to use most of the knowledge I gained when pursuing my undergraduate degree and use it in the projects I run. My flexibility to evolve as a professional has also allowed me to further explore my interests, and pursue more knowledge — I recently did a Masters in Psychology which allows me to add more value to my role in the People Team.
What is something you have always wanted to try but are scared to?
I am not a fan of high-adrenaline activities, but I could be persuaded to paraglide over a scenic waterfall while backpacking across the globe.
What is one goal you are determined to achieve in your lifetime?
I’d like to use my skills and experiences to work with young people. I want to create safe spaces for them to learn about mental health and offer career coaching and mentorship.
What is your favorite phone app?
Spotify! I am at my best when listening to music — it makes me feel connected to something. You can tell a lot about someone from the music they listen to, and I appreciate that the app allows users to share playlists, which is a new way of connecting.
What does relaxation/unwinding look like for you?
I like taking time off to recharge and unwind because of my introverted nature. I love new experiences, and traveling helps with this. I recently traveled to Dubai and enjoyed the change in weather, the experience of technological advancement, and shopping. I enjoy spending time with friends, doing outdoor activities, exploring new restaurants, and I try to read a book a month.
Any advice you can give to upcoming professionals?
Know your Why! Understand why you're doing what you're doing, have a plan, and never stop asking questions. Align yourself with the right people, and find mentors who can guide you.