In My Own Words: Karen Makumi

We recently caught up with Karen where she shared about her transition from the world of business consulting into recruitment, the transferable skills she brought into her current role, and why she’s enjoying this phase of her career.
Life at One Acre Fund

From Math to Mission: Finding fulfillment in a new career path

Karen has always had a love for math and data. From a young age, she believed this would be part of her career. However, after working in the business consulting sector, the long hours and lack of fulfillment left her yearning for something she felt would be more meaningful. It was this motivation for a better work culture and tangible impact that led her to explore opportunities in a new career field where she could witness the influence of her work and how job opportunities impacted individual lives. We recently caught up with Karen where she shared more about her transition from the world of business consulting into recruitment, the transferable skills she brought into her current role, and why she’s enjoying this phase of her career.

Karen Makumi

What initially drew you to work in recruitment, and how did you discover the opportunity at One Acre Fund?

Honestly, I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would end up in a people-focused role. My background is in Applied Mathematics, and my career started at KPMG as a business consultant. I enjoyed the work because I love working with numbers and I am passionate about data. However, I yearned for a different work environment with a better work-life balance.

I had heard about One Acre Fund from my then colleague, who mentioned it was a great place to work with a better work culture. I kept applying for Finance roles but never landed one. Interestingly, one day I received an email from One Acre Fund; they thought I would be a good fit for an opening in the team. Once I saw the job description, I was shocked to find out it was in Recruitment. I decided to take a chance because I was interested in the organization.

I then got on a call with a lady from the Recruitment team. We spoke about the role and the organization, while she also got to know me better. I went through the full interview process and was lucky enough to land the job.

Do you think you use some of the skills from your previous career field?

Yes. While in consulting, I gained some critical thinking and problem-solving skills which I have carried into my current role. A lot of what we do in recruitment involves dealing with stakeholders, similar to my previous role, and it requires me to look beyond surface-level details. I also use my data skills to analyze recruitment numbers and see how they influence decisions.

What were your first few months like? And what did you enjoy about your role?

It has been a great experience, and I enjoy what I do now. When I first joined the organization, I was recruiting for entry-level roles. For someone starting in the people field, that provided a great introduction. The work was manageable and gave me time to learn about the organization and the job. There was a lot of support from the team, and I learned how to manage relationships with hiring managers at a good pace.

You find the hidden gems – the future impact professionals of One Acre Fund! How do you identify that potential in a candidate, and what's the most rewarding part of that process?

Once a job opens, we have an in-depth conversation with the hiring manager to understand the non-negotiables that candidates must have and those they are willing to train on. We break down the roles into specific attributes and skill sets and this is what we focus on when looking for candidates. 

What I enjoy most is the level of satisfaction and excitement when people receive their job offers. I remember some Duka Officers in rural Kenya receiving job offers and expressing how the job will impact their life. People drive our organization’s mission, and knowing that we have hired a talented professional who will contribute to our work is extremely rewarding. 

What are two things you wish job applicants knew about our hiring process?

One Acre Fund’s interview process is very different. However, once I got in after several tries, I understood that I had been focusing on getting the job instead of also taking time to understand the skills that were required for the job. Our process assesses whether you possess the skills needed for the job or any transferable skills you can contribute to the role.

One thing I appreciate about our interview process is that it might be thorough, but we do not take applications lightly. For candidates who make it to the final stage, we strive to ensure they get specific feedback highlighting strengths and growth opportunities. Not many organizations do that. We do this to recognize the effort applicants put in and provide tips that could help them succeed in their next interview, whether with One Acre Fund or elsewhere.

How does One Acre Fund support gender representation in the workplace?

It all begins with ensuring our job posts are inclusive. Our team uses a tool that helps track our job posts to determine if they are gender-neutral or if there are wordings that could discourage female African applicants from applying. For the final interview, we strongly encourage our hiring managers to aim for gender balance and include female representation on the panel to promote diversity. Additionally, we actively headhunt on LinkedIn, to find women who fit our specific job openings.

Imagine you're building your dream recruitment team – if you could pick 3 fictional characters to join you, who would they be and why? 

Sherlock Holmes, because a lot of our work is investigative and requires critical thinking to understand the roles and how specific candidates compare to that.

Second is Hermione Granger from Harry Potter. She will bring the magic; sometimes we can use a sprinkle of magic to quicken things up. Additionally, she is witty, smart, and logical, which are great characteristics to have.

Lastly, Moana. She represents fighting for what you want. As recruiters, we advocate for our candidates when speaking to hiring managers, while simultaneously advocating for the hiring managers and One Acre Fund, as we try to find the right candidate.

What’s a piece of advice you wish someone had told when you were starting your career?

No experience is ever wasted. Before joining One Acre Fund, I worked in several places and even pursued entrepreneurship. Reflecting on those experiences, I realize that I gained many transferable skills from each that I now apply in my current position.

Secondly, always be open-minded. While having a planned vision for yourself is important, it's perfectly fine if that vision evolves over time to accommodate the person you are becoming, new interests, or passions. Life is not a straight line; it is what you make it. You will never find your passion if you are scared to try.


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