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Staff working at our Bungoma offices

How To Recruit Top Talent in East Africa

An interview with Wangari Mungai, One Acre Fund People Operations Associate based in Nairobi, Kenya

Wangari Mungai

Meet Wangari Mungai

Wangari is a people operations associate based in Nairobi, Kenya. She joined One Acre Fund in October 2014. Just shy of her one-year anniversary, we sat down with Wangari to learn more about her day-to-day work, her biggest challenge, and what she thinks the secret ingredient is to recruiting great candidates.

1. What did you do before you joined the One Acre Fund family?

After completing secondary school in Kenya, I pursued an Environmental Science degree at Columbia University. As part of the coursework towards my major, I undertook some projects in global food systems and food security. This connected me to some incredible scientists at the Earth Institute’s Agriculture and Food Security Center, which I later joined as a research assistant. I worked on a research project to investigate some effects of increased fertilizer use in Sub-Saharan Africa, solidifying my interest in agriculture on the African continent. When I decided to make the move back home, One Acre Fund quickly came up as one organization at the top of my list!

2. What about One Acre Fund first attracted/impressed you? Why did you choose to apply?

My first proper interaction with One Acre Fund happened at a Social Enterprise Happy Hour, which is one of the recruitment events we host across different East & West African cities. After the event, I connected with some staffers on a one-on-one basis, and was able to ask more questions about life at One Acre Fund. In the end, what led me to apply was the combination of a powerful mission, a fast-paced entrepreneurial work culture, and a strong focus on staff professional development

3. What is your typical workday like?

Every day really is different – both in terms of projects undertaken and the location of these projects. I would categorize my work into three major areas:

  • Strategy: This time is spent developing innovative recruitment initiatives, assessing data collected from staff surveys, and building the nuts and bolts of our East Africa outreach strategy.
  • Field time: At least once each month, I spend some time travelling to our field sites for farmer meetings to continue building fluency in One Acre Fund’s field operations. This is also the time when I sit down with hiring managers to understand their hiring needs and brainstorm creative tactics for recruiting the best and the brightest to join our team.
  • Recruitment events: I often host and attend different events that drive forward our recruitment goals. In a given week, I may host one of our Social Enterprise Happy Hours, give recruitment presentations to large groups, or conduct one-on-one informational sessions with potential candidates.

4. What are some exciting projects you’re working on now?

This year, the larger people operations team has a number of exciting initiatives to increase and support diversity within our staff. One such initiative I’m working on is expanding our East Africa outreach in order to recruit even more stellar candidates for our growing team

Another exciting event I’m looking forward to is a social enterprise career fair that we plan to host in Nairobi on September 18th. (More details are forthcoming, so be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook so you don’t miss it!)

5. What is your absolute favorite thing about working at One Acre Fund?

The team, hands down! My colleagues are some of the most driven people I know, and I think this holds true across many of the teams at One Acre Fund. It’s incredibly inspiring to work with people that are constantly raising the bar, from field officers who consistently attain 100 percent repayment rates, to a leadership team that has grown us from 40 to 280,000 farmers in 9 years! I truly believe that people are one of the strongest assets we have at One Acre Fund.

6. What is the toughest challenge you face in your work?

One of the biggest challenges I personally face is maintaining a high level of sustainability in my work, which is an important value at One Acre Fund. For example, it’s easy to leave the room after a recruitment strategy brainstorm with five actionable ideas that seem great and well worth pursuing. Because of capacity constraints however, I know I can’t pursue all five without risking complete burnout. For me, it’s about doubling down and assessing the return-on-investment of each idea, then deciding which ones to pursue, and in what order!

7. What do you think is the secret ingredient to recruiting the best candidates?

There are many secret ingredients to the perfect recruitment sauce – some that we know, and others that we’re still looking for. Three that immediately come to mind are 1) a well thought-out recruitment strategy that is aligned with organizational priorities; 2) a strong people operations/HR team that works collaboratively with hiring managers; and 3) a solid interview process that allows both interviewer and interviewee to learn more about each other.

8. What is your vision for One Acre Fund in 10 years?

10 years from now, I hope we find ourselves well on the path to reaching 5 million farmers at greater levels of impact and sustainability. On the people front, I hope we’re setting the bar for how to build the strongest, most diverse, and best-supported staff in the world.

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