Attracting the best talent across Africa is crucial to how we deliver impact to the one million farmers we serve. We sat down with Elvis, who runs our Referral Program – a platform through which staff can refer professionals from their personal networks for our open roles – to talk about our hiring process, his career progression, and his advice for young career professionals on how to land that dream job.
What did you plan to do before you joined One Acre Fund?
I love working with numbers and my intention has always been to create a career out of this. After I learnt about One Acre Fund’s data-oriented approach to impact from a friend who was already in the organization, I decided that this was the place for me and that’s how my journey to OAF began. To this day, I remain truly impressed by the way OAF is obsessed with data - we collect a ton of data on a daily basis and you always get the impression that people want to make every key decision based on data first. I absolutely love this about OAF!
So how have you been able to tie your love for numbers with recruitment?
The Recruitment team has a lot of data that gets updated on a daily basis as we receive and process job applications. Over the years, we’ve been able to build a robust recruitment system that has led to thousands of brilliant hires into the organization. Behind the scenes, we use statistics to inform decisions that help us stay ahead of the recruitment curve and that’s where I come in, alongside my equally able colleagues.
What gets you up in the morning? Are you happier on days where you’re working on Google Sheets all day?
Admittedly, yes! That’s my comfort zone for sure. However, my biggest motivation is the realization that the Recruitment team is at the forefront of driving impact to the 1 million farmers we serve because the hiring decisions we make have a direct effect on the mission of the organization. We’ve been tasked with assembling the best talent from all over the world and the satisfaction that comes with making an outstanding hire fuels our team each day.
Our Recruitment team during a recent meet-up in Nairobi, Kenya.
Following up on that, what are your favourite and least favourite parts of your job?
I really enjoy running the Referral Program alongside my colleague Nicolle Ndamu. The sheer number of staff referrals that we get is a constant reminder of the love that One Acre Fund employees have for the organization. I believe that you can only call your friends and acquaintances to our banner if you believe that this is the right place for them.
On the other hand, it's a known fact that our recruitment process is unique because we’re very thorough and we use an experiential approach. The net effect is that there are times when we’ve taken long to make important hires. This can be frustrating to us, the department in need, and candidates as well. The good news is that we’re getting better at making hires faster and we’ll continue to invest resources in streamlining our interview process.
Why did you choose to work in agriculture?
I have always had an interest in four industries that our lives depend on – agriculture, logistics, education, and health. At times we underrate the scale of operations behind agriculture. It's easy to imagine that agriculture is simply what happens in the farm, but there’s so much that goes on behind the scenes. There’s the farmer, their land, the weather, the logistics, the brokers, the government, the taxes, and so on.
That being said, the work that we do at One Acre Fund transcends agriculture and directly impacts the health of smallholder farmers and their families through improved nutrition. We’re also supplying solar lamps that make it possible for their children to study at night and finally, we’re big on logistics as we move millions of tonnes of farm inputs across the regions where we operate. That’s why I chose to work here.
What does impact look like to you?
Being able to empower a farmer so they can consistently improve the productivity of their land. The ripple effects from this include better nutrition, good health, additional revenue-generating streams, and improved overall wellbeing.
We have now surpassed the 1 million farmers mark! What does this mean to you?
It’s really amazing. One Acre Fund started as a small program operating out of western Kenya with 40 farmers - our founding members probably knew all of them by name! To put this into perspective, we’re not just serving a million farmers – we’re impacting millions of their family members, we’re employing more people, we’re contracting more logistics service providers, we’re helping to shape agriculture policies in different countries and finally, we’re creating stories that will be case studies for years to come. The next challenge is to use the knowledge we’ve accumulated over the years to reach the next one million farmers with much more efficiency.
How have your responsibilities evolved since you joined two years ago?
One of the big changes has been transitioning from being part of the Referral Program to being the Referral Program Lead. I also didn't have a direct report until around eight months after joining the organization. Management has been one of the steepest learning curves for me because you're not just thinking about your career, but your direct report’s as well. It’s been a tremendous change, but I'm really grateful for the opportunity.
What other skills have you gained in your time here?
I’ve learnt a lot of people skills because communication is a big part of our job in the Recruitment team. We’re a support department which means we have to respond to the needs of other departments, and of course there is a lot of communication with candidates as well. Interviewing is also a newly acquired skill because I hadn't run any interviews before joining this organization. I went through a certification program and I now handle up to five interviews each week (telephone and in-person interviews). Additionally, due to the nature of my work, I have also had to invest a lot of time into learning how to use various analysis tools like Google Sheets and Power BI.
What advice would you give to people who are early in their careers?
Haha! Turns out that I'm also in the early stages of my career! But, I would say “be very intentional about everything you do.” For instance, if you want to work in international development, you need to be intentional about the spaces you get into, the people you meet, the relationships you build, the professional networks you try to get into, the skills you learn, and the social media pages you follow. The last one is particularly important to me because we live in an age of information overload so it’s important to stay focused by filtering what you consume.
And what would you say has been the best part about working in a global, multicultural organization like this?
One of the first things I realized about such a work environment is that you get to appreciate diversity more than ever. This refers to diversity in life experiences, interests, ideas, and communication styles. I love the fact that I constantly get to understand the world and learn from different perspectives that have been shaped by life experiences that I’m yet to be exposed to, or may never be exposed to. This diversity, when tied together with equity and inclusion, is crucial to our work because that’s the only way we’ll be able to continually create solutions that resonate with the communities that we work with.