You have to be ready to get out of your comfort zone.
You have to be ready to get out of your comfort zone.
Personality of the week: Dorcas Njuguna, Investment Consultant, Optimizer Foundation.
Social work is an industry focused on making the world a better place – literally. We had the privilege of meeting with Dorcas Njuguna, who trained as a social worker, and currently an Impact Investment Consultant at Optimizer Foundation.
Dorcas was in between jobs when she signed up on Fuzu and got a job opportunity shortly afterwards. Here is her story on how she fell in love with social work and how Optimizer Foundation has provided her with a productive outlet to combine her passion for youth empowerment and helping others with business and investment.
Congratulations on your new role at Optimizer Foundation! Tell us a little bit about Optimizer Foundation and what your role entails.
Optimizer Foundation is an impact investor established in 2017. We invest in innovative startup health and education companies in East Africa. I am an Investment Consultant; my role in the company is to improve the foundation’s product market fit capabilities. I help the company understand the true market value and customer segment of innovative business. I do this through carrying out surveys, desk-based surveys, desk-based research and conducting interviews.
Why did you choose to pursue community development as a career?
After I finished my high school, I didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do but I had an uncle who always told me names of non-governmental organizations that he worked for and I had always dreamt of working for the United Nations. So, I asked him what course he had done because I wanted to do what he was doing. He was always out helping people and that is what I was interested in; I like working and socializing with people trying to understand the kind of problems they have and helping to find solutions. That is how I ended up pursuing Community Development.
You started off your career by volunteering. How was that experience for you and how much big of a role would you say volunteering played in shaping your career?
Volunteering played a huge role in my career. I volunteered for 9 months with the first non-governmental organization that I worked for. As a young person, you tend to be impatient and expect to get a job immediately after campus.
The organisation that I first worked for was running a youth empowerment program and it was the first time I got into the community development world. I got the opportunity to visit informal settlement areas to conduct trainings and help create solutions that would help the youth. I fell in love with the whole process, after my 3-month internship I decided to continue working despite there being no pay. Fortunately, after the 9 months that company hired me as a Field Facilitator.
I believe there are many characteristics of a good social worker, which ones would you say are extremely important?
First, you have to be a humble, social and approachable. If someone in a community or people in a community are going through a problem and they can’t be able to approach you to talk about it, then as an organization or a person that means you won’t be able to accomplish your goal. Whether you are dealing with women, children or youth, you need to be approachable in a way that people would be able to come to you any time they need assistance; you have to get down to their level and interact on a one on one basis.
Are there projects that you have worked on previously that took an emotional toll on you?
Yes, it happens. Once you get entangled with a community and they are able to talk to you, they are able to trust you, they also tend to share some of the challenges that they are going through because they look up to you as someone who empowers them. Sometimes it is feels sad; it gets emotional because you know you can’t help them with all the needs that they have.
Community development involves people coming together to generate solutions to common problems. For example, economic, environmental, social or cultural. Where does your passion lie?
I wouldn’t say I have one specific sector that I’m most interested in. I haven’t gotten down to one but is a strong point because most communities are underprivileged and underserved. So, I would like to make sure they have more opportunities to make income. But there is also quite a host of other problems that they go through like, lack of good health and education facilities. They also face other issues like environmental contamination, gender inequality, tribalism, and drug use which also need to be addressed.
What is the best part of your job as an Investment Consultant?
There are so many things. I love the new challenges that I have been getting. When I joined Optimizer, the investment space was quite a new space for me. Also, the fact to work with communities is a good thing because when I go to carry out my surveys I still go back to the informal settlements or networks that I have and ask them questions about products and engage them. I’m also learning how to merge community development and business in terms of trying to figure out if a certain product or service is going to have scalability . My team has been very supportive which has helped me learn a lot.
What misconceptions do people often have about community development work/ social work?
When people get to know that you work for a non-governmental organization, they think that you are moneyed. It’s a general perception. But also, most communities have a huge dependency on organizations. If they see that you belong to a certain organization, they feel that you’ll be coming to help them with money. They don’t think you can help them in other ways like provide training or other capacity building initiatives that are not monetary based.
In what capacity would you like to serve in future as you rise up the ladder?
I have always been interested in business also as I have been interested in community work. I would like to merge both and I’m glad that I can be able to do that already at Optimizer. I have plans of doing an MBA and I used to wonder how I would merge that with my community development degree and still make an impact. I would like to pursue an MBA in future and see if I can work with an organization like Optimizer or any other organization where I will be able to make an impact. I see myself in an impact-based role.
What advice would you give to anyone who is hoping to join your line of work?
You have to be courageous and open minded. When it comes to working with communities you have to ready to get out of your comfort zone. Because the communities that we deal with are dynamic and have dynamic problems.You have to be ready to face those challenges. The thing that has helped me at Optimizer is being open minded; I have been positive about every new challenge that has come my way.
Best memories so far at Optimizer?
There was a time we had a team activity and we travelled out of town. We got to see animals and got to know each other better as a team. Our CEO who resides in Stockholm was also able to join us which was also really amazing!
How did you find out about Fuzu?
I had known about Fuzu for a long time but I never signed up until September last year because I had just come out of a consultancy job and I was look for another job. I was going through other job websites when I came across Fuzu and I decided to try it out since I had already made many applications.
I was a bit sceptical because online platforms ask you to upload a lot of things and nothing really happens. A week after I had created my profile on Fuzu, I was texted by someone from Fuzu telling me about an opportunity that they think would be great for me. I was shocked! I called my mom to share the news and just to be certain it’s not a scam. I was super impressed.
What about the usability and application process?
It’s very usable I’d say because apart from the opportunity that I was called for, I had also applied for some other jobs on Fuzu. It was easy for me know the jobs that I can apply for in my sector and how many days I had to apply which are the crucial things you need to know when looking for jobs. I was always in the know of what opportunities are available, which job I can apply for and the replies that I have gotten. Fuzu provides a good experience.