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Sistema Social Enterprise

Knowledge Sharing Internationally

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Working with International Teams: How Sistema is Using This to their Advantage in Kenya

We spoke with both Sistema Bio’s Chief Operating Officer and Kenya’s Communications Manager to learn how they’re using strong communication and knowledge sharing to drive problem solving in Kenya.

Sistema.bio is, “at a very strict definition, a social enterprise, trying to solve some of the most complicated challenges of our time through a social business approach.” Sistema was founded over 8 years ago in Mexico, working with farmers to enable them to see agricultural waste as a resource. They sell a solutions package that includes a hybrid reactor digester system, technical service, financing and long-term assistance to smallholder farmers in rural areas in order to generate biogas renewable energy and organic fertilizer.

While the company has been around in Mexico for almost a decade, they only recently opened their Kenyan branch back in June 2017. In conversations with their COO Esther Altorfer, and Carlette Chepngeno, Communications Manager in Kenya based in Nairobi, we learned how Sistema Bio is using previous lessons learned from operations in their other locations to ensure sustained success as they scale in Kenya.

Challenges with working across time zones

Sistema currently has operations in five countries across four continents. While the Sistema team sees plenty of benefits to working globally, there does remain the difficulty of having to work across time zones. As Carlette noted, “we’re working with a team with an 8-hour difference, it’s not easy. Sometimes you want something ASAP as things happen. Sometimes I might want support but due to time differences, someone is sleeping in Mexico, for example. Time is hectic to deal with!”

This is to be expected when working in with such an international team. At Shortlist, we certainly can understand some of these challenges, as we find ourselves working with our team members in India and Africa. Despite some of the geographic challenges, for Sistema, the advantages of working with a diverse group of people outweigh the timing issues.

Cross-Cultural Experiences

Employees at Sistema say that one of the many benefits of working globally is the opportunity to share their cultural identities and differences. Esther particularly appreciates  “hearing at least 3 or 4 accents in English per day, speaking 2-3 languages in one day. That’s really unique and fascinating to learn more about new cultures. Especially in the rural areas, traditions about animal keeping, discovering how similar smallholder farmers are, and still how different they are, their traditions, etc.”

The team is also driven by sharing a vision that helps to create a better world.  Esther is inspired to see people from different places work together towards a common mission. “As a team, it’s exciting to meet people with the same passion who are striving to achieve the same change all over the world, who unify around biogas and are excited and passionate about it.”

While there are inherent differences in cultures and traditions across the world, it’s the similarities between people, specifically farmers, that has helped Sistema provide their Kenyan team with tools to succeed from past lessons learned.

Knowledge sharing to chart a growth path

“Farmers, a farmer in Kenya, India, Mexico is the same farmer. Their lifestyle, their day-to-day activities, etc. they’re very similar.”

This observation from Esther is a core component of their understanding of and commitment to their clients. It has helped their team members, whether in Asia, Latin America, or Africa, to support one another’s work. This is affirmed by Carlette: When looking at data with the communications team in Mexico, between Kenya and Mexico it’s very slight in difference. I was getting a lot on approaches in Mexico and thinking it could work perfectly in overcoming our barriers, like financing.”

This data-driven discovery helped Sistema to more easily provide affordable financing options for their farmers in Kenya. “When we launched in Mexico, we wanted to partner with micro-finance institutions. But that wasn’t easy because the sector is expensive. The interest rates for small loans in rural areas  are really exorbitant. Sometimes as high as 200%. That’s not affordable. Now, because of that, our team in Mexico developed an in-house financing in partnership with Kiva. This give farmers a flexible payment plan over a period of time. Knowing this worked in Mexico, we replicated it in Kenya and now also works here.”

A Winning Approach

This approach has helped Sistema get a leg up on the competition in other ways as well, such as by being able to offer a superior product with proven results. “The technology works in Mexico. Therefore it was easy to bring that to Kenya and confidently tell Kenyan people we would give them a 10-year warranty.” Overall, this approach has helped employees  to work cohesively from thousands of kilometres away, by constantly thinking about how their work can not only help their in-country team but all members of Sistema. “Maybe it was a communications strategy, or just an area we’re trying to build up, because some of what I do, what our team in India, in Mexico does, is try to learn from one another. We’ve been trying to develop and document the work we’re doing, how we’re doing it, so that someone in another country can find it and use it.”

So what kind of people do well in a working environment like Sistema’s? According to Esther, “people who excel are extremely good communicators, who are able to integrate different cultures and communication habits. People who can create different engagement across different cultures and personality.” In addition to these skills, Sistema is proud of its commitment to the environment and dedication to providing a societal benefit. “ One of our values is that we’re passionate about our impact. The first is that we’re part of the larger movement to make society work for everyone. We’re passionate about our impact so we’re willing to go the extra mile, work the extra hour, and go beyond what a normal employee selling a normal product might want to do.”

Biogas company working in Kenya

The Sistema team in Mexico during a recent team-building event

 

Thanks so much to Esther and Carlette for sharing their wisdom with us! We’re proud to partner with Sistema.bio and help them build happy, high-performing teams.

CV writing

Supercharge your CV!

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Take your CV from bland to grand

At Shortlist, we help candidates demonstrate their skills to show that they’re a great fit for a job. Most employers are looking for a mix of ability, which you can show on our assessments, and experience, which is where the CV comes in. Candidates often come to us asking for guidance to bring their CV from “good” to “great,” so we wrote this blog post to have all of our top tips in one place!

We’ve broken down the CV into its key parts, sharing both the basic must-haves and the extra bells and whistles!

  1. Contact Information

The basics: This should appear at the top your resume and include your name, address, phone number and e-mail address. Triple-check that your information is correct and up to date. If you are applying for a job outside the city you live in and are willing to relocate, indicate the same.

Extra insight: Avoid giving irrelevant information, like your date of birth and marital status, unless requested on the job profile.

  1. Personal Statement

The basics: This is your opportunity to showcase your experience, achievements, as well as your career aspirations to your potential employer. The statement should answer three important questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What can you do for the organization?
  • What are you seeking in your next job?

Resist the urge to use a generalized statement to suit any application, instead make this specific to the role you are applying for. While it may take time to customize this statement for each role, it makes all the difference.. Consider the major requirements for the role and use this to phrase your statement to show that you are perfectly suited for the position.

Extra insight: For a fresh graduate, since you may not have much experience to site, focus on your interests as well as the skills you have attained and how they are relevant to the job.

  1. Skills and Qualifications

The basics: Remember to give the recruiter exactly what they want and in the easiest way possible and not have them struggle to find relevant information.While writing this particular section, it is important to keep in mind the industry keywords that are relevant to different roles.

For example:

  • Data Scientist roles often require programming skills in languages like Python and R.
  • Business Development require critical skills like financial modeling, analytical thinking and communication skills among others.
  • Customer Service roles require skills in problem Solving, communication, attention to detail, and demonstrating empathy.

Extra insight: Go through the job description and pick out the must have skills and qualifications that you posses. Ensure that these are what the employer sees first while reviewing your resume. Some organizations use applicant tracking systems that will scan for keywords in your CV, so it’s even more important to include words and phrases from the job description.

  1. Experience

This being the meat of your resume, you want to ensure that, you clearly and honestly present your employment history.

The essentials in this section include: the Company name , your title, years you were employed and a short summary (preferably in bullet points) of your responsibilities and accomplishments.

More importantly, as much as possible do try to quantify your achievements in terms of numbers or other concrete performance measures.

How?

Example:

For Sales roles, you may choose to show your impact by using statements such as:

  • Increased customer engagement and online presence by……
  • Strengthened performance by…….

For Finance roles, showcase your knowledge of the industry and share achievements that demonstrate your ability to maximize utilization of financial resources.

For Managerial roles, Leadership skills are key.

  • Showcase how you you have lead teams towards the achievements of organizational objectives.
  • Showcase how you have also contributed towards the professional development of your employees. For example, training programmes that have been implemented, mentoring team members into junior/mid-senior level managers are some of the things you can highlight.

For Customer Service roles, showcase how you have contributed to ensuring great customer experience to your clients:

  • Mention instances where you developed a program and/or implemented a system which increased the efficiency of a product or service offered by the organization. Leading to Customer retention.

For more experienced professionals who have worked across different sectors, you do not need to include jobs that are not related to the one you are applying for.

Entry-level individuals who do not have on the job experience should include any temporary positions, internships or volunteer work that emphasize the skills related to the job.

  1. Hobbies and Interests

The basics: If you are new in the job market or do not have a lot of experience, this can be the place to differentiate yourself. You never know when your side hustle, hobby or passion will connect with a hiring manager. For example, listing team sports or activities would indicate that you would be a good team player. Social hobbies such as mentoring indicates that you can communicate and connect well with others. This can help find a fit where otherwise the role may have been a stretch.

Don’t forget…

Proofread your resume. Make sure there are no spelling mistakes or grammatically incorrect sentences.

Your resume should be well organised, with uniform font, punctuation, and spacing. Use soft and easily readable fonts like Calibri, Garamond Cambria, Times New Roman or Trebuchet MS. Avoid the use of bold and heavy fonts such as Impact. The same goes for unnecessary graphics, logos and pictures.

Have someone you trust read and give you their honest opinion as well as suggest changes to be made where necessary.

Check out these sample resumes that illustrate a majority of the points I covered above. I hope these guidelines will be helpful to as you chase your next big break!

I would love to hear from you! Share your tried-and-true resume-writing tips in the comments, and please let me know what other career-related topics you would like to learn about.

 

Using Collaboration to Achieve Growth

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How Odyssey Capital is winning by tapping into teamwork.

“I think one of the reasons many people change jobs is because they don’t feel included. They don’t feel valued, and sometimes there’s a factor of, as much as you’re present, your voice isn’t necessarily heard.” These are powerful words from Vivienne Mukoko, Human Resources Manager at Odyssey Capital Ltd. In her role, Mukoko is tasked with making sure the right people in each department are equipped with the tools they need to succeed. At a microfinance institution like Odyssey, tapping into teamwork and collaboration is essential. This ensures quick turnaround time on decision making to ensure a process as timely and effective as possible for their clients. Vivienne affirms that a solution-oriented approach with a focus on teamwork and support puts Odyssey in position to succeed as they continue to grow.

Working with colleagues to meet deadlines

Walking into the offices of Odyssey Capital it’s easy to feel the excitement. There is seemingly always a conversation going on between co-workers. Vivienne is proud of how this has manifested in terms of team success: “It’s a lot of work, but you’ll enjoy the interaction and support you’ll need while you do it. That’s one big aspect of it. High energy, high pressure, very inclusive, interactive. Your ideas will always be taken into consideration at any point in time. That’s fun.”

It’s also helped Odyssey employees to rely on one another for help and assistance when it’s needed. “Let me give an example of a situation. You have a deadline. Now you won’t be 100% on every deadline you’re trying to meet. At one point you have idea blocks and what not. You have a colleague who has come to your desk, you share with your colleague. They might suggest another co-workers you should speak to in order to assist you. Or if it’s something in line with what they’re doing, they will give their own suggestions.”

Quicker turnaround time

Vivienne has also attributed the culture of teamwork at Odyssey with speeding up the amount of time it takes to solve on-the-job issues: “Courtesy of that collaboration, you sort out challenges way faster. Anyone is willing to provide input into any challenges you’re facing.” Since this collaborative workplace is part of the larger company culture,  “there’s also reduced bureaucracy. The turnaround time for decision making is very quick. You make a proposal, it’s listened to, then we determine what we need to do to implement it. Then we hit the ground running. That’s something that’s not common in many organizations, I love it.”

Putting in the work to succeed together

While a workplace of mutual respect and appreciation is enjoyable, Vivienne doesn’t want that to be confused with a lack of hard work. Instead, it’s this culture of knowledge sharing and problem solving that elevates the productivity and output of the whole team. “I wouldn’t want to lie to you that it’s heavenly, it’s lovely, we come to hang and high five and go home. Not necessarily. It’s a lot of work, it requires a lot of creativity and ownership. Still, the fact that the people we have right now are capable of tapping into teamwork, focusing on supporting one another and winning as a team as opposed to winning as an individual is really special.”

Vivienne also acknowledges that this type of working environment may not be for everybody. A few of the qualities that make someone successful at a company such as Odyssey include: being able to think about strategy in a focused way, being curious in order to test the status quo, and having the ambition to go after particular dreams. While persistence is another key to winning as a team, that comes with a caveat: “Be persistent to see things through but also be attentive enough to calculate and assess the progress to know when to bench things.” If this sounds like you, be on the lookout for open positions at Odyssey on our website!

Thank you to Vivienne for telling us more about her team! We’re proud to partner with Odyssey Capital and help them build happy, high-performing teams. Check our open jobs to see if they’re hiring!

 

4 Tips to Learn for Life

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How to Continue Learning to grow in your career journey

In order to become a sought-after professional in today’s job market, you need to be more adaptable and willing to learn than ever. Companies are increasingly looking for individuals with a broad set of skills who are comfortable moving across industries and functions in order to succeed.

But how can you go about gaining these diverse skill sets, and continue to develop yourself professionally, both on-the-job and in your personal time? We asked Wambui Kuria, Talent & Development Officer at our client Momentum Credit. They are a Micro-Finance company providing structured working capital solutions to individuals, and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).  Wambui has had quite a diverse career that has included financial auditing, entrepreneurship, recruiting and software. She describes her current role at Momentum Credit as “fifty percent HR and fifty percent business development.”

Here are four tips from Wambui on how you can continue to learn throughout your career and become a more versatile employee:

  1. Be comfortable outside your comfort zone to grow in your career

Wambui began her career as a financial auditor. However, she quickly realized this was not a career she wanted to continue. She preferred interacting more regularly with people in her professional life. The main challenge was being in a job market where you typically get a job based on what you studied for. In order to make a career shift, she first started scouting for jobs in sales. Eventually she landed a role as a salesperson at a training company. “This anchored my passion for training, particularly when I would see the feedback from our clients saying how much the training changed their mindset.”

Her curiosity once again led her to move into a new role, this time in recruiting. There she found herself in meetings with software developers. She credits this experience with learning how to communicate with the tech team. She had to learn to work effectively with the department to meet her timelines. Wambui used these experiences to push herself out of her comfort zone in order to chart a path of personal growth. “I find myself daring myself in different ways. I praise myself when I learn something new.”

  1. Love and embrace technology

You don’t need to be an engineer or IT professional to use technology to your advantage. Combining a desire to learn new things with technology can have added benefits. “I like to learn new things and I love technology. I’ve really enjoyed learning new software, designing things on Canva, and learning as much as I can on Google.” Being comfortable in Google Drive has paid dividends for Wambui, particularly when working with outside clients. “If you’re working across companies, everything others send is online, on Drive. It really makes it easier to work with my suppliers. I might have big files and need a lot of people to view them, so online tools are crucial.”

Being current with technology can be vital for just about any role within a company. “We’re all needing these skills. When I started working I realized everyone needs to understand IT. Everyone needs to know how to use a smartphones. You might be a great lawyer, but if you don’t know how to sign contracts online, that’s dangerous to your business.”

Knowledge sharing

One of the keys to learning is making sure to share your knowledge with others

  1. Share what you’re learning at work!

Your learning can be significantly enhanced by collaborating with your peers in the office. If done effectively it can even positively affect the culture in your workplace. Encourage others to share their knowledge! It can make for a more interactive environment where everyone is utilizing their colleagues to actively share their learning across departments and functions. Treat this like a form of on-the-job training that everyone can participate in.

Consider starting a book club or a small library in your office to create a culture of reading for professional development. Wambui has implemented a system to reward high-performing employees by giving them books to read. “We reward people monthly depending on performance, and one of the ways we’re trying to do that is by reducing on other incentives and start giving them books to read.” Putting growth and development first can pay huge dividends for everyone to meet their professional potential.

  1. Build your online learning presence

Using your online presence to show your propensity for learning improves your professional brand, according to Wambui. “My LinkedIn has articles I read and it really shows that I am more than my educational background. I would say that’s a major thing that’s worked for me.” This shows employers you are passionate about your interest areas and serious about continuing to develop yourself as a professional.

If you’re like Wambui and YouTube is your “school of life”, consider posting videos to your social media channels to spark a discussion amongst your friends. A good habit to get into is to comment on articles and other resources that thought leaders in your field post to their pages. This can increase your visibility to ensure that high-level professionals know you are actively engaging in your professional development.

Learning is a lifelong process that requires commitment, energy and curiosity. It takes a willingness to take ownership and  expose yourself to new situations and environments. The above tips are just a few of many ways you can apply yourself to professionally grow and show your professional value is more than what’s on your CV. Feel free to share with us other ways in which you drive your own learning!

Thanks so much to Wambui for sharing her wisdom with us! We’re proud to partner with Momentum Credit and help them build happy, high-performing teams. And if you’re interested in working for Momentum Credit, check out our open jobs to see if they’re hiring!

 

using growth mindset

5 Steps to a Growth Mindset

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Here’s how to build a growth mindset for workplace success!

One of my colleagues recently said the following statement which stirred my thinking: “Paul, if you think you can, then you can, but if you think you can’t, then you can’t.” For a moment, I was taken aback by these words which got me wondering, “am I in a prison of my own identity held captive by my own creation?”

This led me to research more on how we are wired, and what makes some people more successful than others under similar circumstances. I came to a realization that our mindset plays a huge role on how we view our potential and our ability to learn and deal with challenges that we face in our day-to-day lives.

In her book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck defined mindset as a set of beliefs and traits about the human nature. Her decades of research concluded that there are two types of mindsets: growth and fixed.

applying growth mindset

Participants from one of our trainings in August discussing growth mindset together

Growth mindset in action

During the month of August, Shortlist held trainings on Developing a Growth Mindset for finance professionals. These trainings were facilitated by Lucy Njoroge, Training Manager at Shortlist. She highlighted the significance of having a growth mindset in an individual’s workplace and personal well-being. Participants were taken through the connection between an individual’s mindset and success. Then they learned how one can develop and maintain a mindset for their improvement.

Let’s now dig deeper on how these two mindsets play out in our lives.

According to Dweck, people with a Growth mindset believe that skills and intelligence can be developed with effort, learning and persistence. They view effort positively because when applied in skills, competencies, and character development, it results in growth. Their passion for learning helps them consider failure as a learning opportunity. Hence, they step out of their comfort zones and take calculated risks.

During our training, Lucy prompted participants to look at challenges as opportunities to learn, grow and change their mindsets. “You have to get out of your comfort zone and sweat through your current status for you to achieve what you want,” said Lucy. “Develop yourself through training and networking and always look at feedback as a way to get better,” she added.

On the other hand, people with a fixed mindset believe that skills and intelligence are innate and unchangeable.  They believe that talent is the main thing that leads to success and therefore if you use effort to develop it, then it means that you’re not good enough. Their focus is  to look good and only take on tasks and projects that are easy for them, to avoid failure and looking bad.

According to Simon Sinek, “Some people see the thing they want, and some people see the thing that prevents them from getting what they want.” So, does it mean that some people have a growth mindset while others have a fixed one?

The answer is absolutely NOT!

The truth is, we all have the two mindsets at play in our lives. Since these mindsets apply to all life’s domains from artistic, emotional, academic, physical and social skills, a person with a growth mindset in one area may hold a fixed mindset in another.

This is summarized by Carol Dweck as follows: “The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.”

What did I do well, what didn’t go well and what can I do differently next time? These are a few questions one should challenge to ask themselves to achieve continuous improvement.

The big question is, How then do you develop a growth mindset?

  1. By believing that your skills and talents can be honed, you create a new compelling belief of oneself. Consider failure as an extra effort to significantly improve the current results for the better.
  2. Enhance your self awareness to fully comprehend your key strengths and weaknesses. This will be possible when you positively take feedback on areas of improvement to better improve your current status.
  3. Become a curious learner by living in wonderment and discover the beauty of life. Learning different experiences will teach you different lessons. This will help you embrace challenges no matter how insurmountable they look to be, to reach the top.
  4. Be inspired by others achievements and have a desire to see others achieve their own echelons of success. When this happen, it simply adds fuel to their blazing fire to keep on with the journey.
  5. Finally, perseverance is an important prerequisite for growth mindset. The feeling of frustration has been cited as the quickest way of giving up long before we should. We are designed to thrive! Don’t focus too much on what is happening to you but rather devote your energy on what’s happening for you.

In conclusion , the aspect of mindset represents a spectrum. That means, in different times and situations, you might be on a growth mindset. Other times you slip into a fixed mindset. It takes your self-awareness to flex back to growth mindset when you slip to a fixed zone. The realization that you are in control of your abilities is the first step to adopting a growth mindset!

The Growth Mindset Training is part of Shortlist’s in-person training supported by work-based practice that aims to cultivate skills and attitude for workplace success. Follow our twitter for more information on our upcoming trainings!