Kasamba and her family. ©Baby Zambia & Photography
At IDinsight, we see value in recognizing team members driving forward our mission to improve lives worldwide. This week we are shining the spotlight on Kasamba Mukonde, one of the longest-tenured staff at IDinsight. She has been a member of IDinsight in our Lusaka office since 2013, first as Field Manager, and now as Administrative Lead. Communications Associate, Siobhan McDonough, interviewed Kasamba to better understand her role and the transformation of the organization, as well as her own, in the last six years.
SM: What is your role at IDinsight and what does your work look like day-to-day?
KM: I’m an Administrative Lead1. Day to day, I manage Zambia-based payments and operations of the office: managing the Assistant Administrative Lead, immigration, submission of annual returns and assisting others. I also support fieldwork, making payments, securing registration, ensuring taxpayer-identification numbers, making deposits, replenishing petty cash, and going to different government offices.
SM: Could you tell me how your role at IDinsight has changed, from when you started six years ago until today?
KM: I started out as a Field Manager. I interviewed following the advertisement IDinsight posted for a Field Officer position, but after my performance in the interview, I was given the higher position of Field Manager. My first fieldwork at IDinsight was managing early infant diagnosis, dealing with 60 facilities in Zambia’s Southern Province. We started out with a team of four but eventually grew. My role has changed from on-the-ground fieldwork to taking care of the office.
SM: How did the transition from fieldwork lead to office Admin Lead happen?
KM: Before 2013–2015, most administrative work was done by Esther (COO) and an accountant. At that time the office was thinking of hiring someone to do operations. My name was suggested and Esther came to talk to me and ask if I wanted to do it. At that point in time it worked well with my life since I was recently married and 2–3 months pregnant. This was different from my past jobs (fieldwork), and I thought it was a great opportunity to learn what goes on day-to-day in office operations.
SM: What do you like more or less about the Admin Lead role as compared to Field Manager?
KM: The balance has worked well with family life: it doesn’t require travel outside of Lusaka and gives me more time to be with the babies. On the other hand, I’m also a person who has a passion for fieldwork, so I miss that. I was recently able to go to the field with IDinsight’s Lima Links project. They were having training for focus group discussions, and I gave a bit of advice on how to lead focus group discussions and then observed the discussions2. That was super for me! The disadvantage [to admin work] is I miss being out and seeing what IDinsight is actually doing in the field. But the fulfillment with admin work comes in when you see things in the organization are running because there’s someone in admin doing immigration, logistics, and the like.
SM: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the Zambia office over time?
KM: At the beginning, we only had two associates, partners, an accountant, field managers, and field teams; no managers or senior associates. Now, we have an organization with more defined positions and clear structures and policies. Seeing that is really amazing, and being part of that from the beginning to now gives you satisfaction, you feel you are growing.
SM: What was one thing you were involved with in all this organizational growth, challenges you faced?
KM: One challenge as the organization grew was to find a nice office for us within a reasonable budget. The location we have now took a lot of searching to find — I don’t know how many houses I had to see! When people started at IDinsight they would move near the office so they could easily access it. As we thought about moving to a different office, as I was searching, I wanted to find a place where people wouldn’t feel too stretched and have to think about moving house. Now we have a beautiful office.
SM: We are planning a blog post on global operations next month. How do regional ops and global ops work together?
KM: Global ops works on hires. Once they hire, they place people in different regions, and they communicate this information to us. Then we advise the people coming in about logistics, immigration, what they need, and what we need to share with them about local policies. In addition, sometimes global ops changes policies for the global handbooks: Choolwe (Masenke, Assistant Administrative Lead) and I, and sometimes Chris (Chibwana, Southern Africa Regional Director) have to look at the local law to see if it marries and if it’s right. The local law stands even if it conflicts with the global handbook.
SM: Do you have a favorite/funny story from the office you’d like to share with the readers of the blog?
For my first project as Field Manager, we knew we’d be in the field for a long time, so instead of booking a lodge for a lengthy period, we decided to rent a 3 bedroom house and buy basic furniture. The house was big and really basic. It had a lot of mango, lemon, and pawpaw trees in the yard.
After moving into the office and staying there for a few months, one of the Field Officers believed that the house was haunted. The other Field Officer said he believed it was true because at times he would hear things moving on top of the roof. I personally believed it was not haunted. But surprisingly enough, each time I was in the house alone, I would lock myself in the bedroom and only come out when everyone was back. Now with all the beliefs about the “haunted house” we still would pluck and eat the fruit from the yard, then after we were full, start reminding each other that were eating the “haunted fruits”.
Having a team that would be this hilarious and think like that made our fieldwork very interesting. The bond we made during our stay together has made us continue to be in touch with each other even though we no longer work in the same organisation. Sometimes we call each other and laugh about the “haunted house” — yes, we still call it that. (PS: The house was not haunted at all).
SM: Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers of the blog?
KM: Overall I’d say the Kasamba in 2013 and the Kasamba now is different. The opportunity that IDinsight gives for growth is amazing. What really stands out for me at IDinsight is there is an opportunity for freedom of expression — you’re able to reach out even to leadership without feeling intimidated or ashamed. It stands out that leadership is approachable. Another thing that stands out is the opportunity IDinsight gives to explore your skills and ways of working. Sometimes they’ll ask you to go out of your comfort zone, you think at first “I’m only able to do one kind of work and want to keep doing that,” but then they say “you can do this [other work], it can help your professional growth, it can help you to expand.” That’s rare for a workplace.
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