You are responsible for your own growth: Building a career in the not-for-profit sector, with Akaoma Onyemelukwe

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In this episode, Sujani sits down with Akaoma Onyemelukwe to talk about the not for profit sector of public health. They discuss what tools are needed to succeed in public health, how to find your niche, and Akaoma’s own experiences working with various nonprofit organisations.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • How Akaoma found her way into public health from working with organisations such Unicef and Red Cross from a young age
  • Why Akaoma pursued an MPH on top of her practical experience in the field
  • How having and declaring a strong desire, building connections, and finding a niche are all important in succeeding in the nonprofit space
  • How Akaoma found her areas of interest and specialisation in public health
  • What areas in public health have seen rapid changes in the recent years and which areas have seen little progress
  • The biggest challenges Akaoma has faced and what skills/resources she needed to overcome them
  • The most important learnings Akaoma has gained from working in the not for profit sector
  • What Right Proposals is and how it stemmed from Akaoma’s interest in helping organisations access funding and sustainability 
  • What a day in Akaoma’s life looks like and what tools and strategies to keep everything organised 
  • How volunteering, continuing education, and mentorship are all important steps in achieving your dream public health career

Today’s Guest:

Non-profit, global development and management expert/consultant and coach with 20 years experience; She comes with expertise in suite of health systems strengthening; policy and advocacy, business development (grants & proposals), strategic planning, policy development, curriculum development, gender and social norms, research and evaluation; organisational development and management; supported institutional capacity strengthening for NGOs, CSO, FBO, Networks and Coalition in Nigeria and Africa. Prepared tools, guidance and learning materials for trainings and technical documentation to inform reforms across various institutions and sectors

A leader in large and complex programmes in Health, Humanitarian, Education, Governance and Media sectors; advised governments of low- and middle-income countries, private sector organisations, INGOs and NGOs on policy and reforms; design, implementation and evaluation of programmes. Akaoma has considerable experience in developing, drafting, researching, and analysing strategies, policies, legislation, and regulations, action plans and operational guidelines

Managed several programming and technical leadership roles leading to change, value and impact. Worked and consulted for international organisations such as UN agencies, UNICEF, FHI360, GAVI, Abts Associate, FHI Solution, Oxford Policy Management, World Health Organization; PACT West Africa, Save the children International, International Rescue Committee, DAI, ActionAid International Nigeria. She has extensive experience with donors as USAID, DFID/FCDO, GAC, EU, Global fund, ECHO, UN, and BMGF. 

Beyond her expertise in new business development proposal writing, Akaoma has led researches in programming opportunities analysis, policy review, health reforms including the basic health care provision fund, support to state health insurance scheme work, human resource for health interventions’; developed a digital COVID -19 manual; series of capacity building initiatives for government, health workers, humanitarian workers and private sector players including communities’. Akaoma has worked in Nigeria, Malawi, and Ethiopia

Featured on the Show:

Episode Transcript

Akaoma 0:00
The thing is recognizing that you have a passion for something, you have the capacity to get the knowledge and the skill, and you have the opportunity to apply it and transform and impact lives.

Sujani 0:16
Welcome to PH SPOTlight, a community for you to build your public health career with. Join Us Weekly right here. And I’ll be here too, your host Sujani Siva, from PH SPOT.

Hi, Akaoma. And welcome to the PH SPOT podcast. It’s so lovely to have you here. And thank you for joining us from Nigeria. And this is wonderful, because we’re going to be able to hear about the great work that you’ve been doing as a public health professional. So welcome.

Akaoma 0:47
Thank you. I’m happy to be here as well.

Sujani 0:50
Awesome. So one of the first questions that I really like to hear answers to, you know, whether it’s my guests, or anybody I meet, is kind of how they discovered the field of public health, and what is the earliest memory they have of wanting to pursue a career in this field of work. So maybe you could take us back to that period of when you discovered public health. And when you thought, Okay, this is an area where I want to build my career.

Akaoma 1:18
So I started my public health career quite early, just immediately, I finished my bachelor’s degree in the university. And then before then, actually, I always had a drive to support people, especially people who are sick, especially women. And you know, I continually, as a child had an opportunity to watch UNICEF, Red Cross provide a lot of Medicare to women suffering in humanitarian environment, and things like that. So as a young child, I had that notion. And then when I left school opportunity came. And when that opportunity came, luckily, I was ready and prepared. So I got into a job. We were doing programming on HIV AIDS, we’re doing work around stigma reduction, around advocacy and policy, and also linking people to care. At that time, really, there was no treatment yet. And then, you know, we were helping a lot of women and a lot of communities break the silence. And we’re also doing programs on prevention, working with most at risks individuals, like female sex workers, really trying to reduce the spread of the virus at that time. So that was the beginning. And that was a big step for me. And I really had an opportunity of connecting to people who were suffering people who were HIV positive people, who required to be protected, provide information, and also drafting health related policies and leading reforms.

Sujani 3:01
Did you go to school, you said, you know, you had this opportunity come at the end of your bachelor’s degree, did you end up pursuing a degree in the field of health for your bachelor’s?

Akaoma 3:14
I worked extensively for those years and bring series of things. So at some point, I had to go do a public health course. And I did a public health course that focus in managing health systems really deeply my understanding. Already, I have practical skills, but I needed to match it with the theoretical understanding. So I did that as well. And then prior to that, I did a program on human resource management. And my project was on human resource for health. And that was to deepen the work I’ve done in health systems strengthening and leading human resource for health programming, in many clients, and also at national and state level in Nigeria. And that was important to solidify and consolidate some of those experiences and skills.

Sujani 4:05
And it looks like by 2014, you decided to go get a master’s degree in public health? What was the motivation behind, you know, pursuing additional education given that you are already, you know, working in the field of public health?

Akaoma 4:21
So the motivation really is, is certificates are important. And there are times when you need that additional learning, you need that additional discipline really, to learn something new, and to also bringing your valued experience to others because the classroom environment has a lot of people from different countries and continents, sharing ideas or bringing their experience so it was important for me to do that. And I picked up new skills, and I also updated my knowledge and it was really, really useful. I’m happy that I did that.

Sujani 4:57
With your master’s degree. Once you had that additional training, did your career path, did it change at all? Were you- you know, chugging along, in a similar path that you had already kind of set on?

Akaoma 5:10
It never really changed so much.

Sujani 5:12

Akaoma 5:12
I got a bit more confident, because just as I was finishing it, I got an opportunity to work with the World Health Organization in Nigeria, what happens is that you have a greater exposure, and that’s a greater exposure, gives you new information, gives you new network, gives you you know, new opportunities, new knowledge. So it builds your confidence level, really, as you will implement and as you carry on in your career in the country, and the others, yes, because when people see your years of experience, they see your skills, they also want to see how ready and how qualified are you academically.

Sujani 5:53
I noticed, you know, over the years, you’ve been involved in a number of, you know, large organization, not for profit organizations, you know, including the World Health Organization, Plan International, Save the Children, there’s a UNICEF, I think I saw a number of other ones amongst other local organizations as well. And I thought, you know, you’d be a great person to talk about building a career in public health within the not for profit sector. And so maybe you could just start us off by talking to us a little bit about your experience to date. And I think just based on your LinkedIn, it looked like you had over 30 different interactions with various not for profit organizations. And so yeah, for anyone kind of thinking about building a career in public health within that not for profit environment, what are some reflections that you’ve had so far, based on your career?

Akaoma 6:56
Okay, so I’ve had those opportunities and those opportunities, God has been kind. And I also would like to thank my mentors and all the people who said yes to me, when I started, so reflecting the first thing is you must have a strong desire, you want it and you want it and you know, you want it. So you want to get into public health, you have to be clear that you- this is what you want to do and where you want to work. So many people don’t like all I said, no public health, everybody can work in public, there’s a split, there are different things that needs to happen, or you won’t be able to learn and demonstrate skill. So over the years, for me, I started out first working full time in some of those organizations. And I had to learn. So in learning, I had to dig deep, I had to answer questions, I had to ask questions, I had to also learn the discipline of reading, reading, to understand, doing self study, and also participating in series of trainings, and then being able to apply some of those skills and knowledge when the opportunity comes through. So in my experience, what has happened is, I had an initial five, six years of really, really, you know, digging deep and getting into different elements of the nonprofit space, understanding how all of them are connected together. And then making a decision on specialization, we can make a decision on areas really, I really want to focus in on areas that really excites me, you also need to be open to supporting different elements of work, not just what you’re assigned to. So in those early ages, and early stages of my life, there were things that helped than building networks and building partnerships. So many of the people who you- you meet today, actually are important to you all through your career, your bosses, your colleagues, your contemporaries, your peers, they’re all important in that journey. And you consistently have to keep abreast because the nonprofit space is consistently evolving. It’s constantly changing. But there are things that don’t change. Some of the issues have not really, really made so much progress. What’s the technicalities mentioned may modify, may evolve. So you need to understand that and follow that trend. And also, there must be a niche, there must be something different about the work you’re doing. That means we need to bring in, in every workspace that you find yourself, in that capability, you must recognize it as a strength and deploy it confidently each time. There are other things that also needs to happen. So you’re learning because there are times when you have some difficulties. So you’re learning from those experiences. You’re learning from other people’s experiences and you’re not ashamed to learn, you’re not ashamed to ask questions, especially, you know, within your team. One of the things that’s been useful for me in reflecting is teamwork. I’ve worked with several teams, multisectoral teams, multidisciplinary team. And you bring that they- I’ve picked up different skills, understood why different workspaces work the way they do, and why it’s important to work in this way. And then what is the chain that may happen in those spaces. So that’s very important. So teamwork, being a team player helps. And being a good leader and a good follow us at some point in my life, I needed to then lead, lead a workspace lead a problem area, lead a job, direct a project, and those kind of things. And in doing that, you need to learn how to lead, leading yourself and leading your team, leading in the workspace, and I know getting results. So these are some of the reflections I bring to bear just thinking through my work experience in the last two decades.

Sujani 10:44
Now, those are some excellent advice, I think, not only for anyone interested in building a career in the not for profit sector, but in general, I think those are some really great career advice, especially, you know, digging deep to understand which areas are going to excite you which areas bring you that purpose, and then you feel passionate about so for you knowing that, you know, you’re building a career within the nonprofit sector. What were some of those areas that did excite you that you decided, you know, I’m going to choose this area of work, and focus the rest of my career, if not my current season of my career in this area of work?

Akaoma 11:28
Okay, so for me working in the nonprofit working in public health, so I worked in public health, then I had opportunities to delve into education, humanitarian support, governance, and then I had an original background in the media. So working in the nonprofit, one of the things I really loved the most is supporting organizations, straightening them, and helping them be able to access funding. And, you know, teaching them how to access funding, opening that door, and letting them see it as possible. I also had a lot of insight and excitement with policy, drafting policies and leading reforms, you know, helping with strategic planning for states for the country. And you know, for institutions or different thematic areas, as it were, gender is a big area for me, and gender is important and dealing with all the elements of social norms, and a vulnerability around it is an important area in the work that I do. And then capacity building. So capacity building cuts across different technical areas pops across organizational systems. These are areas that I’m really glued to, I do- I do research as well, and monitoring evaluation. But monitoring evaluation, I embedded in many of the other things that I do so, yes, it’s important to really, really specialized for early stage, it’s excellent for you to practice many areas of work. And then as you come up high over the years, you can then specialize.

Sujani 13:06
How long would you say it took you to figure out that, you know, you had this passion to help organizations access funding and drafting up policies and talking about strategy and reforms, like, just understanding that this is what you enjoy doing and this is what you know, was your purpose and passion, how long would you say after, let’s say, graduating from your bachelor’s degree that you had this realization and this clarity?

Akaoma 13:35
It took me about five years. And then when I was within the seventh year of my career, and opportunity opened up, and I took the opportunity, and had an opportunity to directly lead reforms directly support different organizations, support governments, policymakers with, you know, with different levels of technical assistance. So for me, it’s not just in the lens of yours, what is in the depths, is in the depths is in the connection is in, you know, is an impact that you’re making, as well, some people it took them less time. Some people, it may take them more, but the thing is recognizing that you have a passion for something, you have the capacity to get the knowledge and the skill, and you have the opportunity to apply it and transform and impact lives.

Sujani 14:27
Yeah, no, that’s That’s great advice. And I know a bit earlier, you were talking about a lot of things have changed in the not for profit sector, but a lot hasn’t. I’m curious if off the top of your mind, you’re able to talk to us a little bit about that, just so for any of our listeners who may be interested in, you know, exploring the not for profit sector to build a career in that area. What are some things that they should kind of look out for in terms of things that haven’t changed in this area of work and then things that have changed? And so, they’re just a bit more prepared when they do step into their work.

Akaoma 15:04
In the nonprofit work, a lot of things have changed, some have not. So some have not changed not because they can change, but because they’re a bit slow. So for instance, when you look at public health, you know that things have changed, because COVID came, and there are issues around international health emergencies. So things have changed, HIV has over over the years, the problem around HIV has changed over the years. And it’s no longer to just stay that as it was, when we joined the public health space in Nigeria, for instance, then things are changing in my insurance space, there are lots of humanitarian challenges across the world. And there’s a lot of funding going through, it’s helping people who are suffering. So the problem in humanitarian space is deep, and many of them also are changing, because they are moving from very intense stage to recovery, and when they are moving to recovery means the programming will change, some of the things have not really changed, basically, you know, is some of the disease focused programming really, because the progress has been slow. So maternal health and all that. So basically, what I will advise is that someone who’s going in some of these things, you will look at the national goals, you look at the International goals, and read up on sort of how they’re measuring the changes how they’re reporting, the changes, and the impact that we made in the world and using the gaps really, to inform the programming that you’re doing, and what you’re doing with yourself in terms of building skill, and capacity.

Sujani 16:40
So based on kind of all of the areas or organizations you’ve worked with, and just thinking about your path so far, I’m curious, you know, what has been some of the toughest or challenging parts of your career?

Akaoma 16:56
For me, what has been the toughest part of my career, at the beginning, was understanding the various technical elements of the work. And also, at some point, it was really gaining acceptability to lead in a space where, at that time, I didn’t have a public health degree. So I needed to get a public health degree, which was important, really. So yes, I’m leading technically, I’m leading the program of health system strengthening technically, but I needed that additional training. So I had to do that additional training, to build that acceptability. And deepening the confidence people had. Clearly, there were lots of results in the work I’ve done, a lot of impact. A lot of people who have supported who have also supported me, but the accessibility at that time was big. So I needed to use different skills. So interpersonal communication skills, a combination of experience, to deal with it, and continue to move and keep my head high. Some of them also is going into a system where you really have to learn the system, it’s different. So in a nonprofit, the INGOs system is easier. It’s flexible, yes, there are systems, but it’s not bureaucratic. But when you now have to work in a place where there’s some bureaucracy, or you need to learn that, and match it with the speed of programming, and the speed of results, then it means that you really need to have extraordinary skills. And for me, there were times milestones in my life.

Sujani 18:37
So it was really neat for me to see the work that you’re doing currently, because it goes back to you kind of identifying the specific area of work that you enjoy doing, which was helping organizations access funding. And so maybe you can tell our listeners a little bit about the work that you’re currently doing. And you know, what does a day in the life of that work look like for you. And I’m assuming this is something that you launched on your own called write proposals, and you’re doing exactly that, which is helping organizations access funding. And so tell us a little bit about how that came to be and what that work looks like for you today.

Akaoma 19:20
So it came to being from my first job, the organization I work for, were very big on helping identifying local organizations, teaching them what to do, helping them, providing them brands to implement within the communities and supporting them, and then also supporting them to become sustainable. And over the years I’ve seen such organizations become be and currently accessing larger forms and helping other organizations. For many organizations currently, many people go into establishing nonprofit without knowing really what it means, and you find them, you know, going through a rigorous difficult time. So for me being passionate about supporting organizations and people, I felt write proposals, I better the prime purpose of this job. So what do we do in it? Basically, what we’re doing it is we identify organizations who work with them, we provide them, you know, step by step process, step by step support on how they can build the organization, strengthen the organization, and make the organization ready to access funding. And also how do you assess funding. And beyond that, we also work with donor organizations, international, non governmental organization, to help them manage their different portfolios, manage their grants, you know, and support their different levels of partners to remain sustainable. So we help in ensuring that the organization becomes sustainable, even after the funding period ends. And then in doing that, we do a lot of capacity building. So capacity building, we’re using training, we’re mentoring, we’re coaching directly, we’re providing the tools, and answering a lot of questions. And then we do some of those things around strategic planning, you know, market reviews, and really assessments and brands assessment and things in relation, our website is off. And so people can go to our website and see some of the things that we do. So over the years, this has been a passion and it’s growing, it’s growing, we are just about one-two years now. So it’s growing, and we’re consistently building traction, and helping organizations even INGO, so when they’re doing their exits, there are linear projects, they contract us to help, we are partners, we learn how to access new funding, how to keep afloat, people in town. And so different elements of fundraising beyond just grants writing, is what we do.

Sujani 22:05
So what does a day look like for you say, you know, today, it’s the end of the day for you in Nigeria? What did a day at work look like for you in this role, I read that you are the director of this organization that you found it along with a few other members. So maybe you could talk a little bit about what a day in the life of your role kind of looks like.

Akaoma 22:27
So my day really, at this point, building the system, my day starts most of the time, very early. I’m sitting in and reviewing what we have to do within the week, all our monthly projections are and how we’re getting on with it. So I’m aligning our meetings, which is we have I usually I try not to have very early morning meeting so that we have time to deal with organizational related things. So I get into the office in the day. And I spent some time catching up with the staff, various things that we’re doing on various things that don’t table and getting feedback and reporting on some of those things, and then go on to other strategic things that we have to do, are we sending out a petition proposal or whatever. And then we’re working on some of those elements, I believe we’re preparing for an engagement with some partners, and things like that. So my day, every day structured, and I use a calendar to help me ensure that I don’t miss out on things. And that I also have a to do that helps me to really keep things on track. And then I also have a milestone journal that helps me to see how we are moving in terms of achieving some of the set goals that we have. So as an organization, we have a strategic plan, which we are operating now and deploying, and then every year we’re working on it. So every year, like this year is our best year. We have a Walkman, that an operational plan, really, that helps us to see, I suppose every month we have what we’re expected to achieve. So we’re looking at how are we achieving it. And what are we doing? So my work basically is helping identify, bring out the ideas and support the team or work with the team to ensure that we’re meeting up with some of those achievements are important, as well. So we’re setting up systems to working on many of our systems. So we’re constantly working on it. And it’s helping us really.

Sujani 24:33
What would you say Akaoma, that has been the best part or the best learnings that you’ve had to date kind of just working in the not for profit sector that you can kind of reflect on.

Akaoma 24:44
So the best learning I’ve had working in nonprofits is the opportunity to really to get introduced into the nonprofit world sector. And the fact that the nonprofit It showed me the fact that you can achieve anything that you want to achieve, and that you’re responsible for your growth. You know, building your capacity is important to you why you can do it, you don’t need any organization to do that for you. You don’t need anyone to do that way. So you can do it. That’s why for me, I’m so grateful to my bosses, people who said yes to me early in my career. And many of them, they gave me looks hard and difficult for that time. But when I look through, I’m excited. I’m grateful, because they gave me the capacity to the resilience to go the grid and move forward. Yeah, there are some downsides. But you learn from them, and you pick yourself up very quickly, and push around, achieving.

Sujani 25:51
When you look back at this journey that you’ve taken so far, do you think you would have done anything differently? If you were to do it all over again?

Akaoma 26:00
I would say no, I will say no, because when I look back, yes, I wanted to leave earlier. But why I’d say no, is that the experience I gained walking in series of international organization systems, for me is important. You know, there are skills that are fundamental. There are disciplines that are important. So looking back, I will say, I’m happy with my journey. I’ve learned from my journey. And I’m improving everyday in this journey. And now I have opportunity of helping young people build their journeys and mentoring people and supporting them to rise and ensuring that they’ll learn from some of the experiences I had.

Sujani 26:48
What are some questions that you typically get from the early professionals that are reaching out to you that you’re mentoring?

Akaoma 26:56
So some of the questions they keep asking me is, how did you come this far?

Sujani 27:01
What’s the response that you give to them for that?

Akaoma 27:04
So I tell them, I came this far, because first I made up my mind, it was important. And I got my bridges, and there was no going back. Okay, so in the system, in the sector, I was learning I was pushing. And I kept evolving as different things evolve. I kept modifying, I kept picking up skills and supporting the work that I needed to do. Then somebody will ask me, okay, I don’t like this. I don’t like that. I said, Yes. For me there were things I didn’t like. But I had to do that. Because I needed to learn. Some of us said no, this isn’t assigned to me. That’s what I said, Oh, those days assuming things were not assigned to me. But I reach out to my boss and say, can I do this? Can I help? And she looks at me. And sometimes she’s not sure whether she should say yes. And she says yes. And then I try. And then when I try, she says this young girl is hungry. She comes up along, and she keeps supporting me. And that’s true.

Sujani 28:08

Akaoma 28:08
And I begin to innovate. I’m reading different things. I’m summarizing it, I’m sharing it with my boss, that she’s using it in a meeting, and people met while where you get to know those information. That should be I was useful. And I was reliable. And she could trust me. So that’s one of the questions. So make yourself trustworthy, make yourself reliable, make yourself useful in the team, you don’t need to be the biggest specimen, you didn’t need to know everything and show that you need to learn that you want to learn. And even when people correct you sometimes it’s really hard but well, not for too long, and you move on. And that’s it.

Sujani 28:08
Yeah, I feel like the the- the talk that you just gave is so appropriate for anyone. I think it doesn’t have to be an early professional, you know, any anyone who’s even established in their career, sometimes you can be maybe like, the word stuck is not the right word. But you know, you’re doing some work that you don’t enjoy. And I think it’s up to us, right. And it’s great that you said, you know, you are responsible for your own growth. It’s up to us to decide and declare what it is that we want to do. And then find opportunities, take initiatives and present that to our managers or supervisors or our teams and kind of find a way to make our work enjoyable and fitting for ourselves. While also you know, keeping in mind what the organization’s mandate and deliverables are. So I thought that was a great piece of advice there, Akaoma.

Akaoma 28:48
Yeah, thank you.

Sujani 28:51
I’m just curious. You know, in addition to that, when public health students or any early career professionals come to you, are there other pieces of advice that you’d offer to them, especially if they’re interested in- in working in the non for profit sector trying to get their foot in the door, maybe they don’t have much experience and they’re graduating or they’re a student, what are some ways that they can, you know, get that experience? Especially, I think, you know, those who are interested in international organizations based on, you know, what you’ve seen, in your experience. Is there- Or are there any tips that you could offer them?

Akaoma 30:26
Yeah, so what I tell them is, over the periods, things have changed. So for some of them, I say, when you graduate, and you want a position, and this is what you want to do, you can take the opportunity and volunteer. By volunteering, you need to be sure what you want to do with your volunteering time, so that it’s useful to the organization you’re volunteering to. And you can also track your progress.

Sujani 30:57

Akaoma 30:58
Then also, what I also say to them, the opportunities for a lot of online courses, free courses online, which you can actually spend time and attend those courses and learn, learn operational things so that when you’re getting introduced organization, there’s something you’re offering them. That’s something that makes you different as a value that you’re bringing. And that value is important. So those days, they will say, but did you do that when you started? I said, No. But when I started, I had some other skills, I had communication skills, I was a teaching manuals, I was teaching publications, as I detailed reports, and they were like, Oh, you do that. I did well, I was teaching them to the level of where I was. And they found it useful, because they had no one who they who read your bulletins, and indeed, for typos before it’s published, then I also will say to them, have a mentor. At different points in my life, I had different mentors, and mentors, actually, many times, with periods that look for ever. So at different times in my life, I had a mentor. And that mentor was teaching me, talking to me, providing me guidance, clarifying my questions and motivating me. So you have a mentor, and then when you have a mentor, and what the mentor does depend on helps you not to go the long wall, shutting some of the journey. So he teaches you, or she teaches you and provides you with some templates. I had a mentor that that was one thing she taught me to set up templates, when you get to a new job for many things. And so your turnaround time, it’s easier. It’s faster, kind of. So you when you have a mentor, talk to your mentor. And you can have a mentor for different things, different elements of what you’re interested in. And then when you have a mentor, also you do the discipline of study of really not yours. So there are lots of resources that the nonprofit space produces every day, resources that are useful. So are you ready, no? Are you catching up? Are you able to pick up interest in some of those, you also build a social media presence, LinkedIn is available, build a social media presence, follow a lot of great professionals that you can learn from their publications, from their course, from their blog posts. And from the things they put up. Why is that important? That helps to sharpen your mind. And everyday, there’s a new thing that you’re taking in. So when you get into a new organization, there’s something you’re offering them. So even if you now have to get a job, you’re saying this is what I can do. This is the knowledge is the skill I have. And then there’s an offering, there’s a reason why they can employ you. Nobody wants to employ someone that has nothing to offer. You don’t need to know everything rather, what you need to be the best at that point to your own space. And that’s the advice I give them.

Sujani 34:03
I keep going back to that one phrase that you mentioned, which is you’re responsible for your own growth. And the two things that stick out for me is be useful however you choose. And you know, build that trust with your team on the organization or the place that you want to work so that they can keep giving you work or opportunities that you’re really wanting to build skills in. So I think I have to go back and listen to this last segment, I write down some notes for myself because they were super, super, super valuable. So thank you for that.

Akaoma 34:38
Thank you.

Sujani 34:39
This has been a wonderful conversation with you. And I know there’s been a lot of great advice that you offered here, especially around you know, what does a career in the nonprofit sector look like? So I’m sure for our listeners who are interested to stepping into that sector. This will be a very helpful episode. So, behalf of our listeners and myself, I just want to say thank you once again for joining us on the podcast.

Akaoma 35:07
Thank you for the opportunity. And I’m available to provide you support at anytime.

Sujani 35:15

Hey, I hope you enjoyed that episode. And if you want to get the links or information mentioned in today’s episode, you can head over to And we’ll have everything there for you. And before you go, I want to tell you about the public health career club. So if you’ve been looking for a place to connect and build meaningful relationships with other public health professionals, from all around the world, you should join us in the public health career club. We launched the club with the vision of becoming the number one hangout spot dedicated to building and growing your dream public health career. And in addition to being able to connect and build those meaningful relationships with other public health professionals, the club also offers other great resources for your career growth and success, like mindset coaching, job preparation, clinics, and career growth strategy sessions in the form of trainings and talks, all delivered by experts and inspiring individuals in these areas. So if you want to learn more, or want to join the club, you can visit our page at And we’ll have all the information there. And you know, as a space that’s being intentionally curated to bring together like minded public health professionals who are not only there to push themselves to become the best versions of themselves, but also each other. And with that, I can’t wait to see how it this is going to have a ripple effect in the world as we all work together to better the health of our populations and just have immense impact in the world. And I hope you’ll be joining us in the public health career Club.


About the Show

PH SPOTlight: Public health career stories, inspiration, and guidance from current-day public health heroes

On the show, Sujani sits down with public health heroes of our time to share career stories, inspiration, and guidance for building public health careers. From time to time, she also has conversations with friends of public health – individuals who are not public health professionals, but their advice and guidance are equally important.

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