Kofi Friar is the I.T. manager at Kiva. He’s been at the company for over 2 years and continues to demonstrate his Kiva passion every day! It also helps that his pup, Ninja, is everyone’s favorite office dog!
Interview conducted by Casey Miller and photographed by Claire Primack.
Hey Kofi! First off, how did you get into this field? What was that process like, getting into Kiva?
Well, for me, probably like a lot of people these days, it wasn't a straightforward path. I never thought I'd be doing. I.T. work as a full-time job, especially not in college. I studied journalism in college. I love to interview people and understand their stories. And that was naturally what I thought I was going to do. But, my senior year in college I ended up getting an I.T. job.
And I did really well with it. I grew and progressed and eventually, I became a manager. I took that next step and haven't turned away since.
How would you describe your role here?
My role here is great. I'm able to work and meet with everybody pretty much, because we all use technology. And I'm in charge of all of our internal users and systems in Kiva. So it gives me the opportunity to get to know our employees and get to know what they do and get to know what devices they need to have to do the job that we need to do. So, I enjoy it because I get to work with and I get to meet with pretty much everybody across the organization.
My day-to-day varies a lot, just depending on what time of the year it is and what's going on. But mostly I deal with a lot of stuff that pertains to user accounts and technology, and also I.T. projects -- things that we're looking to have take place in the upcoming months and I'm making sure that we are able to get those accomplished.
What would you say you're passionate about and how does it tie into your work at Kiva?
I don't know if it does, actually. I'm passionate about music, I'm passionate about sports, I’m passionate about fashion. But, I am also very passionate about social good. And I'm passionate about trying to make the world around us a better place. And I think that aspect ties into my job at Kiva. Obviously, my own personal interests don't really have a lot to do with I.T.
I usually say I.T. doesn't define who I am, but working at Kiva does. I feel that it's very important to try and better those around us and better the environment around us. By working that Kiva, that's a small thing I'm able to do to help contribute to that.
Do you have any advice for those trying to break into either the nonprofit industry or the I.T. industry?
For the most part, what I've learned is that whatever your passion and whatever your interest is, it's about making that first step, which is always going to be the hardest step. So if you want to make something happen, it's going to take a risk. Just be okay and comfortable taking that risk, and understand what a risk is. A risk doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be successful right off the bat. It means you're trying to see how it's going to work out. So whether that's learning about computers or whether that's starting your own business, or applying for a loan at Kiva -- any of the above is going to be a risk. You understand that and go forward with it.
What, or who, inspires you on a daily basis?
I'm really inspired by people who are able to really go all-in on a specific task, or goal, or some type of mindset. I am truly in awe of all of the people who really make social justice their go-to and their passion, or work on climate change, or those who sacrifice money or comfort or whatever to really focus on trying to do better in these roles. I tip my hat to them because that's 100%impressive. And then beyond that, any individual is able to really dedicate themselves to one goal.
So, Kiva has 6 core values. Which one resonates most with you?
There are a few that stand out. Honesty and integrity. Total ownership. But I'm really going to hone in on diversity and inclusion, because that's what makes the world a better place. I really feel that, in the world today, we need to be more inclusive and we need to embrace diversity. Diversity of thought. Obviously diversity of culture. It needs to be a focal point in today's society. And that doesn't necessarily mean that you have to agree with everything that somebody else says, but you should at least be open to hearing their perspectives and trying to gain understanding from it. We're all people, all humans, and we're not all going to agree on everything. But we should still hold to the fact that we all are people.
What would you say has been both your biggest challenge, and your biggest accomplishment?
I'm always excited to explain to people the vision and mission of Kiva. Within that though, there has been a lot of challenges that have come my way with working here. I.T. is a high demand job and there's been a lot of adjustments and changes. As I've tried to grow, and kind of manifest those adjustments and changes, I've also been able to learn a lot about myself and a lot about my professional career while working at Kiva. That's why I would say that the two go hand-in-hand. Because as I've been challenged to grow, I've been able to kind of reach those marks and accomplish those challenges or overcome the challenges. So it's really been a great and positive experience.
Tell me what Spotify playlists you listen to while working.
Oh man. It all depends on the day and it depends on my mood. I won't shy away from listening to Disney tunes at work. I mean, it's across the board. Afrohouse is something I listen to. Jazz rap is another big one. Then there's also the playlist that's just called "Butter," like smooth jazz, so I like that one as well.
Last question: what's the best part about working at Kiva?
I love the people and the mission. I honestly wouldn't still be doing I.T. if it wasn't for this organization because I.T. itself isn't my life calling. But I'm doing it here, which makes it that much better, and it really speaks to the people, the leadership, and the vision. So across the board, working at Kiva has been just a really positive experience. I just really enjoy my career here so far. I've been here for two years and I feel like it's just flown by. It's been a great time.