Nikita Kimani (she/her) is an IO MPS alum and a Graduate Coordinator for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Training and Development in the Department of Residence Life at UMD.
What made you want to pursue a career in IO?
It started with my first exposure to IO Psychology. I randomly signed up for an IO class in undergrad, and I really enjoyed the material. Seeing both the IO perspective and how psychology is applied to work was great. Work is something that's important, and it makes up a huge part of our lives, so why not figure out ways to make it better for folks? We don't want to be hesitant to go to work, or to be having experiences based on organizations that are not running at their best capacities. We want to improve them, and there's always room for growth. Even if we're doing well, we can always look at what we can do better. For example, we can look at what practices we got used to that we didn’t realize should be moving forward, and make those work better.
The other motivation came from my personal experience of seeing how work culture, particularly in Kenya where my family is from, can be really toxic for lack of a better word. I know how work can impact a person’s experience beyond the office, and how it can carry over to home, into their interactions outside of work. This made me want to bring improvements and learn the skills to do this work. In Kenya, IO is not a known thing, and it would benefit the workforce there so much. In addition, in undergrad, I realized I really love multiculturalism, diversity, equity and inclusion. I’ve figured out the IO really lends itself well to integrating this focus into folks’ work lives.
Why did you choose UMD’s program for your studies?
As I was looking into getting into IO, I realized that I wasn't into the research side of things and I was more interested in the practitioner side. Granted, you do a little bit of each in both realms, but I have heavily focused on how I could gain skills and practice in applying IO theories and concepts. So I talked to quite a few people who are alumni of the UMD program and heard a lot of different, great perspectives and experiences from them. I also attended an information session and felt like this was the program that I wanted to attend. I liked that I would go onto the website’s course listings and see a lot of the values that I personally relate to, such as care for individuals, community, and diversity. This was a big thing in my decision making around wanting to join this program. I really appreciated the information that was shared and how the program was structured in terms of projects and the focus of classes.
Are there particular courses or projects during your time in the IO MPS that stand out?
Across all the projects that we've had so far, there has been a lot of flexibility to work with your own interests and experiences. This makes the work a lot more meaningful. Even if some of us end up doing similar topics, or if it's like a case study, the way we spin our projects is unique. With group work, there's a lot of collaboration in how we formulate a topic and how we can apply course material to the topic, whether it's analytics, business evaluation, or talent development, for example. We can make it our own, and that's something that I really appreciate across all the projects, since it makes it very easy to create a personal connection to it.
What skills did you learn at UMD that will help you in your career?
The skills that I've gotten to refine and learn more about, particularly across the Talent Development and Analytics courses, have been informing my work currently. I'm able to make improvements around professional development, and create assessments and analysis around this to develop solutions. There are a lot of critical thinking skills that I've gained, and a lot of problem perspective skills, as well the ability to put things into an organizational context. I can see how my perspective has shifted in my current position, from the time that I started to now. I’ve gained a lot of critical thinking, analysis, and practical skills.
What is a fun fact about you that no one would guess? Or what's one item that you cannot live without?
I’m a dual citizen of the US and Kenya, and I can't live without my passports for both of these countries. Dual citizenship makes it easier for me to travel, and I love to travel. I can choose which passport is most convenient for me to get into a country, and I don't have to pay for a visa to visit my family in Kenya. Certain countries have different alliances with either Kenya or the US, and this helps with the tactical things like visas and borders and all that good stuff.
What is the best piece of advice or feedback that you have received?
The idea that no matter what you decide to do in life, leave a piece of yourself in your work, in your interactions, and in how you come across to people. Don't let other people write your story for you. You have control of your life, and you should take it in whichever directions you feel are best for you. Don't let anyone infringe on you or tell you what is the right timing, the right ideas, the right philosophies, or anything. You are ultimately your own person and you should embrace this, and your wholeness, and then live in whatever pathways you decide to take in your life.