Our final interview of the year coincides with a Corona-versary. Kate Darwent celebrates seven years with Corona on December 10th. With an MA and PhD in Social Psychology, and a minor in Quantitative Psychology, Kate was originally hired for her quantitative research expertise. As Kate recalled, “my primary expertise when I started was more pure quantitative work such as designing surveys and data analysis. Since then I have expanded my expertise to include evaluation and strategic planning. I’ve also learned a lot about qualitative methods as well.” Along the way she’s earned promotions to Senior Associate and now Director.
Kate is known for her interest in working on a variety of different projects – she describes herself as “topic agnostic” – and stretching to gain new skills. One of the things she enjoys about Corona is “being encouraged to jump on projects that interest you for whatever reason. I’ve really benefited from all of that exposure to different services. I’d had zero exposure to these things in graduate school.”
Kate epitomizes the natural curiosity we seek when hiring talent for Team Corona. As she noted, we look for curious people who are interested in collaborative work with others, working with nonprofits and government clients, to make a difference. A commitment to continuous learning and growth is part of the Corona culture. “It’s not like we just bring our skills to Corona when we’re hired and stop learning new things. We continue to grow our skills, and we share what we learn across the company,” remarked Kate.
It’s the People
When we ask Kate what keeps her connected and motivated, she quickly points out that it’s “the people.” Kate really loves all of Corona’s clients. Coming from academia she finds it incredibly satisfying to conduct applied research that benefits people and organizations. “Some of our most exciting work is when we make use of a lot of our expertise, and not just a single line of expertise, to help our clients achieve their goals.”
“I’m especially proud when you see the work really shape an organization. You don’t always find out how a client uses our insights. I like it when we have long working relationships with clients, so that we can see how they are using our work, in a way that is authentic to them.”Kate Darwent
Kate also has strong affection for “all the Coronerds. It is so much fun to work with a bunch of people who really love learning, are passionate about the work, are wonderful colleagues and are always up for a challenge. Everyone pitches in. There are no egos here.” Corona is a highly collaborative culture. Everyone pitches in to do what they can. Kate is no exception, often offering up “bits of time” and larger chunks to assist colleagues.
Corona is constantly evolving along a path that is true to its culture and commitment to grow as an organization. That includes expanding opportunities for junior staff. “We keep pushing for more transparency, which is so important, so that everyone knows what we’re doing as a company and why. Even junior employees can shape the company going forward,” notes Kate.
The Future Looks Bright
Kate is optimistic for the future as more nonprofits are recognizing the importance of data-driven strategic thinking. “In the nonprofit community, as there has been more of a push to be more data savvy and strategic, the desire for more thoughtful and complex solutions that use strategy, data and evaluation all together seems to be growing.” Plus, “we keep finding interesting people to hire with interesting skills sets that add more tools for our clients.”
A new mom, Kate finds bits of time to continue her hobbies. She enjoys knitting and has enjoyed making some baby things “since they are quick and small.” A relatively new passion is the Great British Bake Off television show. She also enjoys volunteering and reading.
As we wrapped up the interview, I asked Kate to share some of her favorite projects. Not surprisingly, she has lots. “I’ve always been interested in health and have enjoyed all our work with Connect for Health Colorado. Those are super interesting projects. I also love working with long-term clients such as FRIENDS FIRST. We keep tailoring our services as we try to figure out different approaches that best serve their needs. And we get to see them grow as an organization.”
Oh, Nate Silver
Her most memorable moments include a conference she attended with colleague Beth Mulligan. “When Beth and I were at AAPOR one year, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight was a keynote. There was an event afterwards with a poker tournament. Beth and I lurked by the poker table for over an hour just to meet him and get a photo. It was totally worth it.”
Charity of Choice
Kate’s Charity of Choice is the Havre de Grace Arts Collective. In our next post we’ll highlight the Arts Collective and why she chose it.
Throughout 2019, to help celebrate our 20th Anniversary, we are profiling our staff and select clients. Click here to view all of our interviews.
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