From Institutional Finance to Closing the Racial Wealth Gap: An Interview with #MWIFellow Kira Farris

Alexandra Nemeth

Senior Manager, Content Marketing & Storytelling at MovingWorlds

This time last year, Kira Farris was in the midst of her MovingWorlds Institute Global Fellowship experience as part of Cohort 14. We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Kira to reflect on the experience a year later, learn more about how her career has evolved since, and see the meaningful work she’s doing now. Read her inspiring career change story in our interview below!

What were you doing before you joined the Fellowship in 2021?

Prior to MovingWorlds, I had experience in the Financial Services industry in a variety of roles including Institutional Sales and Corporate Strategy. However, I felt like I was missing the human impact of my work, and I was finding more fulfillment in other involvements outside of my day job, like non-profit work, pro-bono consulting projects, and community service. 

I’m sure a lot of people can relate to that feeling. How did you find MovingWorlds, and what were your goals going in?

I learned about the Moving Worlds Institute Global Fellowship Program on LinkedIn, and I was motivated to apply to find out how I could leverage my business foundation to pursue a purpose-driven career. Since the social impact space is extremely broad and spans across industries and roles, my goals for the Fellowship were to (a) learn about the variety of social impact career opportunities and (b) to develop a foundation of social impact knowledge and experience that would give me both the confidence and credibility I needed to make a professional pivot. 

What was it like once you became a Fellow? Do any moments in particular stand out?

The six months of the Fellowship really flew by! It was great to spend this time getting to know my cohort, who were all like-minded when it came to having an inclination for social impact, but were very diverse in terms of professional and personal backgrounds. That combination led to some really thought-provoking conversations and new ways of thinking about things that I wouldn’t necessarily have arrived at on my own.

Some highlights of my Fellowship experience included the Design Challenges, in which we collaborated across MWI cohorts to brainstorm impactful solutions to real-world social problems. I’m also an avid reader and I loved our monthly social impact ‘book club’. Most importantly, I greatly enjoyed all of the guided self-reflection we did, particularly the exercises around identifying our strengths and purpose. That was a much-needed shift in mindset for me; in previous environments, I had tended to focus on my opportunity areas or what I could be doing to improve, instead of on what I am good at and what drives me. 

Another major milestone of my Fellowship was completing my Experteering project with Grameen America, the well-known microfinance nonprofit started by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus. I performed a market-entry strategy project in order to identify new potential Grameen locations to support low-income Black and Hispanic female entrepreneurs, which included analyzing demographic data and conducting qualitative research to confirm the viability of Grameen’s geographic expansion plans. Being able to take all of the new concepts I was learning into the real world and combine them with the transferable skills from my past finance experience to make a meaningful contribution confirmed I was on the right path. 

Overall, the Fellowship served (and continues to serve) as a valuable opportunity to take a step back and reflect on where you are and where you want to go, since it is very easy to get sucked into your day-to-day routine, especially at work. Cole and Alexandra helped us connect the dots between our past experiences and what specifically we aim to do next, and then map a course for how to get there. With all of the above experiences, I was able to narrow down my social impact areas of interest to: impact investing, inclusive finance, and the racial wealth gap.

So, where were you when the Fellowship ended?

By the end of the Fellowship, I had clarified my career goal: to bring together my financial services industry knowledge with my passion for racial equity. While I wasn’t actively searching for a new job at the time, at the end of the 6 months in the Fellowship, I had a better understanding of what type of company and role I was looking for (a strategic role at a private, small to midsize, mission-driven organization) so that I could be more discerning about analyzing future opportunities. A few months after my program concluded, a previous coworker posted about the fintech startup he had just founded that had a strong social impact angle, and I immediately reached out as I knew it was the perfect fit for me and the best next step for my desired career pivot. 

Now that you’re on the other side of a successful career pivot, tell us more about how you got there and the meaningful work you’re doing! 

In January 2022, I joined the team at Stackwell Capital, a fintech startup focused on eliminating the racial wealth gap by building a new community of Black investors. The Fellowship played a big role in helping me successfully navigate the transition – the learning, self-reflecting, and re-defining what I was looking for helped me land somewhere that I can truly thrive. I am deeply passionate about our company’s mission to build Black generational wealth, and I feel like all of my work makes a genuinely meaningful impact, especially at an early-stage startup. More than that, Stackwell’s work addressing the racial wealth gap will have ripple effects for the Black community in so many other positive ways as well. I’m lucky to have an incredibly supportive team, and I am grateful to be learning a lot and building out new skills. My role as Chief of Staff also plays to the strengths that I uncovered in the Fellowship, like input, empathy, connectedness, responsibility, execution, and intellection. We invite you to follow our journey on LinkedIn and social media!

Do you have any advice for people who are considering applying to the MovingWorlds Institute themselves?

If you are committed to – or curious about – all things social impact, then this program is for you. The MovingWorlds Institute will help you carve out the time and space you need to start or deepen your social impact career. I was pleasantly surprised about how collaborative and hands-on the Fellowship was – virtual does not mean static! Come prepared to dedicate time to program activities each week, and work with and learn from your cohort. 

My other pro tip for prospective Fellows is: When you begin the program, identify your top 1-3 goals: whether that’s finding a new job or connecting with a mentor. MovingWorlds provides an incredible amount of resources and programming, and it’s up to you to take advantage of all of it to reach your goals. You will get out of the program what you put into it! The sheer volume of resources can be overwhelming initially, however, if you feel pressure to do it all, remember that the 6-month Fellowship is only the beginning, and that the MovingWorlds Institute provides a jumping-off point for you to start or continue your social impact journey with a supportive global network behind you. 

We’re so grateful to Kira for sharing her story with us, and excited to continue following her journey in social finance! If you can relate to Kira’s story, and are ready to start or accelerate a pivot of your own, apply to the May cohort of the MovingWorlds Institute Global Fellowship by April 30th!