Insights about the Karna, LLC team from Human Resources Director, Sarah Waite

The Karna expertise expands beyond global health into what makes an organization truly great. Leading the front on exceptional employee relations and benefits, is Karna Acting Director of Business Operations and Human Resources, Sarah Waite.

As the Acting Director, Sarah Waite is responsible for the internal Information Technology team, Finance & Accounting, Process Improvement, and Human Resources. Read her insights on the growing Karna team; past, present and future.

Q:How has the Karna team evolved since you joined?
A: I started with Karna in 2014 as the Director of Operations, was approximately employee number 50 and was initially a department of one! At that time, we had a few processes and procedures in place, but it was my job to develop guidance and establish an operational structure for Karna to be able to “scale up” and grow. I’ve watched us grow from subleasing individual office spaces and conference rooms from partners to our two large locations in Atlanta and Maryland! About a year after I started, I moved into Human Resources and have spent the last several years with the team, including Keri Van Fleteren, Margaret Martin, and Lauri Gilreath, strengthening and continuously improving HR.

Q: What path led you to the Karna team?
A: Prior to joining Karna, I spent seven years with SRA International (now GDIT) as a Project and Program Manager and approximately four years as a Lean-Six Sigma Black Belt (Process Improvement) for Linde, Inc. in Munich, Germany. My background and experience provide me with a unique perspective; I’ve not only worked on client site at CDC, but also have had opportunities to develop processes and procedures affecting global organizations.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of working with the Karna team?
A: I’m often asked what I like best about Karna. Although there are many things which come to mind, the most important one is how we are a compassionate and caring organization. The best example I can give of this is my own story. In March of 2015 my mother and I were hit head-on by a driver while I was driving into work. As a result, I found myself with a broken leg, arm, foot, and jaw, spent 16 days in the hospital, 17 days with my mouth wired closed, and a total of 12 weeks away from work. During that time, Ambica, our former President and CEO, Wayne, and Derrick came to visit me in the hospital. Ambica even cooked meals for me because, in her words, “hospital food is awful”.

At the 12-week mark, Wayne asked if there was any way I could start coming into the office again – some amazing things were about to happen – we had just won the massive DGMQ and NCIRD Professional Services contracts. However, I was still using a cane, my left hand had just started working again (because of the broken arm my radial nerve, which controls fine motor movement, had been severely damaged) and I certainly wasn’t driving. To remedy that, Ambica volunteered to drive me back and forth to work and insisted I hobble up and down the stairs because I’d, “…never get stronger if I only used the elevator”. We’d have meetings on “my side of town” on days when I couldn’t make it into the office because of rehab or doctor’s appointments.

I will always remember the care and compassion from the Karna team during this time. It’s why I do my best to share the same care and empathy throughout the organization. That’s why it’s so important that we continue to do what’s right and act with ethics and integrity. The last (almost) five years have been an amazing journey, with changes and exciting things always around the corner. I’m excited to see what the next years are going to bring!