Today is a special day for me. It has been 10 years since I started working at Nielsen, to the date. December 1st 2010 was my reporting day. On the 2nd day I was off for graduation rehearsals and on the 3rd which was my first Friday I was off for my graduation at the UoN. However, because the stories and lessons from 10 years might be too much to write on, let me first take a step back to where and how this journey started.
My last month on campus was July 14th 2010. It was exactly one month after my birthday and meant having to study and clear my final exams at a time I would have chosen to be partying. But I was used to it. The Kenyan 8-4-4 system having exams or at least midterms in June was something I was used to.
After a few months of lounging, series watching and overall lazing around. Ok, I lie, I still had evening classes for my IT degree but for the first time in 4 years I had freedom during the day. This freedom proved too much for me to cope with and by October 2010 I was working as an online researcher at DAPROIM (Data Processing Information Management) Africa, the name may have changed since. I was a wage earner payable based on the number of validated questions answered. And this is where our story begins.
On October 21st 2010 at 3:29 PM (I still have the email to date), my elder brother forwarded me an email titled “Circulate Urgently”. The email originated from his best friend and roommate from his campus days. The reason I make sure to mention the time the email came in is because that vacancy was expiring the next day by 4 pm.
Now, these were not the days of smartphones, laptops at home or easily accessible internet. Even getting somewhere to type up a CV could prove a challenge then. Yes, I know I make it sound like 10 years ago was the dark ages, but maybe it was. More than half of these photos were taken on cameras not camera phones. However, because I had started my online research career where the personal email was used daily to share back the data, I did not miss this email. That night after I was done with work, I applied for the position. So quickly that I barely got the full info on the document correctly. I had never come across market research before then. The vacancy was a 6 month per rotation for 3 rotations young leaders program for a total of 18 months, basically a job. My understanding as I clicked send on the email was that it was a 6 month internship and we all know how much we are on the lookout for those after school. Before we have any proper experience in the job market. I just hoped they gave fare or lunch or something.
At the start of November I received an email from a company I did not know. Because how many in Kenya knew the name Nielsen then or still do? I had no recollection of my application due to the speed with which I had sent it in, to make the deadline. This was the first time I read up on the company properly. This time I included the full scope of market research and more as I prepared for the interview which by the way was just the next day from the invite email. There was therefore the small matter of attending the interview while still working elsewhere. My naivety or boldness led me to not my supervisor’s but the company owner’s office. Now deceased, his words remain the best push I could ever have needed at such a time. I was feeling terribly guilty to leave so soon. He said that my work for him was always meant to be temporary, it was a stepping stone to greater things especially for those recently out of school. He then proceeded to give me the next whole day off to prepare for the interview.
One face to face interview and two virtual interviews later, which included some parts in French because the role would require interaction with our Francophone countries, I was hired. With the requirement to get a passport as soon as possible. This is where the 10 year journey truly starts.
I could write pages upon pages of the lessons, the mistakes, the joys, the lows of the last 10 years but this post is just a celebration of time past. It celebrates the seconds, hours, weeks, months and years we have lived through, sometimes survived through as a working adult.
Most importantly, most people I know still make fun of not knowing exactly what I do. I have done loads and that might be the reason. Or I have done such specific work it is sometimes unknown to others. I will make sure to tag them on this post.
So for the last 10 years, here is a brief layman-termed breakdown of what I do or have done in the last 10 years.
- Data Acquisition Specialist (DA Young Leader Program) – I managed projects including budgets, field personnel for fieldwork. I was learning the market research trade at the same time and hence the various trips for learning workshops. I completed my first BPI (Business Process Improvement) project by the end of the 3 rotations.
- mRES Tech. Support Reach and Read E.A & C.A – Company transitions from Pen and Paper to Mobile Research. I become in charge of vendor training, technical know-how and online data quality analysis for East and Central Africa
- Technical and Help Desk Manager, SSA (Sub Saharan Africa) – Same role expands further as more countries move to mobile research. I travelled to train new helpdesks to support the country. The French we might have forgotten comes in handy. Next thing I know, I am a manager by 25.
- mRES, SOS & RRES Technical Leader; Back Office HHT support – More countries, more softwares, more data analysis, more people management.
- Quality Management System (QMS) Lead – Emerging Markets – Provided insights for 64 emerging markets based on quality, cost, timeliness, productivity etc
- Operational Insights Lead, Global Markets – All markets, any possible insight for operational cost effectiveness. Includes insights that could lead to enhancements to existing apps or new app development. Includes presentations on analytics and data studio dashboards.
- Module and Process Owner/Lead, Navigator App – Liaison between software developers (Tech team) and user needs. Includes loads of documentation and follow ups to clear the product backlog. I get to learn and use JIRA as part of Agile product development.
- Platform Support Specialist (QMS, GSR, GDA TM) – Analysis of root causes that make platforms and different modules unstable to the user. Document root cause analysis all the way to resolution while updating troubleshooting guides on a website that will guide the users in days to come.
All this while learning about work-life balance. Managing to keep my life of writing as intact as possible though the onstage performances may have suffered a bit. So as you enjoy my CV or decide to skip it, we come to the major question that reared its head even when I wrote my 5 year anniversary piece. “Why are you still in this one place?” The list is long and it includes many things from stability, excitement, innovations, use for this brain that won’t quit but my most important one is, managers.
There is a cliché that goes: “People don’t leave bad jobs, they leave poor managers.” As much as there is speculative truth in that for most people. It rings extremely true for me as I turn the page on this decade. 10 years, 8 titles and 11 managers later I am still here, having met only 2 of those managers face to face. It is great proof that a company is its culture. And there is no culture without people accepting and propagating it. Culture crosses borders, accents and screens. Culture makes employees feel needed and useful in their teams. Culture got me to a decade.
So this post is not only a celebration for me but an appreciation to those who laid the steps and kept me going for this last decade. My appreciation for that email forward from Pablo to Kevoh to me. My appreciation for the late Steve Muthee for the honesty and positive vibes he left behind and with me as I looked to start this career. My appreciation for all others who have made this 10 year journey not only manageable but enjoyable. And lastly to my Creator, who has seen it fit for me to see this day. Excelsior!!