Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Spring Cleaning

One of the main things I've done since I've been back at  NATC has been reorganising the display shelves, throwing out old junk from the tech lab, and tidying up the office in general. 

We threw out about 1 ton (maybe a slight exaggeration) of old desk tops, laptops, printers, parts, and cables. The new trainee Losine Kamara was my assistant in this 3-day job and, promptly found a way to dispose our garbage. A scrap dealer was only too happy to take all the stuff. 

I felt like a weight had been lifted off from after 3 days of spring cleaning! I take great pride in our beautiful loft and, would like to see it clean, tidy and organised. 

I am kind of annoyed with my tech team for not keeping a tidier lab but know things will be the way I like it because I meant to set a precedent now. 











Wednesday, 15 July 2015

The rainy season

A delicious rainy day.


Wish I could also take a nap in my own cozy bed at the office under a blue blanket like Kavita! ;-)

Our neighbours and us pooled money to pave our 'alley way' and now, we do not have a small river to cross each time.

It is time to drink another another cup of tea and listen to another Pakistani ghazal.

What is your favourite filmy rain song?





Monday, 13 July 2015

I am back!


Readers will be delighted to know that after almost six months, I'm back to NATC full time. Did you notice my absence? 

Prior to my life as an entrepreneur, I had spent 6 years with the UN in various countries including Liberia. I took off a year in 2008 to pursue a masters in Violence Conflict and Development at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London. In 2009, my life took a drastic turn and I decided to take over an ailing IT company and never looked back. 

It was one of the best decisions I made. 

Nevertheless, I surprised myself last year while I was in Pakistan on a long break (initially only for an extended break which turned into having to undergo surgery and by the time I was ready to be back, I was stuck because of the ebola crisis) by starting a job hunt with development and humanitarian agencies. My main impulse stemmed from the awful crisis in Liberia. If our business collapsed, what would I have to fall back on?

Thank God, I completed my master's degree which I had almost abandoned in 2009. This qualification would help me in seeking a good position. 

The business has not collapsed, even after ebola hit Liberia, and in fact, has been doing well. Our cash flow has drastically improved and after all that yelling and screaming, some systems are in place. 

Haresh, my life and business partner, was handling NATC day to day and, there was very little I was doing except for keeping everyone on their toes. There was nothing really to worry about. 

Back in January, I glanced at a vacancy with Mercy Corps on the Liberia Expats Google Group.  I immediately replied, got interviewed and hired. My first day was 19 January and I was already on a four-day trip to Nimba County.

I will delve into development discussions separately on my personal blog but from a purely professional point of view, there is so much I learned from performing a day job while still owning and running a business:

Learning to work under another boss again

I've been working for myself 6 years now. That means, I'm President, Supreme Authority, and Dictator-for-Life. That means I hire people, I fire people, I make up my daily schedule, I organise things the way I like, I set rules, I change rules,  and so on. In other words, I don't report to anyone except for principles that I adhere to.

Despite this, it was not difficult working under a boss again. I was only too glad to get an opportunity to work in the development world again. 

My immediate supervisor and indeed the whole office treated me with a lot of respect and warmth. I especially felt appreciated by my supervisor and admired his strong but very non-patronising working style, knowledge and sense of vision and integrity. 

Beyond my boss, there was of course the Country Director (CD) and, as per protocol and polite working style, one has to show a fair degree of deference and respect to the CD. 

In terms of things which agitated me, I was kind of surprised to see some programme decisions, and how general working conditions and temperaments were tolerated. 

I also observed how certain staff complained about policy and, how management was seen by them and, indeed by me. And, I'm sure folks at NATC see me in a negative way at times

Feeling respected and admired was a very good buzz. As the boss for NATC, I do not often feel appreciated but seen more as a draconian dragon lady for repeatedly asking for reports, discipline, tidiness, and punctuality. So, it was nice to experience pure respect as a professional, most of which stems for my long - time experience and knowledge of Liberia. 

I also realised that a good boss must strive to always be non patronising, engage all the staff, encourage free thinking but also have a vision. A boss will not seen to be a force for good if one's decisions are not clearly explained. 

It was nice to be a follower and adopt someone else's vision. 

Learning to work for another organisation again

I did not work long enough at Mercy Corps to start to develop a strong Mercy Corps identity but was happy to represent the organisation in my work, at external meetings, with our partners and so on. 

During a fast paced project that was intellectually stimulating, I quickly became fond of my peers and of the team I was managing. So much so that I was blue for a good couple of weeks before I ended my contract. 

I was also quite anxious to separate my day job from my identity as the owner and CEO of an IT company and, am glad to report that I was able to perform my job at Mercy Corps without letting my responsibilities or work at NATC get in the way. The only amusing thing was that a few of our NGO partners were also NATC's clients (i.e. Last Mile Health, PSI) but that did not come in the way of my work really. I was able to still project a professional image and do what I needed to do. 

I settled into a great routine where I only briefly checked my NATC e-mails in the day or evening and, was back at NATC on Saturdays. 

Letting go

Since a few years, especially when I left on maternity leave, I have learned to let go. This means, I am relaxed and not worried NATC will burn down, my staff will mess up on site, Haresh will wreak havoc with our bank facilities, and so on. 

Last year of course I was stuck in Pakistan for some time and Haresh did a great job of keeping us afloat. 

And, this day job at Mercy Corps was even more of a finer lesson in learning to let go and, pursue other ambitions. 

Which means that you'll probably see me involved with the development world again. 

It is perfectly fine to pursue two careers, two passions and develop more more than one professional identity

This is perhaps the greatest realisation I have made with my stint at Mercy Corps. I can pursue a career in international development and still be involved in running and shaping my baby, my IT company! 

Other things I noticed and learned 

I must say that I did learn from everyone I worked with at Mercy Corps such as:

1) Attention to detail in writing inter-office e-mails, writing inter-office memos, and compiling  reports. 
2) Level of professionalism, especially amongst the younger colleagues, the newest crop of development workers, who are well versed in development talk, in the criticisms against the aid industry, their knowledge of Liberia, and they way they work with their colleagues. 
3) Use of flip charts and logical flow charts in meetings! 
4) The extreme professional courtesy shown to the partner NGOs, especially national NGOs. 
5) Genuine respect, concern and care shown for one's colleagues. 

So, I'm glad to be back at NATC again full time. I was so happy to take care of my daughter Kavita the first day back, bathe and dress her and, then walk together to the office together. She has a nanny taking care of her but it is still so wonderful to be around her the whole day. 


Like always, it is a pleasure to see that everyone is busy at NATC, people are coming and going, the office is neat and tidy, and I have a steady flow of tea to my desk. 


Hello from Randall Street on a Monday!


Sunday, 21 June 2015

Good to be back!

The CEO and Head of Operations were away for a 2-week holiday in the US to attend a wedding and do some sight seeing. Our staff dutifully manned the ship in our absence. Internet outages, maintenance jobs and even a first-ever training in Lagos happened in our absence. We kept in touch with our staff via e-mail and our NATC whatsapp channel. Our Head of Operations' Sony Experia's screen cracked so he couldn't take calls or quickly respond to e-mails as he does during travels. Our staff once again stepped in and, filled the gaps.
We must say that even after experiencing the internet speed in the US, the speed in Liberia is pretty damn good! It's good to be back.



Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Training in Lagos

Congrats to Daniel Collins, our junior technician, who returned from Lagos after a training by NEC West Africa Limited a subsidiary of NEC Corporation of Japan on the installation and use of thermographic cameras. 
NEC West Africa is working with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for the deployment of 28 thermography camera in Liberia and has partnered with NATC to deploy the cameras. 
JICA is a client of NATC's. 
Daniel received training on how to install, configure and maintain the camera. After this he will install the cameras in 28 site locations in Liberia.
We are highly excited and of course, congrats to Daniel once again!