Monday, 27 May 2013

NATC is STILL looking for a Head of IT Services

Contributed by Farzana Rasheed

Running a business is all about making decisions. We made the decision to hire 2 expatriates in a single month and unfortunately, not both hires were successful. We had to send one back. 

So, what happened?
What are the lessons?

As you all know we have been rather passionately looking for more qualified and experienced staff. See previous blog post:

We received an application for this post back in December and, after conducting several telephone interviews and a written test over e-mail, we decided to hired the applicant as a hardware expert since he was not qualified for the actual position. We negotiated renumeration; sent contracts back and forth; and, arranged for an airport visa and ticket. The technician, Tauseef Ahmad, arrived sometime in March from Pakistan and, has proved to have the requisite skills and work ethic. He wrote a post introducing himself. He will be handling our maintenance and servicing of equipment as per our various contracts. He is also in charge of any faulty equipment that comes to our workshop for diagnosis and repairs. All in all, it was a good hire and, we are on our way to setting up a very well-equipped workshop. Already Tauseef has upgraded our workshop with new diagnostic tools and, we can now repair faulty motherboards and parts instead of having to replace them entirely. It looks like Tauseef will be successful in his probation and, will work with us long term.

The second hire  - which was for the actual post - was not successful. Incidentally, this person is also from Pakistan. Our decision to hire this person was based on pressures from one of our biggest clients who were not happy with a recent networking job. During a meeting, we were shown the very unprofessional job our staff had done with mounting an equipment rack. Unfortunately, we had not supervised that job and, were thoroughly embarrassed. Around that time we had received an application and, conducted 1 telephone interview and one written test. The applicant passed these tests and, without doing a second and more advanced stage of interviews, we decided to take a risk since all international hires which cannot be conduced in person cannot be assessed the same way in person interviews can be. It was a calculated risk and, we made a decision to hire the applicant. 

Khayam Ali was promptly hired and, unfortunately, soon after he arrived in Liberia, it was clear that he was not the right fit. We were quite disappointed since our impression of this person's skills and attitude towards work did not match reality. Moreover, he had been introduced to all our clients. After about a month, we decided to cut our losses short and, terminate his employment. Khayam has since returned back to Pakistan. 

I must say I am rather unimpressed with the communication skills of the expatriate staff despite the fact that English is one of Pakistan's official languages and, would definitely be the language of instruction for a field of study like IT. It also makes me realise that being able to capture your work and convey it in a concise and clear report is a skill not everyone has, Liberia or not! But I will continue to demand it and encourage my staff to improve their written English. 

We are now back to square one and, are still in dire need of a network engineer who can manage all our IT services and also, be able to tackle network issues. 

Running a business requires one to take calculated risks and, make decisions. In hindsight, it is clear that we were too hasty in hiring Khayam and, should have conducted a thorough interview. For instance, with Tauseef, it was very clear that we were only going to get a hardware expert. We were also aware of his limited written English skills and, are pushing him to improve them so he provide accurate reports and call logs. With Khayam, we got over excited and, believed that the first interview and written test were good enough. 

I will have to go back to the drawing board and, try to renew my efforts to find a network engineer. It has not been easy so far and in fact, the advertisement on Escape the City did not yield a single application! Word of mouth, advertisement on LinkedIn, and advertisement on the Google Expats Group Liberia have not been useful either. It is quite frustrating! 

Meanwhile, we will do our best to deliver the most professional, technically sound and efficient services with the staff I have. Which means, I'm always a bit doubtful and, pushing my staff to do a better job. 

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