1O Lessons from the 2010 decade – #2 – on work & employment
From the desk of _mwl Gregg Tendwa
I mentioned before that I left school to be employed as a high school teacher, an offer I declined after 3 months of teaching practice. I love teaching, I find fulfilment in teaching, and if all goes as planned, I am going back to active classroom teaching at the University within the 2020 decade, but that’s a story for another day/time/place.
I belong to a micro-generation of people called Xenials, typically born in the late 1970s to early 1980s. We are described as having had an analog childhood and a digital adulthood. I fall right between the comfort of getting a government job, or choosing to go the entrepreneurship route where you become the hustler of your life. If there is one characteristic that defines our time, it is exactly this choice.
My parents kept pushing me to go the government way, to have a permanent and pensionable job. While I appreciate the comfort of such an undertaking, I strongly felt it is not what I needed – I needed space and time to explore, be creative and have limitless space to explore all my talents. I needed to be messy, allover, to travel and figure out things by myself, to chart new heights – and it was not my thing to spent over 30 years of my life working for a government that kills passion and creativity.
Since 2008, I have worked for a total of 5 major organizations – from designing communication programs for health care service providers, to enabling solutions in the arts, culture, technology and media across Africa, to doing cultural relations for an embassy, to designing learning programs for human rights organization.
The longest I ever worked for one organization was 4 years, and I was always on the move to something bigger only lasting average of 2 years in one place. My parents were once again very worried that I was too unsettled and that my profile of employability would wane down because I couldn’t be trusted to stay too long.
However, there is one big lesson with employment and how you treat employers – no matter how much you disagree or get angry with them because you certainly will, always make yourself understood politely, and when it’s time to go, leave the door with a smile and a firm handshake. I always left the door open to return, and some of my former employers have regularly offered me opportunities based on the excellence and trust that we developed while working together.
Recently, I sat down to evaluate my worth in between 2009 and 2019 and discovered that I actually gained immense value with each year of work. Today, I charge for a day of consulting what I got paid for a month 10 years ago. I am worth 10 times more from the starting point I got offered 10 years ago when I started out. But don’t loose sight of the fact that I have also invested a lot in self education, being an active player in the creative ecosystem of East Africa and perfecting what I do.
Over this decade, I learnt that you can create your work and your own job. You don’t need grand titles, you just need to be good at what you do and network with the right people, because your network = your net-worth. In 2010, I took a decision to move into Kilimani Estate side of Nairobi in order to network and attend events with the people that matter, as opposed to spending 3 hours in traffic everyday crossing over to the Kahawa Wendani side of the city. This decision came to pay within 2 years.
I have learnt that every problem presents an opportunity to make money, and those that solve some of the toughest problems of our time make the most money – look around and you will see very clear examples. I was out of the job market for like 2 years while I worked on setting up Ubunifu Hub Machakos. When the project didn’t pick up as anticipated, I got an opportunity to come back in 2019 to solve some tough problems in aligning Human Rights Education to the new Competency Based Curriculum currently rolling out in Kenya.
Problems = Opportunity to make money = Work = Entrepreneurship …. and if you are not solving a particular problem within a value chain, then you are soon going to be replaced by a machine. The current job scenario is not looking for paper pushers or people to just occupy positions at the workplace. Machines and Artificial Intelligence with less human error and higher precision will replace many jobs that could be done by human beings.
While we get afraid that computers will replace all jobs, I recently learnt that for every job lost to a computer another 5 are created by the same computer – come to think about it. However, human beings will remain to solve that which cannot be automated, like research and development. Human interface will still be necessary to create what machines cannot create like empathy, care and kindness to people and environment.
The coming decade is set to be an interesting one, with the government finally losing its ability to offer security of tenure and starting to employ people on contract basis – so finally, the bubble burst. The private sector seems to be offering better packages but only for senior management positions with a high delivery threshold for their investors/shareholders.
The development sector is facing its own set of challenges with bilateral relations moving from development aid to trade, and the individual giving culture/philanthropy is dying together with the senior citizens that believed in public good,while crowdfunding for small but profound ideas becomes the popular thing to do.
The world is ready for disruptors that will create unique and far reaching solutions at scale, and it will frustrate those that have the mindset of looking for a job to simply find social security.
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