The time I begged for my old job back. And thankful I did.
The year was 2009 and I was struggling with a dilemma.
To leave Celtel/Zain and re-join Interswitch or not. It would have been a simple choice, but all sorts of background issues made it difficult. You see, I just left Interswitch to join Celtel not up to 12 months ago on the back of some controversy I created. I had tried to stage a micro-mutiny of sorts when I couldn't push forward my idea for a cheap and affordable API stack for developers. That's a story for another day.
On this day though, as I parked my tokunbo honda bullet in the Interswitch compound, I felt slightly self conscious. The compound now had more fine cars, everyone was still in suits and here I was with my rolled-up sleeves and Timberlands. My mind still wasn't made up whether I should accept the offer to come back or not.
After waiting in the meeting room for a couple of minutes Charles comes down and we laughed, reunited and generally caught up for a few minutes.
Then to business.
He wanted to know why I was considering coming back, wanted to know the details of the issues around why I left 12 months ago. At this point, one of my biggest motivations for leaving Zain was that up to that point I was a full time developer/analyst in IT and the new owners (Zain taking over from Celtel) were seriously considering outsourcing the entire IT to IBM. In the process, some people would lose their jobs while others would be asked to become IBM staff. Neither sounded like good propositions to me.
I was still looking for my opportunity to transform from a developer to a "business guy". Unfortunately, I had no prior serious experience in sales, and business-y things. The timing was good though, according to my personal plans, I had intended to stay around 1 year in Celtel to get a big brand on my CV then cross to a "business-y" role. I had a couple of offers (one was a bank), but they didnt quite connect with me because they were developer roles.
Well, there was my story. It was his turn to pitch me.
He then describes an idea they were thinking about... something about a platform built around some components I had worked on in my first coming. Components that made it possible to connect multiple bill payment and airtime services and push them to ATMs, a website, POSs and other possible channels. It was unclear but sounded exciting.
Soon we are trading ideas about how to do that. "You should put a brand on that, maybe repurpose an old product name lying fallow". "You probably neeed to first build some standard APIs first". "You should start by connecting DSTV and a couple of Telcos first". "Go on a road show to pitch the banks". "How do we get ISPs?".
We were getting carried away... And I was mostly swung.
Well.. then it was time to go over the tough part. Salary, position, etc. We kinda agreed that I shouldn't get a higher salary than my former peers whom I left behind to go join Celtel in order not to cause rancour, and I was told I'll be in some role called Product Management. Newly formed. And one of my responsibilities may include coming up with an official product management framework the company will use going forward. Of course, I didn't understand it but it sounded "business-y". Exactly what I wanted.
As I drove through 3rd mainland bridge on my way home, thinking back on how the conversation went, I concluded I was going to take the job. It sounded too cool to pass off even though I didn't fully understand how it would play out and what to be done. Time to buy some "business-y" books while waiting for Tosin from HR to contact me to work out the details.
A year later, after some concerted effort by a set of guys I have come to respect, Interswitch officially launched a product called Quickteller.