Thursday, 12 October 2017

How climbing up the rungs of failure was my ladder to a successful career

Thoughts on how I was taught
If I had the charm and the gab, I probably would be in a professionally different place, but it really does not bother me, I love what I do.
It is strange that in deciding on a career, the many ideas that came to me were not so inspired by some passion, but by example, the example of the passions or decisions of others. I dreamt of being a brain surgeon or an avionics engineer, I never really caught the bug for the grades, especially in additional mathematics, my teachers did not have the tinder that when lit caused me to combust to a cinder.
How I would have loved to master French, I was teaching myself from a book in primary school until we landed in the cane-wielding tutelage in Mr Okonji in secondary school, his sadistic pleasure was to see us parrot French phrases contorted in pain from the beating he generously administered urging us to study. His nickname became Study-Study, he was a nasty piece of work and a bad teacher.
Wailings and failings
After secondary school, I toyed with the idea of Quantity Surveying after a brilliant uncle but ended up on a Chemical Engineering course by the persuasion of an old student. I did not get far with the course; one lecturer was so German in speech and mannerism than to be understood and more than half the class failed mathematics that the engineering department had to lay out special classes to pull us up.
Gbenga Daniel who eventually became the governor of Ogun State was the acting Head of Department and besides learning chess and playing Scrabble, I made nothing of that year. I, however, learnt enough to realise that I was more interested in Electrical Engineering as a gateway to electronics and computing, so as I failed that year and was asked to withdraw, I was admitted as almost the youngest in the class at another more prestigious polytechnic.
After three years there, student politics, religion and somewhat undiagnosed depression, 4 years after secondary school I had no further paper qualification beyond secondary school in Nigeria where the comparison with other failures was the persuasive force towards greater achievement. I was a lost child.
Mentored by one who knew the way
A year out and away from the overbearing influence of my very successful parents, but a ward of an uncle who knew failure young and with luck, good fortune and opportunity had become one of the leading insurers in Nigeria, I began to build my life again, not out of comparison to other failures, but in the spirit of knowing what could be possible for me, if I put my heart and mind to it.
The belief in me, culled the depression, managed the anxiety, emboldened my daring and sense of adventure and though, on my first day back at school, my junior in secondary school was 3 years ahead of me, I neither flinched nor shirked, I faced what I had to do, with dignity and purpose. The little detail that this junior was the very person I first wielded the power of secondary school seniority on, was a minor lesson of karma that I refused to allow consume me.
This was my second spring, no more the youngest in class that I had been from primary school through secondary school into two years of school after, I was a mature student with more knowledge of how tertiary education worked than most of my colleagues. I led the class, represented my colleagues and brooked no nonsense from either veteran students or lectures. Some came to respect the confidence and authority I exuded. In controversy, I was as measured as I was revolutionary, persuading rather than being confrontational. It served me well.
Mastery in immersion
I graduated with good grades, 7 years after secondary school and I landed in a job market without the influence peddling or favours I once could call upon out of the patronage of my father or the precociousness of my youth. Well shod for the roads of Lagos, with the choice of the industrial motors or stepper motors, I chose the latter and every computer outfit I could find I walked into asking for a job.
I had decided, I was the only one who could best represent myself and that is how I walked into this building that housed IT Systems and I was offered a job there and then. Like a sponge for knowledge, I learnt all I could about Personal Computers, repaired circuit boards, fixed software problems, taught myself desktop publishing and within a year, I went into self-employment consultancy and no one thought was a smart thing to do.
It was the smartest thing I ever did, it is strange to know that in 29 years of working in the computer industry, I have only been in permanent employment for 7 years, I suppose I have never been a corporation man, like my father was or anyone else that could have been a mentor, I was also not an apparatchik, my entrepreneurial skills are hardly top notch, but I hope I have been able to sell a skill that helps organisations achieve goals of efficiency, usability and affordability of computer solutions.
Questioning and listening
That is what I enjoy about my job, big problems reduced to simple solutions, thinking in ways that could be silly, mad and interest, being the clown and exhibiting the furrows of a frown and then we go to town with something of renown. In large and small firms, meeting with people from all walks of life, I have made many friends and encountered the occasional prick of a manager, probably twice.
I guess that is part of the occupational hazard that weaves into a raconteur’s milieu. In that, I looked forward to new challenges, the opportunity to tackle a new subject, meet new people and craft amazing solutions. I am still excited when something works as it should and tenacious when things do not produce the expected results until they do.
My curiosity still has that childlike inquisitiveness, I have questions, I seek answers and much as I can be a fresh pair of eyes, those eyes come with eager to listen ears, each new day is fresh for learning things, tricks, truths and tips. Sometimes, it looks like I stumbled into this career, maybe I was right on course, just not by well-trodden paths.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Angels and strangers roam on Twitter

Stranger than fiction
“I know you well enough from Twitter! You need a good rest!”
This was an assessment of my Twitter activity given by someone I did not know was following me. A complete stranger who last night saw the predicament I was in having missed the last train to Manchester because of a late-running train from Norwich into London.
As I was being played irresponsibly like a political ball of railway franchise ping-pong between Virgin Trains that would have handled the London – Manchester leg of my journey from London Euston Station and Greater Anglia Trains that handled Norwich to London part that ran 45 minutes late, leaving me less than 20 minutes to make the tube journey between London Liverpool Street and London Euston. I faced the prospect of a night on the streets somewhere in London.
The best Virgin Trains could offer me was a supplementary ticket to travel in the morning, the alternative being a train to Wolverhampton some 75 miles from home. Between Greater Anglia Trains and Virgin Trains, considering I bought the ticket from the latter’s website, they should have arranged a means to me to my destination or accommodation for the night. Neither tried hard enough, it took the easy road without informing me of my rights.
Good Samaritan values
I learnt through my conversation with Virgin Trains that Euston Station closes at 1:30AM, but the King’s Cross St. Pancras Station is open overnight with some coffee and food shops open too.
Making for King’s Cross, my stranger friend asked me to come over on Uber, I was in more straitened circumstances than to take up that offer and I thanked him and bid him goodnight. He did not relent, over the next 90 minutes, he enquired about my welfare, my whereabouts and much else, my assurances not deterring him.
Then, he said he was coming to get me, he drove over from Putney in South West London and brought me back to his home which he shared with his wife and two friendly dogs. I had some mint tea and retired to the spare bedroom along with information for connecting to their wireless network.
Consideration and more
Between daring and trust, I slept well and I woke up to a breakfast, meeting his wife and a discussion that covered as many topics as we found interest to think about. When we arrived at his home at just before 3:00AM, he dipped his hand in his pocket and gave me some money, saying he did not want me to think about that issue.
I got dressed and I was given a lift to Putney Station, I arrived at London Euston Station in time to catch the noon train to Manchester. Fred is a friend, a friend indeed, to me he was an angel, kindly, generous and exceedingly considerate.
Our encounter came from certain views, expressions or opinions I have posted on Twitter, whatever that was, he decided to follow me and by that, out of the blue, on a day I desperately needed help, he was there to offer more than I could have imagined or wished for.
He was a stranger to me, I was no stranger to him, my Twitter conduct had made enough an impression to have him accord me the offer to spend a night at his home. Invariably, your conduct and conversation on social media matters, friends and enemies observe you, the family sees you, angels and strangers notice you.
Thank you, Fred, for your kind-hearted, magnanimous and generous friendship, I am in deep gratitude to you. Thanks.


Thought Picnic: Once upon a time, he had no care at all

Once, it did not matter
I have history, I used to be a man without a care in the world, anything considered was met with the resources and means to manage, control, and handle any situation.
This year has however presented challenges that have tested my resolve to extents that make me wonder whether I have the resolve to weather the storms that swirl around me.
Yet, I want to count my blessings by telling my inner self that you have come a long way, you have face situations and threats graver than what the present throws at you, you are coming through this.
Close to broke, but not broken
Some of my recent writings might have been showing strains, like one is almost at breaking point, even if supply comes in to ensure one is neither crushed nor broken. There is a spring within that enlivens in the midst of the desperate and the difficult.
I cannot live in the past to then use that to overwhelm my present in pity, much as that nudges ever so close to my sense of calm. To imagine there was a time when where I find myself tonight would have meant nothing more than logging onto a website and booking a room for the night, without worrying about it. There is nothing, absolutely nothing today to meet that challenge.
Then again, it happens
It is as dire as not even having the means to take up a generous offer of a bed, counting the hours to the dawn have begun on a hard bench in a train station getting less busy than usual.
I boarded a train in Norwich that was to arrive at London Liverpool Street at 21:55, giving me 65 minutes to make the London Underground tube journey to Euston Square Station which is just 5 minutes from London Euston Station where I would have boarded a train home to Manchester Piccadilly Station at 23:00.
As I have so patiently suffered at the hands of the Greater Anglia Railways with late or cancelled trains, the train ran 45 minutes late, giving me less than 20 minutes to make my connection, I arrived at London Euston just as the train to Manchester was departing and that was the last train for the day until the morning.
Living life like life sometimes is
This is where I would not have bothered but settled into a hotel nearby. Alas! I cannot even use my Hotels.com free nights because I cannot cover the taxes. Then having not informed anyone of my coming through London at this rather late hour, I am somewhat stranded. The generosity of strangers beckoning me leaves me almost listless in delirium.
That I am in a bind is because of choices I have made and those choices I do not regret, where between denigration and dignity, I chose the latter and walked. The greater shame is in the fact that trust reposed in some and promises offered by others have been poorly served.
When faced with these things, I look to put it all down to experience. This with all its unpleasantness is called life and people live it, I have been granted the opportunity, though far from favourable to me, to live life on a spectrum of unfamiliarity. Even that inspires writing.