3 years ago, I agreed to stop being a freelancer, and take up the challenge and opportunity to be iHub community manager.
I was a freelance graphic designer who before that had been running projects at not-for-profit organizations; working with (what NGOs like to refer to as ) vulnerable communities; caretakers of orphans (widows), and then youth – all from informal settlements, essentially as a business coach.
So when the opportunity for the iHub came up, I really did not know exactly what was needed. It took me a while to understand what exactly a community manager was. It was a steep learning curve because I jumped into the deep end immediately. I soon got the gist of it and it turned out to be an excellent opportunity, working with technology innovators wanting to be entrepreneurs, meeting all kinds of people in the innovation space globally, working to build the ecosystem and getting to speak about our work at various conferences and gatherings all over the world.
I got to meet founders of globally known startups (companies) , including Evernote, LinkedIn, Netflix. re:publica, Eventbrite, and personalities like Joi Ito, the MIT Media Lab director, Ban ki Moon UN Secretary General, as just a few of them.
I wrote about my experience here
So when it was time to move on, I joined a startup, Moringa School. It’s a Kenyan, Silicon Valley-style coding school whose main focus is to train developers in an intense 16 week boot camp and ensure they are market ready on exit, to satisfy this growing need in the African market.
For 3 months, I worked with them to build a community. Facilitating every cohort of outstanding self-driven developers that went through the school, to connect with each other, previous and following cohorts, companies that employ developers (with both immediate and future needs), and of course the ecosystem of developers and other players in the African innovation space.
Then I took on the biggest challenge I have ever taken on in my life. I joined OkHi to run operations.
OkHi (pronounced Ok, then Hi) is a Kenyan startup that’s working to have the 4B people in the world without a physical address “be included” by allowing them to enjoy the benefits of a physical address.
A lot of things attracted me to OkHi.
One was the chance to join its stellar founding team ( the OkHi Mafia) which constitutes people who have experience working at Google, McKinsey, and with diverse experiences and talents coming from different places across the globe.
OkHi’s lean method of both building product and operations was another big determiner for me. It’s a value that they stay true to. Coming up with hypotheses, running sprints to prove or disprove them, then making decisions that are data driven and user centred. I wanted in on that.
And then of course at the core of my decision, was the reason for OkHi’s being. What OkHi does. Working to give everyone a physical address so that everyone, from every neighborhood can not only enjoy the option to have something they bought delivered, access emergency services but they can also run an e-commerce business in their country, and easily prove who they are with a dynamic physical address to access finance services. That to me is impact I wanted to be involved with.
I was also attracted to the opportunity to practice UX (user experience) design, which is the particular area in which I want to grow as a designer; essentially my 20% at OkHi.
But to do operations, for a fast paced company that promises to scale very fast, like OkHi, Is the biggest challenge I have ever taken on. This JD spans from admin work (keeping the company running day to day), in-hypo operations (tactical pieces to enable hypothesis sprints) , accounting, HR (especially building onto and maintaining the great culture even as we scale), legal, community engagement and PR. While at the same time contributing to the company’s overall strategy both short term and long term.
Basically my mandate is to make OkHi the most awesome company to work for in Africa. Easy, right?
Building and retaining an awesome culture in any organization is a big challenge. Whether you are starting out (at a startup) or doing it in a larger organization. And this is just one of the aspects of operations. I would like this to be the first post in a series of posts where I share different aspects of my work. Hopefully spark off conversations with other people running operations or operations-related stuff. I would love to hear you feedback in the comments section, on my Twitter, or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org