The last two weeks have been baptism by fire for me as I learnt more about how multinationals work. I was informed that we were expecting some high-level guests from the head office.
They basically were coming to compare “ Where we are against target?” I thought this is a pretty simple exercise that could have been addressed through an e-mail with a dashboard update. Ken, one of my new colleagues said, “these visits are usually do or die- they can make or break careers.”
This was news to me, and I had to ask, “what does that mean?” He explained that the “ visits are about checking who is really shining or not- almost all visits end up with someone being fired or promoted.” He told me, “though you are new, I suggest you use this opportunity to gain visibility.” This was the first time I was hearing the word visibility, but it was not the last time I heard it over the two weeks.
We spent most of the two weeks changing and rejigging our presentations to ensure we had the right “storyline.” I must say at a certain point I was exasperated by the numerous dry runs and changing of the storyline.
It is a shame that I could not share my honest views about the visitors since I am too new. They (visitors) were a bit “underwhelming.” I had expected to see some corporate type of guys like those we see in movies who look young, slim and sharp. I noticed that two of them appeared to be somewhat middle aged and I could not help think that perhaps they should have retired by now. Ken must have read my mind and said, “do not let the mzee look fool you- these guys are super sharp. They do not miss a thing.”
Ken’s sentiments were proven right over the next few days as the guys grilled us about our plans and assumptions-it felt worse than sitting for an exam. At the end of the presentations, I was not sure if we had been given an all clear or we had failed to impress.
On the last day, Ken came to me and told me, “I hope you are free tonight, we need to take these guys out.” “Says who?” I asked. He said, “One of these guys asked me to take him out and I feel it would be nice for your visibility if you socialise with them.” That visibility word again. The look on Ken’s face was too serious and so I ended up joining him on the outing with the visitors.
Looking back the outing was actually a lot of fun though tiring. I noticed that the visitors seemed at home with some dodgy- looking women who Ken told me are “old acquittances.” I also noticed that they were a bit intoxicated than usual and Ken winked at me and said, “I have hooked them up with some magical stuff.”
The ‘magical stuff’ seemed to work some serious magic as we moved from bar to bar and I ended up getting home at 6am. To make matters worse, I had to wake up at 7:30 am and drop the children for swimming- one of Shiro’s ideas of keeping them busy and disciplined. Come the following Monday, the first guest in my office was Ken who then greeted me as if we are old pals. He cheerfully told me, “Josphat! You are the guy! My guys loved you.” I said, “drinking with someone does not mean they will help your career. It just means you have capacity.” He chuckled and said, “ we need to educate you, here such things count for a lot!”
Clearly, I have so much to learn about this visibility thing.