Thursday, 5 November 2009

Allergic To Work

I take my work seriously and always strive to go above and beyond. The only problem I have is that when it comes to work, I’m somewhat of a commitment-phobe and will prefer taking contracts and projects over becoming a permanent employee. In fact, in the last 7 years I’ve had 28 jobs at almost every major corporation; all of them contracts with the exception of my first job at the Private Investigator firm and my last stint at the Company. In all my jobs, I’ve managed to maintain good relationships with most of my bosses. I prefer open communication with management, a boss that I can talk to, someone that's accessible.

I worked with and reported to Antonio, who was the General Manager at the Company, before he abruptly left in December 2008. Together with the team, we ran 22 Plants in South Africa and in other Southern African countries. Antonio at the time was one of the big bosses. But unlike his contemporaries, he was a people’s person, always very approachable and we often had long discussions about the business. He would listen intently to my ideas and always gave me authority to implement them. He gave me a voice and carte blanche to do what was best for the company.

When Antonio announced that he was leaving the company in November 2008, we were all shocked and dismayed. He approached me a few days later and told me that he's started his own coal mining business with some Chinese investors and asked if I would like to join him. Taking the post meant that I would have had to re-locate and because I was just settling in at the time, I wasn’t keen on packing up and leaving again. I told him that I would join him, but not right then, I needed a couple of months first.

So on Bosses day, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to give him a call and inform him about the situation with Goliath. He told me that he wasn’t surprised at all and told me that Goliath was ‘evil’. I relayed how angry I was and what I initially wanted to do and his response was “You know, when you act in God’s place, you tell God that you don’t need him. Forget it; God has something worse in store for him. I’ll see what I can do here”. I didn’t call him for a job, just to ask if I could use him as a reference. And even so, I’d still have to relocate and I’m in no hurry at the moment.

My conversation with Antonio left me smiling. I then thought of all the wonderful bosses I've had in my lifetime. There was Gary, the CEO at the Private Investigator firm, an ex-colleague and personal friend of my Mothers. A couple of months after I left and went to the UK, he had a kidnap case involving Interpol in London and his wife tagged along so I met them at the Hilton Hotel and we went for coffee. It was so nice to see them and he gave me one of his big bear hugs with a huge package filled with home goodies from my Mother. Because the company was small-ish when I worked there, we were like a family and he was like the Godfather.

There was David, the Technical Director of Coca-Cola, who’d sit and entertain the outrageous and elaborate ideas of a somewhat idealistic and over-ambitious 22 year old Azra.

There was Angela and Susan in London, who encouraged me every step of the way when I stepped into my most challenging role to date. I was working for the British Government at the time and thrown into the deep end. I had to mediate between members of parliament, councillors and their constituents as well as learn how to use several of the most complicated Databases in record time; and never having worked on a Database before then, it was a nightmare. To this day, I still get job offers from Susan who wants me to come back to London.

Speaking of nightmares, there was the notorious Bradley, the Financial Director. When I walked into that company, every single person that I passed in the building offered their condolences. The woman that previously occupied my position was in hospital with a nervous breakdown. No kidding, he had driven her over the edge. Almost everyone I came into contact with had a horror story concerning Bradley and granted the man was an asshole to most people, but he was also one of the most articulate, meticulous and brilliant men I’ve ever worked with.

I assured them that I don’t get intimidated easily. In my first week there, we had a confrontation. He had embarrassed me in front of his peers and was obviously mistaken in thinking that because he got away with it with everyone else, that I’d leave it there. When he returned to his office, I entered, closed the door and told him that if he EVER spoke to me that way again, I’d leave immediately and he’ll have a lawsuit on his hands. I told him that he had to earn my respect if he expected me to work with and respect him. Later that day just as he left the office, he looked at me from the corner of his eye with a sly smile and said “I respect you Azra”, goodbye and left. And that was it. For the rest of my time there we worked great together. People were mystified and wanted to know how I managed to get it right. I got to know his wife and kids and when my contract ended and he was leaving to go to another company, he asked me to consider going with him. Again, re-location was a problem and I declined. But to this day, we still keep in touch.

When I think back on my career, I’ve been through so much its unbelievable. At the same time, I still feel like the more that I get to know, the more I find that I really don’t know anything. There’s still so much to learn. But I’m tired and I wish Housewife-ness was an option. Can I retire now and sit on my beach please.


  1. 28 jobs? Girl that is mental, that's averaging perhaps a four month stint at each one. Wow.

    I just want to retire and breed babies. Loads of them. OK at least 8 Inshallah.