In 2015 I resigned from my first full-time job and I was convinced that I’d never be employed ever again.
After 1 year and 7 months of my first full-time job I had conceded that employment was just not my cup of tea and I had established that, come hell or high water, entrepreneurship was the only way forward for me. I put this theory into practice during my first spell of self-employment while running Simplimantis with my business partner Masharty Tembo. We did this for about 3 years full-time before unexpected financial setbacks and payment defaults from key clients forced us to jump back onto the ship of employment (oh the horror).
These +- 3 years, as tough as they were, were some of the best years of my life. Making our own money, building out our own products, living life on our own terms and working towards our own vision was extremely fulfilling and liberating. I’m really glad that I was able to experience it early enough in my career because it helped me form a solid idea of the type of life I wanted to lead going forward. When Masharty and I had finally made the difficult decision to search for employment in early 2018, I had accepted that I would probably never feel as fulfilled ever again
….but clearly I was wrong.
To my surprise, I’ve been at Zappi for 3 years, 5 months and 12 days (but who’s counting right?). Writing this time period out is even shocking to me because I honestly never knew I’d be employed anywhere for such a long period of time.
This is quite a milestone and I figured that since I published a jubilant post when I had first jumped ship 6 years ago, and then provided a transparent update 8 months after that, it’s only fair that I complete this trilogy with an update regarding my current situation.
I joined Zappi on 2 April 2018 and despite my continuous inner urge to rebel against The System, forge my own path and go solo, they’ve somehow managed to keep me grounded ever since.
In an attempt at understanding how and I why I am still here a whole 3.5 years later, I was able to narrow it down to the following 6 reasons:
“Responsibility equals accountability equals ownership. And a sense of ownership is the most powerful weapon a team or organization can have.”
- Pat Summit
Over the years I’ve come to accept that I’m just a lot more engaged when I feel like I have a significant stake in what I’m working on. It’s a personality trait of mine, for better or for worse.
When I don’t have a sense of ownership then I feel weak, useless and worthless. When I am just regarded as a cog in the wheel then I feel like my life has no sense of direction or purpose.
Thankfully at Zappi I’ve managed to steer clear of this for the most part by being able to take ownership of key projects and initiatives. This has given me a sense of meaning, significance and importance. There is just something about ownership that suddenly shifts the gears in my head. Even if the work is mind numbing, as long as I know and feel that it is MY mind numbing work then I’ll be able to commit my heart and soul to it.
“Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.”
- Daniel Pink
Some may think that the lines are a bit blurred between autonomy and ownership but it is very possible to own something yet still not be free to act and make decisions on it. Fortunately at Zappi I’ve been privileged enough to experience both.
Being the rebel that I am, there's nothing more frustrating than feeling restricted in life, whether it be in movement, information, direction or even something as superficial as dress code. I cannot emphasize it enough: I ABSOLUTELY HATE BEING TOLD WHAT TO DO. And due to my impulsive nature and strong sense of self, if at any moment I feel like a pawn on a chess board then I will drop everything and I will leave. You can call it arrogance, entitlement or even narcissism, regardless of the label you assign to it, that’s just what it is.
The process of “finding myself” over the past 29 years has definitely been long and arduous. However, one thing I knew even as a young child navigating his way through adolescence, is that I need to be allowed the room to grow, make my own mistakes and - above all else - feel like a sovereign entity. And if I happen to bring down production in the process, then so be it. If it was my decisions that led us there, then I’ll be the first to take responsibility for it.
3. Creating and problem solving
"The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf
I’m a computer scientist by qualification, but I am a creator at my core. It just so happens that writing code is the medium I’ve chosen to express myself in this lifetime.
I need to plan, I need to design, I need build. It’s my lifeblood. When I’m not making, I'm dying. When I’m not creating, I’m regressing. When I’m not applying myself and solving problems, my mental faculties begin to slowly wither away into the abyss.
I need to be allowed the freedom to make, produce and create. I need to be given the time and space to explore, learn and try out new things. If I can’t find that at my 9-5 job then I’ll search for it in my own time outside of work, and if push comes to shove, outside of the company all together.
Thankfully over the years at Zappi, my inner creator has been able to flourish. Whether it is through building out a new API in Elixir, rolling out a Salesforce integration to facilitate payments or working on an internal Slack app to promote interaction throughout the company.
There is something extremely gratifying about seeing a problem or opportunity, designing a solution for it, building it out and then seeing people use it. There are few things in life - if any - that I find more satisfying than this.
“Determine what behaviors and beliefs you value as a company, and have everyone live true to them. These behaviors and beliefs should be so essential to your core, that you don’t even think of it as culture.”
- Brittany Forsyth
Companies looooove to make noise about their culture. It’s written on their website, it’s painted on their walls, it’s littered all over their job specs. It’s beaten into your subconscious through the use of catchy phrases and pretty pictures. But regardless of what is said about the culture in theory: what the culture really is, is how the company is run in practice. A culture is how management behaves when you’re not looking. A culture is how the employees think when they’re by themselves. A culture is how the company treats you during difficult times and it’s this culture that will keep you at a company even when the work is draining, tedious or frustrating. This being something that I can attest to first-hand after working on a tedious - yet business critical - data migration project over the course of the past few months.
There were some days and weeks during this period, where for the first time in a long time, I wasn’t jumping out of bed each morning, eager to spin up terminal windows or write some code. I wasn’t extremely enthusiastic about what I was doing, because it wasn’t exciting, novel or stimulating. However, despite my frustrations about the what, I was still enthusiastic about the who, the where and the why. This, I believe, is the importance of good culture and this is probably the main reason that I'm still here.
“It's about workplace flexibility. It’s about giving our associates the opportunity to be who they are as an individual, whether that is a community member, a spouse or parent, or anything in between.”
- Amy Freshman
Something that I only realized in my early 20s is that I’m extremely introverted. To the extent that I genuinely wonder if it’s bordering on mild social anxiety. Yes, I love me a good time, but the truth is that I can only really handle about 10 - 30 minutes of active, in-person, social interaction on a daily basis. Up to 60 minutes on a really good day and about 2.5 hours if I’m intoxicated.
As soon as I’ve reached my social quota, I stop engaging. Not because I don't want to engage further, it's because I'm literally incapable of engaging further. At some point the hamster in my head just stops running on the wheel. In addition to this, I also absolutely adore being in my own space. That is where I feel most comfortable.
Knowing this, it is not difficult to understand why, when I first started working in 2014, I really struggled with the whole idea of commuting into a place that is not mine, to be with people that are not me, for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. It was an absolute nightmare. Don’t get me wrong, I love people, but constant peopling is extremely difficult for me. I only have so much mental capacity. Mental capacity that I would much rather dedicate to more pertinent tasks.
I’ve only really come to understand these idiosyncrasies of mine more recently in life. Now that I know this about myself I need to ensure that I can foster a conducive working environment that caters for these personality traits.
Thankfully I’ve been able to do this at Zappi. Pre-pandemic I was going into the office between two to three times a week (I published an article about this, literally one month before the world shut down in 2020). This allowed me to offset the social interactions I have at the office with much needed personal time which I used to recharge in the comfort of my own home.
Having such flexibility has been invaluable. Being able to work remotely and plan my work around my life has allowed me to spend more time with family, travel the world and above all else appease my inner, socially-averse, introverted-self.
“Cash rules everything around me, CREAM, get the money, dollar dollar bill, ya’ll.”
- Wu-Tang Clan
It would be amiss for me not to talk about money. Let’s not kid each other. Money is extremely important and while it won’t solve all of your problems, you will definitely need it to solve some of your problems.
We all know the role money plays on the material front, but we shouldn’t take for granted the key role that it plays on the psychological front as well. When it comes to your salary, you don’t want to be continuously wondering if they are paying you “enough”, if they are giving you what you “deserve” or if they understand what you’re “worth”. This will take a heavy mental toll on you. You don’t want to spend the majority of your time considering whether you should move from company A to company B just because you feel like you will get paid more.
Sure, money isn’t everything, but this doesn’t justify any company to short-change you in any way shape or form. As a company that has the means, you’re doing something horribly wrong if your employees spend the majority of their time wondering what other company will pay them better.
Salaries are definitely complicated and I can say this as someone who has been both an employer and an employee. Naturally, a company wants to minimize the compensation it gives out and an employee wants to maximize the compensation they receive. It’s simple economics.
However, during this convoluted evolutionary dance, it’s important that:
- You are being recognized for what you bring to the table, and
- You have a clear framework that you can use to establish where you are and to determine how you can progress.
Fortunately I have been able to tick both of these boxes at Zappi.
I mean, I know that I am worth at least a few billion dollars in the bigger scheme of things, but I can accept slightly less than that... for now.
Alright, there you have it. These are the 6 reasons that I am still at Zappi.
While 3 years and 5 months might not seem that long to some people, for someone who - not too long ago - completely gave up on the idea of employment altogether, this is a lifetime.
Granted, I am still a rebel by nature and my heart and soul will forever yearn for complete independence, freedom and autonomy. But I know that my time will come again, it's inevitable.
Up until then, I’m #ZappiToBeHere.
If you are interested in working at Zappi you can check out our available roles here. If you have any questions, you are more than welcome to slide into my DMs on social media or hit me up on email@example.com
Also, if my life ramblings interest you then keep an eye out for my upcoming book: Philosophical Suicide. In it I explore, amongst other things, my never-ending search for meaning, my continuous journey of self-exploration and my personal struggles with love, life, work and everything in between. To be released in November 2021. Sign up here for updates.