I always wanted to go places. Not in the “climb the corporate ladder” sense of the word, but rather seek out new challenges, seeing other cultures and finding my place in the world type of thing.
That stuck with me since my college days and actually, it was the main reason behind me choosing to work for Infobip. All the other aspects aside, I loved the challenge of doing business and living life abroad. After finishing the company’s Academy, something which opened up a whole new telecoms world for me, I became a Sales Manager dedicated to the Ghanaian market.
Learning About Ghana
Ok so, Africa. I let that sink in and realized that, beyond knowing the continent on which it resides on, I didn’t actually know that much about Ghana, so I started catching up.
Everything from the general population info, demographic information, politics and economy, to the local football teams became part of my research. Eventually, I even started reading Ghanaian web portals and news sites just to get a glimpse into how people in Ghana think, not convinced that I’d actually be able to tell until I cross the border. Almost half a year later, I set out for Ghana.
Now, keep in mind that I had never visited an African country before. Telling myself that I had learned a lot about Accra, Ghana’s capital, and the country itself could only do so much for one's confidence. From the business side, I had a good overview of the market and solid insight into how Infobip goes about its local strategy. My Ghanaian contacts were already set up and it was mostly about me showing up and start putting all that I’ve learned to practical use. Yeah right.
The Actual Experience
Today, after being in Accra for over a year I find myself laughing at how naive I was. Raw data can only do so much. To this day, I remember getting of the plane and being overwhelmed by the heat and humidity of the Kotoka airport. The second shock was just the population and size of Accra. You think you know how 5 million inhabitants looks like, but you have no idea. When you see it, you realize that the city has more people in it than the entire country you’re based from. It’s quite a realization. With so many bodies, going to work, or getting some downtime at the beach becomes a challenge.
By living here and working daily directly with Ghanaians, holding meetings, having phone calls, visiting telco companies, selling SMS to industry associations and even religious institutions, I was finally able to get a grasp of the real situation in Ghana as far as our work is concerned. I won’t lie, the challenge is immense. Imagine seeing a color TV or HDTV for the first time. You are finally able to see and feel all the small details that get lost by working in Ghana from Croatia.
And most of them are amazing. Understanding the concerns and challenges of clients, leads and contacts helped me to make their onboarding easier. Experiencing the same challenges (power outages, traffic jams that last for hours, hard decision making processes) first hand, I felt Ghanaian.
I learned how to set my daily tasks, what to expect and where to expect it. Meetings with big banks, microfinance companies, startups, IT solutions providers was part of my daily routine. Getting to these companies and those contacts is part of the sales life which follows the same logic as always, but doing it in a local way, adapting to challenges and solving new problems made me richer. Not only as a Sales Manager.
The Right Decision
Every day I find something new about Accra and Ghana, for work or leisure, it’s always new in a way that Zagreb isn’t. Maybe it’s because the cultures are so different it would take much more time to take things for granted here. Or, maybe it’s because each and every day, I’m learning and adapting.
Actually, when I think about it - my life in Ghana is similar to my life in Zagreb, but I guess I’m a different person, one with a second home. It might sound cliche, but I was right. Traveling opens up your eyes (both in a business and personal sense) like very few things do. So, my heartfelt advice to all of you is still - go out and see the world, you won’t regret it.