No sooner than I’d left my role at Amadeus and my work email had been deactivated, I started receiving messages via LinkedIn and, from those that had it, my private emails and phone number. “What are your plans?” was the eventual brass tacks question.
I didn’t know.
My immediate plan was to take a three or four month sabbatical. I’d been on the career super highway for almost twenty years and been “fortunate” enough to have had a career which had developed naturally. But over the last three years I’d been growing restless. I’d been on auto-pilot, moving from one role to the next, mostly up, sometimes sideways and I wanted to do “more”. I felt that as organisations we could do more than just try to reach revenue targets. I believed a lot more could be done in terms of social responsibility projects for those less fortunate, moreover that we had an obligation to do so. And the more this feeling took over my motivation, the more disillusioned I became with what I felt were penny pinching negotiations on a day to day basis. I needed to find something else.
If all goes according to plan, a plan which has been in development for just over a year now, UKa$ii (You-Kashee) will be launching its ICO (Initial Coin Offering) in March 2019. UKasii is a consumer program, launching in Nigeria, followed by other African states, which will allow customers to earn “cash-back” for cash spent. In addition to the consumer program aspect, a key mission of UKasii is to invest and participate in social responsibility projects in the regions which it operates.
As we approach UKasii Month, we thought it would be useful to document the past year and the coming weeks and months in a series of blog posts. Useful to us, as the first steps in getting word of the ICO out there, and useful to others who may be planning on launching their own ICO’s and or starting up a business — of any kind — of their own.
Once word got out that I’d left my role, messages would arrive every few days informing me there were openings for various roles at various organisations. Flattering though it was, I wanted the time off. Now that I had time on my hands, at 46 years young, I wanted to the opportunity to “calibrate” where my career was heading. I needed a new calling.
Two weeks into the sabbatical where I’d thus far calibrated my career by sleeping in an extra couple of hours, watching classic movies like Moneyball, Horrible Bosses and The Blind Side, and spending probably too much time on social media, my wife said she had to take a business trip to Hanover and Hamburg. So, we decided to make a weekend of it with the kids. While there, we visited Heide Park, a theme park situated halfway between the two cities. As we waited in line to board one of the rollercoasters I received a WhatsApp message from Rob Prophet.
“Please tell me you’ve left Amadeus”. That was all. No “Hi mate, how are you?”, the way Rob usually begins his messages to those he’s familiar with, just an abrupt sentence with no other follow up. We’d collaborated with Rob on projects before, he as the customer / airline consultant, me on the IT vendor side, but hadn’t spoken in maybe a year and a half. I wrote back saying I was in Germany and yes, I had left Amadeus and would call him in a couple of days when I got back home.
Upon returning to Istanbul, I called Rob. I won’t go into minute detail but in a nutshell he said there was a major project being put together, consisting of an airline, airport, duty free terminal, a ground transport company and various other business units, including a private helicopter service, and they wanted a loyalty program to cover them all. On hearing “Loyalty program”, I was about to cut him off and say I wasn’t interested. I’d worked in the loyalty space for a long time and very enjoyable though it was, it didn’t fit in with my current outlook on where I wanted to go, even though I was technically still calibrating and didn’t know where that was. But before I could stop him, he said he wanted me to head the business unit as Managing Director and that I had carte blanche to establish and run the organisation from the ground up. “Oh, and the project is based in Abuja, Nigeria.”
I assume he expected a negative reaction to the location. But I was fixed on the “carte blanche” part… and my immediate question was “who would I report to?”. He said a Board of Directors would be formed eventually, and he himself may or may not be a Board Member. I then asked him to reconfirm that I would have full autonomy to run things as I wanted. He said yes: “We want you to build and run the entire business” and if I was interested, he would share the package offer with me.
While many things raced through my mind, the overwhelmingly clear aspect which excited me the most was I was going to be paid to form and run a start-up. And I could do with it what I wanted. “Count me in.”
(To be continued 23 October 2018…)