I was sitting in a mango orchard with my colleagues last week and started thinking how much life has changed since I joined Dimagi. From December 2013 to now, I have travelled to 3 countries in Africa and the Middle East and 9 states in India. During those travels and trainings, I have altered intrinsically. So what changed?
- I’ve learnt to work with tasks where you don’t have all the answers yet. Be it working on an app or Dimagi’s business model, I’ve seen people find answers along the way. You don’t need to wait for all pieces to fall into place to start.
- From my previous job to this one, the management style is radically different. Most managers at Dimagi care about support more than supervision. They trust me to work independently, take decisions and execute them. Of course, they always get regular updates and give feedback. And are available to reach out to in case of any issues.
- Both management and other teams like finance, operations and HR make our life so easy that I wonder how I’ll react to bureaucracy now. I have become so unused to red tape and tedious processes that I might have to reprogram myself if I end up in a more structured organisation later on. The structure of Dimagi came out of its focus on team satisfaction and hiring the right people. In 2008, the CEO Jon Jackson said that we’d rather be a company of 15 people who love their jobs than 100 people who like their jobs. Dimagi just crossed 100 people last year but that culture has been preserved.
- The people I have been around have made me a more open, liberal individual. There are lots of nationalities in the team and diverse backgrounds. It’s created a safe space where you can be yourself and are not expected to fit in any mold.
- Working hard or being smart is not equivalent to being serious is another takeaway. Sometimes when I go into work mode, I tend to focus so intensively that there’s little place left for light-hearted banter or lingering over a meal. Seeing people effortlessly switch between personal and professional or even better run on both tracks parallely, has been an education. Not just for how I work but it’s also shaped the lens with which I view someone new.
- I have met and worked with scores of people over the last year. Other than how I work, it has increased my patience and adaptability. When you are in a long discussion about a nonprofit’s workflow or train 30 people in two days, patience is a necessary virtue. The first time I moved out of India, I landed in francophone Niger that is unfortunately placed last on the UN human development index. I don’t speak French and had never eaten African food before. For a full month, I was closely guarded by armed men because of high security risk. Despite all this, when I look back, only pleasant memories linger. In the interest of full disclosure, I can also remember the frustration at lack of internet in my hotel. But other than that, those were good times.