This week Mike Callen and Victor Muh are in Nigeria providing training and support to POISE Nigeria – a new OPAC and Encounter client. While we have many international clients, this is the first time we’ve visited Africa to provide on-site support. We’re excited about this opportunity and want to share it with you. We’ll be posting updates and photos from Mike and Victor here.
Note: Mike’s most recent updates are at the top. To see the earlier updates, please scroll to the bottom.
Updates from Mike:
Saturday was a relaxing day and we were fortunate to spend the day with Sam and Niyi, our friends from Poise Nigeria. They, along with our driver (also named Sam), took us shopping at a local outdoor marketplace. It was not a tourist stop at all and we seemed to be as foreign to the marketplace as the items being sold were to us. Everyone was very kind and patient and allowed (sometimes even offered) us to take pictures of the goods that they were selling. Nearly everything in Nigeria is negotiable so it was good to have Sam and Niyi around to assist us with our purchases, as well as to describe the items that we could not identify.
After leaving the marketplace, we drove to Victoria Island, an island in the bay that is roughly in the center of Lagos. The west end of the island borders the Atlantic ocean. We had lunch outdoors at a hotel resort and then continued our journey as we drove to the Lekki Animal Conservation Centre. Victor and I had heard of this when we were researching our trip and hoped that, if time allowed, we could see some wild animals while in Africa. As it turns out, we did not see many. However, we did have an incredible walk through the jungle on a 2 kilometer-long boardwalk that passed straight through the wetlands and jungle.
It was amazingly beautiful, and at the back of the loop was the highlight of the visit. There was a large tree that had a wooden ladder attached to it. Visitors were encouraged to climb the ladder attached to the dawadawa tree, 25 meters up the trunk, into a tree house that is perched in the crook of the tree. There are two small benches and just enough room for four people to peer between the tree limbs and across the canopy of the forest. At eye-level, monkeys can be seen harvesting and eating fruits in the neighboring trees. It was truly an amazing sight and adventure, and one I doubt that we would ever see the likes of in the US.
In the park we took lots of pictures and greatly enjoyed the beauty. Leaving the hustle and bustle of Lagos behind was quite relaxing. Victor and I the chance to see the animals we did see during our brief visit (monkeys, birds, and monitor lizards) was a real treat.
From there we turned back and headed toward Ikeja (the part of Lagos where our hotel was located) but first stopped at the Nike (pronounced NEE-kay) Art Gallery. This gallery was a five or six story building and contained a wonderful mix of historical and modern art of many different modes. After leaving the gallery, we continued on home to our hotel. Saying “continued on home to our hotel” doesn’t accurately capture the entirety of the task and what it is like to cross through downtown Lagos in the early evening so I recorded the video below.
Wow! What a day! Today we had scheduled to roll out the brand new PSENSE certification (of which our OPAC and a localized version of our ENCOUNTER video situational judgment testing are a huge part) to business, education, industry, the Nigerian government, and the local press. The one thing we hoped for was good weather. As it turned out, it was pouring this morning – the roads were backed up and flooded everywhere. Though the traffic challenges were daunting, they did not seem to keep a single person from attending this morning’s presentation. I looked back just after the start of the presentation and was pleased to see that there were 80 seats occupied with another ten or so people standing at the rear of the room.
Two distinguished speakers started off the presentation and gave a rousing address as to the state of the local employment situation, the applicants, and what they are missing. It was universally agreed that soft-skills testing and training were going to be key in facilitating transformation in Nigeria. Nigeria is an oil-rich country with a huge window of opportunity in terms of growth. With high unemployment and infrastructure lacking in Lagos (home to at least 10 million – 15 million people), there is a pressing need to strike while the iron is hot. Transforming the Nigerian workforce will take time, for sure, but doing so will allow Nigeria to maximize their share of the markets in Africa and Asia. In the next ten years, it is estimated that 55% of the world’s GDP will come from Africa and Asia. The nations (and the markets) that move now can really benefit themselves as well as being better-suited to handle any economic downturns that the future may hold.
Uki and our Victor Muh managed most of the PSENSE presentation and it went really well. The distinguished audience showed their support throughout; most notably during the open Q&A session the comments were entirely positive and many in attendance wanted to know the cost to participate. In Lagos, when a blue chip employer posts a position as available, it is not uncommon to receive over 150,000 applications. The process of sifting through applicants, even electronically, is inconceivable, and yet it is done. Companies are willing to take a risk on an applicant who appears to have the soft skills necessary for success and train their hard skills – even for an entire year – in the hopes of making a good hire. It was clear to all in attendance that the PSENSE certification will be an excellent way to identify both hard skills and soft skills super-performers and so taking the risk and onboarding time out of the hiring process. Doing so will allow Nigerian companies to hire more people, more quickly, and more successfully. This will be necessary in order to maximize their position while this incredible window of opportunity is open.
We’re quite pleased to be a part of this process and look forward to aiding Poise Nigeria in shaping and promoting this certification for many years to come.
Thursday afternoon, 10-18-12
Today we held our first SME (subject matter expert) workshop with over a dozen in attendance. It was a great group of professionals representing local and international business, industry, and workforce development. A couple of the professionals were from large companies, notable by any standards, namely representatives from Ernst & Young and Deloitte Consulting – both from the Lagos, Nigeria offices.
Last night it rained in Lagos…poured actually. The streets were soaked and the gutters flooded, and the normally wicked traffic was even worse. Everyone seems to put up with it just fine and instead go by “Africa Time” – a phrase that means that time will just have to go with the flow, flexing here and there. It works out because everyone, like the traffic, seems to just go with it.
I continue to be amazed by the Nigerian people. Every day I meet more people and I find that they are so kind, intelligent, hard-working and helpful. While the environment is quite rough by California standards, you certainly wouldn’t know it from meeting the people. They are some of the most self-sufficient folks I’ve ever heard of. Each basically supplies their own utilities. There is power supplied by the grid, but it is non-functioning or not reliable much of the time. So each has a generator that runs on diesel fuel. There is city water, but it, too, is not reliable. So, each drills a well in their backyard, installs a pump, and runs water up to a personal water tower installed on a scaffolding frame in their backyard. They treat the water with chlorine and it runs down a pipe and pressurizes the water in the house.
Tomorrow night I hope to interview Ukinebo Dare (Uki) – our contact at Poise Nigeria – and capture it on video. I’d like you to meet her and get a sense of her passion for training and empowering the emerging workforce in Nigeria. She is an amazing person.
Thursday morning, 10-18-12
Today will be the first of two workshops. We will be reviewing the scripts for our Nigerian version of our ENCOUNTER video situational judgment tests with Nigerian subject matter experts. Poise Nigeria plans to use this localized version of our office and interpersonal competence testas a keystone in their PSENSE certification that will designate preparedness for employment in the region. Ukinebo Dare of Poise Nigeria believes that this certification can be the catalyst to overcome stifling unemployment during a time of unprecedented economic growth opportunity in Nigeria.
I’ll report later on how the day goes and the progress of the workshop. It is raining here in Lagos for the first time since our arrival. It should make for an interesting commute into the office today.
Wednesday morning, 10-17-12
As I wake up the first morning here, I’m a bit less tired and thinking slightly more clearly. Horns continued to honk all night long, but only less frequently. The prominent thought, however, is about the people here. We have yet to meet a person who is not nice. Not everyone understands us correctly and we don’t understand everyone so well here, but the dozens of Nigerian people that we have met are simply very kind folks. It has been a real joy to meet these wonderful people.
Uki was telling us on the way to the hotel yesterday, as we were so often stopped in traffic and surrounded by street vendors, that there is a saying that says “you can outfit your entire home on the drive home from work without ever stopping at stores.” (see the video below)
Last night I had shrimp “Lagosian style” for dinner. There were only two shrimp (they were spot prawns, I believe) and they were enormous. They looked like tiny lobsters laying across the entire plate served ‘head on’ with their tails flayed open after being sauteed in lemon and red chili. They were delicious and two ‘shrimp’ made up plenty of food.
I slept really well until 1:00 .am. and then woke up. I was awake until 4:00 a.m. when I fell back asleep pretty soundly until 7:00 a.m. I should be fairly well adjusted to the time by tomorrow morning.
Today we’re at the Poise Nigeria offices installing the OPAC Office Skills Testing software and training administrators to use the program.
More to come…
Tuesday afternoon, 10-16-12
Victor and I arrived in Lagos, Nigeria, at just after 1:00 PM local time. Lagos is on the same time zone as London, so we’re eight hours ahead of Folsom.
Lagos is very tropical in that it is hot and humid. It’s only 85F or so – 85F is hot enough. It is very green here with lots of grass, trees and shrubbery. Police almost all have AK-47s (Victor told me that they are AK-74-somethings… ) so there is a real intimidation factor, but it makes you feel pretty safe at the same time.
Our main contact at Poise Nigeria and one of her coworkers picked us up and actually arrived as we were walking out to the front of the airport. The traffic that they fought to get us was insane and we were fortunate that they arrived when they did. Everyone honks here while driving, but no one seems to hear the honking… except Victor and I! There are people
and buildings and construction everywhere. The streets are pretty rough in terms of the pavement and everyone seems to drive by the same rules, though you’d swear there were none at all. They just keep moving and merging with motorcycles zipping in and out of traffic everywhere and horns a blazing.
Tomorrow we’ll be heading to the offices of Poise Nigeria, installing OPAC, training administrators, and preparing for our Thursday presentation to the HR community. Thursday and Friday we’ll be hosting SME (subject matter expert) panels to go through the ENCOUNTER Situational Testing videos in preparation for re-filming them in Sacramento in January.
All for now…