Meeting ‘me’

Romeo Owusu Aning
Class of 2010

This summer during my internship I met many different people, from high government dignitaries to businesspeople, from all over the world, but one very important person I met was ‘me’—myself. The personal profile on my résumé for my internship application read “A versatile, ambitious challenge-seeker, with an interest in writing, looking forward to working in an international setting.” Little did I know that I was in for a real challenging work at a very ‘international’ workplace. I thought I knew ‘me’ but I did not know ‘me’ in the context of the official working environment, until I got hired as an intern at The West African Trade Hub/Accra (also known as The Hub). This was my first official job in the working world and I was only a year and two months into college.

The Trade Hub, is a non-profit international trade promotion organization. Although the workforce is not large it is very diverse, culturally. There are workers from over 8 countries speaking 5 international languages. This was the sort of work setting I was looking forward to and it proved to be more than I expected. Surprisingly, every worker went about their business with an air of chatty familiarity. Everyone was willing to help out with one thing or the other. I could be working on a website while receiving assistance from an IT specialist all the way in the United States.

Learning by experience

For me, Ashesi’s tradition of training students to learn how to ‘learn’ was put to the test at The Hub. I was assigned to the Communications and Marketing Department which is like the hub of The Hub. I was put in multitasking position: web site updates and language translations; data entry and report running in an online customer relations database and updating of marketing materials. Apart from that I also helped to set up and man an exhibition booth for 2007 AGOA forum. Basically, the demanding nature of the work meant that I would be doing different things at the same time although I was new to some of the tasks. However, the learning how to ‘learn’ strategy proved useful. Working became learning.

Teamwork does the work

My first task was folding brochures. There were a total of 100 brochures. “Was this all I was going to be doing?” I asked myself. However it was a good start for me. Not only that, I also learnt a very important lesson from a later brochure folding session. This time around it was a set of over 5000 towering brochures and other marketing materials. There were 6 of us with everyone using their individual strategies to fold as many as possible in the least time. From early morning till late afternoon we were only a little under 70% done. Then, a colleague suggested something: TEAMWORK. That did the trick; we finished up the task in no time. If we had worked as a team earlier, breaking the task into smaller ones as in the assembly lines, we could have reduced the folding time by half, at least. Folding brochures was not bad after all. It taught me that “teamwork does the work”.

What you say is as important as how you say it

Writing is one of my interests and in fact the opportunity to do some writing had influenced my decision to apply to The Hub. The Communications and Marketing department is in charge of website, newsletters and promotional materials. My boss and I went through a summary of a report which I had written for newsletter and website publication. What to me was a very good job done was not what she expected. Apparently, I had not considered the numerous and diverse readers. She took the pains to take me through how to say what while keeping the reader in mind. This has helped transform my outlook on writing and I am currently working on improving it.

Freebies & feedback

In an organization like the trade hub where both monitoring & evaluation are indispensable, I almost always received constant feedback from my superiors and everyone else. There were many times I made mistakes like sending a very important business mail to the wrong client. However my superiors would go through all the pains to make the necessary corrections with me. I must say, this was the most rewarding aspect of the whole internship experience. It has thrown more light on my strengths while helping me work at my inadequacies. In the same vein, they would not hesitate to commend a good work done. For instance, almost the whole staff was whisked off one afternoon to a bowling party for the hard work we had put into helping make the AGOA forum a success.

Knowing me

My Trade Hub experience has thought me many lessons about “me”. Every day was another learning experience. I can now boast of a more poised professional personality. Of course I am aware that I am usually confident, however, I have realized that this confidence sometimes leads to overconfidence. Other times, in my haste to get quick results, I end up letting in some slips which could have been easily avoided. In all, I realized that good grades count in the job market but the soft skills are what distinguish one worker from the other. I only wish I had had more time there to work, or I should say learn. Even if I do not work there after graduation, the experience, which gave me a better understanding of “me”, has given me the right confidence to face up to challenges of the corporate world.

 

Romeo O. Aning
Class of 2010