This weekend, give or take a week or two, represents two milestones for me. Firstly, I am halfway through my Nigerian assignment, more or less. In 18 months time, July or August 2013, I will be leaving for my next assignment, which is most probably going to be 2-3 years in Paris. I’m looking forward to it already. After a process that started when I came back from Sakhalin last October and was complete when I returned from holiday in Thailand in December, I have gotten used to Lagos to the point that I have no concerns about being here and I consider the compound in which I stay my home. I have some splendid friends here, and life is quite enjoyable right now. Certainly I can’t think of anywhere else I feel I ought to be, and I should complete my assignment without much problem.
Secondly, tomorrow will mark two years since I got the boot from my final job in Sakhalin. Regular readers may remember the somewhat controversial post I wrote in September 2010 describing what had happened, a post which I pulled from the blog when I’d decided it had served its purpose and I was getting murmurings of legal action from various company arse-lickers too cowardly to use their own names. (The post still exists, but it is marked private so nobody can see it.) In the comments, some clot who I think was a director of the local operations predicted that I would be moved on by my new employer when they discovered I had no experience and was incompetent. So let’s see how things panned out, shall we?
Within a month of arriving I was promoted from Project Engineer to Engineering Manager, partly because I grasped what needed to be done pretty quickly. It was recognised that I was lacking some crucial (mainly technical) knowledge, but it was also acknowledged that I had some excellent commercial and project management experience (which was either lost on the clowns in Sakhalin or deemed to be secondary to kow-towing to incompetent bosses). The hierarchy in the main let me develop my department as I saw fit, providing support where necessary, with the aim of improving those areas in which I was weak. At the end of my first year I was given an appraisal which judged I had surpassed my objectives and expectations, this in a place which is supposed to be the most challenging work environment in the whole industry. For all the immaturity claimed by my former employer, I have somehow managed a team of 14 Nigerian engineers, none of whom have quit on me. I enjoy good relations with the most of my colleagues, and have yet to be hauled in for a bollocking. True, I have been told I ought to be a bit more diplomatic towards some individuals, but I’ve been told that, or versions of, annually since I was 5. So the prediction made by our cowardly commentator hasn’t come to pass.
So what have I done differently? Nothing. I still maintain a somewhat abrasive and opinionated manner of working, emphasising results rather than means. In fact, I transferred the working practices I developed in Sakhalin almost wholesale to my new position. The crucial difference is that I have not felt the need to badmouth management, being as they are not complete fuckwits. When I ask them for help I get it, I get good advice when they feel it necessary to dish it out, and I am given room to run my own department without unnecessary interference. This is the first job I have had where I am offered a modicum of respect for my knowledge and abilities. I have not been dragged into the office of some ageing failure and lectured on how my youth is no match for his alleged 20 years of blinding brilliance. Nobody has tried to be my dad, and appealed to me to treat them as a mentor. Nobody has told me off for telling the truth about something. Nobody has asked me to lie to save their blushes. None of this was the case in the period leading up to my dismissal in Sakhalin. That lot also told me I “didn’t listen”. And they would be right, if they appended the qualification “to fuckwits” on the end of the remark. Here I listen lots: I have a piping engineer working for me who has spent 30 years on the job, to whom I put dozens of questions. Trust me when I tell you that when he answers, I listen.
So by now I feel quite vindicated. I have demonstrated I can hold my own in a relatively senior position in a major oil company working in a tough location. No, I’m not all that great, and you won’t see me being touted as a future CEO, but I’m good enough. Meanwhile, the company I left has not had its contract renewed and is now in the process of disbanding. I can only speculate as to why this is, but I expect it has a lot to do with four or five years of woeful underpeformance during which I don’t think they managed to execute a single project to completion. The braying fat fool who sacked me is now enjoying a senior position in Asia – in a sales role. Clearly even his own people realised he should not be in operations. I’ll be keeping my eye on him. The highly knowledgeable project manager who came shortly before I left lasted about a year before his opinions upset the wrong people and management threw him to the wolves. And the company’s high-flying Russian employee, on whose shoulders so much hope was placed, is coming to work alongside me in Nigeria at the end of this month, his CV having been judged suitable by our central recruiters after it was submitted personally by…me. Finally, the manpower agency who was so lily-livered in dealing with the whole affair has been thrown out of Nigeria following tax irregularities and seem to think tapping me up for business is a good idea.
I know who history has judged more kindly.