A Day in the Work Life of: Osemhen Akhibi, Automation Engineer
I've been wanting to do this series for ages, for two reasons. The second reason is that I'm genuinely curious about what people do at work. As a child, I used to wonder what happened when people simply said they were 'going to work'. And even now as an adult, when I'm on my desk at my own 'work', I wonder what everyone else is doing!
The more important reason however stems from the serious part of me. In recent times, there's been such a dig at those who work 9-5 or who have proper jobs. A lot of people insinuate that it's bondage, slavery, rat-race, a mess etc - and being self-employed or an entrepreneur is the way. But we all know how impossible that is! Even entrepreneurs hire employees. Plus some people genuinely quite like the 9-5s or day jobs that they have.
So, I'm super glad I'm finally kicking this off with someone I really like! In the first week, I started blogging, someone said to me 'Check out Osemhen's blog - looks like something you'd love'. She wasn't wrong. I absolutely did and literally read every single blog post. She's so smart, and so lovely.
In her words "I'm a wife, a mom, an engineer, a writer and generally just nerdy". Today, she takes us into a day in her life as an engineer at a global company, from when she wakes up, to after work hours, plus what she'd do if she never had to work again! Fun fact: She works in the same company as her husband!
1. My alarm goes off...
at 5:15. I snooze till 5:20 but I'm really trying to break that habit! I get ready, then wake the kiddo up to get him ready for creche. Usually, I've packed his diaper bag the night before and all that's left is to move his food from the fridge into a cooler bag. I place all the bags (my handbag, lunch bag, laptop bag, his cooler bag and diaper bag) by the front door. This is a crucial step. I've actually forgotten my laptop bag and his cooler bag on occasion! If I'm packing a microwaveable lunch for myself, I'll get that ready as well. If I'm making a sandwich for myself, I'll assemble it. I might eat a quick cereal breakfast as well but this happens less often since I developed lactose intolerance. Some days, the kiddo wakes up hungry so I make him a quick tuna sandwich or a peanut butter sandwich and a cup of milk. No day's the same really.
2. Getting to Work
My husband K and I work for the same company so we actually ride to work together. It's an interesting experience (I will blog about this one day). The kiddo's creche is in the building next to us so that's another layer of convenience. We drive in the same car; it's about 20-30 minutes to get to work depending on the traffic. We use that time to catch up on our morning prayers and I listen to podcasts. If I've left the house in a hurry, I'll do my make-up in the car as we listen to the news.
3. At work, I am responsible for...
execution of maintenance on Process Automation, Control and Optimization equipment for a plant. Let me think of a simple way to describe this. There's a plant. A lot of the processes on the plant are automated. I help maintain and fix the equipment. I don't work in the front line (used to) but there's a lot of planning and backend work that needs to happen before equipment can be fixed. Contracts. Vendor mobilization. Procurement of spares. Determining the type and frequency of maintenance...that sort of thing.
4. I got the job...
by interning with the company when I was in school. They came to the university of Lagos (UNILAG) to advertise their assessed internship program. I completed a project in six months that I presented to HR and business representatives. I must've done a good job; I was literally recruited straight out of university. No exams. No interviews. I was pretty lucky.
5. My typical day at work...
is meetings, meetings, meeting. Work starts at 7. We have a team huddle at 7:30 where we give updates on what we've all been working on. At 8, I usually get on the phone with various stakeholders and colleagues in other teams. I represent my team at a Production Review meeting at 9 am. We compare expected production rates of the plant with actual production rates, determine the gaps, and agree on how to close them. At 9:30, we connect with the plant leadership. If I'm lucky, these are the only meetings I'll attend. I'm slightly obsessive about time management so all my various tasks are scheduled into my Outlook Calendar in 30-minute or 1-hour slots. If I have to do something, I find a slot for it on my calendar. If it's not there, it won't get done.
Lunch is at 12 but we can go earlier or later if we want. If I haven't had breakfast, it'll be an early lunch (say 11:15). If I've had a hearty breakfast, I'll skip lunch altogether. There's a lovely cathedral a 5 minute walk away and midday mass starts at 12:30 so sometimes, I'll attend. Sometimes, with K. Once or twice, we've gone with the kiddo. Once in a long while, we might eat lunch together. But not often.
If there's a birthday party at work, we get food and cake during lunch time!
Work closes at 4. K and I usually work till about 4:30. We have to align our closing times and work schedules because we share the car. If we have conflicting demands, one of us will leave the other behind. Happens sometimes.
6. My most memorable moment on the job so far has been?
Hmmm. My most memorable moments are the times when I've been most anxious. So speaking up in meetings with senior leadership, progress checks on my work etc.
7. Worst part of the job?
It can be monotonous sometimes. Might explain why I don't have really memorable moments. It's day in, day out work. It's not very interesting and so I think it explains why I do so many more things outside work. Volunteering. Blogging. Writing. Etc.
8. The Perks and Best Part?
It's a global company and so there's that global perspective it gives you working with smart people from other parts of the world. The work processes are best-in-class and standardized. There are many processes that I even apply in planning and executing my daily life. I'm learning a lot about how organizations work and should work, and it's giving me ideas of how perhaps we could make Nigeria as a country work. Working with a company that has over 100 years of history behind it, and has survived world wars, you learn about sustainability and if I ever go into public service, it's experience that will serve me in good stead. It's like an on-the-job MBA.
We also get decent leave (compassionate leave (when requested), 16 weeks of maternity leave, 32 working days of annual leave). We can work from home if we want. And part time working is allowed too (as long as you've negotiated with your boss). There are also a lot of travel opportunities (depends on your department, though). A number of our trainings are abroad so you could rack up airline miles pretty quick. Additionally, at some point in our careers, most of us get opportunities to work abroad, in other parts of the company. These assignments range anywhere from 1 to 8 years. It can be fun, if you'd like living abroad.
9. If someone wanted a career like this, I'll advise them to...
get exposed to as many varied experiences as possible. I interviewed for the internship and through out, I discussed things like volunteer work I'd done, newspaper articles I'd read etc. Learn Powerpoint and Excel. Learn about different cultures (I broke the ice with an Indian colleague by baking naan. We're very good friends now.) A lot of what I learned in school is history, the work isn't that technical. The real strengths come from emotional intelligence and building relationships, things that sometimes conflict with the natural aggressiveness of the typical Nigerian. I'm not 100% in both but I'm learning.
10. One misconception people have about my job...
is that engineers are boring people. Our work might be boring but the people aren't. We have lots of laughs and many of us have creative lives outside work.
11. After work...
I try to spend as much time as possible bonding with my son. This kinda explains why I blog less. But he's still in the toddler phase and I know it's important for his personality at this stage to be secure in his parents' attention and affection. We read and play and then he eats dinner, takes a bath and goes to bed. We aim for an 8pm bedtime but it's sometimes later. If I have the energy afterwards, I'll blog or read or catch up on my office work *covers face*
12. What I love the most about a 9 - 5
I like the structure and the predictability. I like the people I meet, the ways I'm having to grow by interacting with so many different people. I like knowing what my income is, and will be. I'm a very plan-driven person. Miss me with the "adventure of not knowing". Writing fiction is already enough for my imagination, thank you very much!
13. If I ever quit my job or if I never had to work...
I'd go on to open a small cafe somewhere that served coffee and tea and freshly baked goods and doubled as a library/bookstore. It would be the sort of place where I knew all my patrons and where writers and artistes could come work quietly in the corner. I don't know if it would make much money. So I'd also need a trust fund. Lol.
14. One career I'm genuinely curious about, and might try in my second life is...
Economics? Political Science? I'd do something that just required me to read and write (not Law, too technical) and formulate ideas about how the world works.
I loved loved this interview, so much that when it was all ready I couldn't wait to share, even though it had been initially scheduled for much later. Her point on number 9 is so important and one I try to emphasise to everyone these days. It's much more than the technical skills or the degrees - it's emotional IQ and relationships that make you stand out! I also love how honest she was at the fact that it could sometimes get monotonous, and i'm looking forward to that blog post on the ride to work with her husband - I've often wondered how that would play out for me!
I'll hope this was a useful and interesting read, and I'll love to hear your thoughts! If you or anyone else would like to share a day in your work life, get in touch!
pS: It's interesting she thinks Law is too technical. Now I feel like I need to get a lawyer on here to clear the air.