10 months in; update from Nairobi

Following my previous post it’s time to reflect on what I’ve been up to since. In short, there’s been so much going on it’s been difficult to find the time to stop and write it all down, and so the following are the highlights…

Building the team

Our product team is now eight, with a couple more colleagues supporting to run new product pilots. Most recently we’ve brought in Christine as head of partnerships and innovations, to help us grow into strategic new areas. Also Kendi joined as our first ever content creator, helping to capture stories across the business, as well as ensuring our products and services have the best possible words that customers understand.

In addition to new hires we’ve experimented with bringing in experts on short-term contracts to expedite certain things, such as the creation of a design system. This is something I’m keen to do more, as we can keep our team lean while benefiting from an eclectic network. It helps increase the pace and quality of the work, while also equipping me and the team with new skills.

The Nairobi Product, Engineering and Data team

Building the (neo)bank

We’ve recently achieved one of our major strategic objectives, modernising the backend. In my previous job where this kind of thing would have taken a couple of years and a couple of thousand people, it’s been exhilarating to achieve the same objective in six months with a core team of twenty or so.

We had missteps along the way and learned a load for future migrations, but my resounding feeling is one of pride; the various teams involved pulled together throughout, and even through tense moments never resorted to blame or finger-pointing. The feeling of elation (and exhaustion) when we went live is one I won’t forget.

The moment we’d all been waiting for, after a longggggg night

Understanding the customer

Building on things I had used previously, I’ve been working with our customer success team to better understand our customers. What they do, how they behave and how we might help them live better lives. Coupled with some incredible quantitive work, we’ve been able to draw a connection between the financial education we provide and more traditional business metrics that drive revenue; this was a brilliant validation of our mission to grow business with capital AND knowledge.

We’ve a long way to go to utilise this understanding fully and develop even better products, but again the opportunity to be as hands-on as I have been is amazing.

Designing cool stuff

Designing digital services from scratch is pretty much the most fun you can have, and it’s been brilliant to bring in ideas from previous roles and see them realised. Designing colleague and customer services at the same time has enabled a huge amount of efficiency.

Shout out to Douglas who is our product designer; seeing his work evolve through regular co-design and user-testing is a joy, and I cannot wait to bring these services into the hands of colleagues and customers across East Africa.

Douglas doing some colleague testing in Kinoo market

Realising the vision

Recently we’ve worked hard to hone and communicate a compelling vision, to help inspire teams and ensure we’re pulling in the same direction. We’ve avoided powerpoint decks and strategy papers, and instead used stories and digital artefacts to bring the vision to life. Seeing the CEO and one of our QA leads getting excited about the same things, on the back of one of our vision meetings, was great proof that the goals we’re aiming for are the right ones, and they’re inspiring from multiple perspectives.

Jose and Christine debating how a major part of the vision could work in practice

Learning lessons

It’s not all been sunshine and rainbows. For me it’s been a real learning curve with some incredibly crunchy moments. Taking my eye off the ball with a critical product pilot is not something I’ll repeat. And the reality of being mostly remote from the team is a challenge. I’m currently in Nairobi on my fifth visit and the trips here are an absolute delight, but there is a definite downside to being a 9-hour flight away.

I think that’s enough reflection for now. If it’s not evident above, I’m absolutely bloody loving it. Will check back in soon :)

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Ross Breadmore

Mum asked for a baby, dad asked for a transformer - I was the compromise. Chief product officer at 4G Capital.