SINK OR SWIM: Choose to swim.

Choose to swim

I can never forget the moment I realised I was in the deep end. I was sinking and I did not know how to swim. Flashback to the start of my career. No one pushed me over. I did not accidentally fall in.

I had chosen to jump at what I felt was the opportunity of a lifetime and indeed it was.   A greenfield opportunity to work in a fairly new Oil and Gas business, to build out and establish the Technology platform that would support the young business’s future growth and its existing operations. At that time, this was mostly being done manually except for a couple of Superheroes who used Lotus 123 spreadsheets! The magnitude of the task at hand, was a challenge that was so exciting: – to be able to develop and create systems from nothing, that would transform and improve the productivity of the staff beyond measure, coupled with the opportunity to learn about everything Tech. 

Learning about, evaluating, choosing the most suitable of emerging technologies at the time, and being allowed to get my hands dirty by actually implementing them to provide solutions that improved business operations and efficiency, was a dream come true.

I’d joined the genius Head of IT, as a Programmer Analyst, becoming the no 2 of the two-man team put to the task. Soon, a few months after, he left and I was so busy struggling to hold the fort under an acting Head title, while a replacement could be found, that I did not realise I had gradually drifted from the shallow position of the pool I had jumped into, and I was now firmly in the deep end.

A fresh graduate, with no prior corporate business knowledge or experience, the struggle to understand the business language or needs of my customers in the first instance, combined with the need to quickly determine and assess business tech offerings, just got worse daily. Until suddenly one day I realised I was sinking – I guess a moment quite familiar with several of us today which we term feeling overwhelmed.

Yes, I was struggling. I was sinking and if something did not change fast, I was going to drown. And in that moment of despair, I remember thinking I had a choice: I could choose to sink (give up) or choose to swim. And I decided to choose to swim.

Once I made the decision to choose to swim, I recall a new energy surging through me. To swim, I was going to have to learn how to swim fast. I assessed my position and what I needed to learn. To understand the needs of my most challenging customers at the time, I set off to buy all the books they had to study to qualify as accountants; then engaged in rapid self- paced study, getting help with understanding from friends where needed. Likewise, I subscribed to IT magazines and African Tech journals, and read them cover to cover, to gain a deep understanding of emerging tech and trends.

Before I knew it, to my surprise, within a few months my title was changed from Acting and I was appointed Head of IT, and subsequently received the “Best Employee of the Year” Award.

From that day forward, whenever I find myself reaching a point of overwhelm, that moment and those words always come back to me. Am I going to sink or swim? I always choose to swim.

Stepping out of your comfort zone inevitably comes with risks. But when the going gets tough, there’s always a way.

Never give up … Choose to Swim!

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