MySkills4Afrika – Journal 01

It has now been a few days since I left my hometown and headed on an amazing journey to Kenya Africa.  I’ve never been to Africa and when I saw the opportunity to go as a Microsoft Volunteer as part of the #MySkills4Afrika initiative, I was on-board.

It was nearly a year ago when I subscribed to Microsoft’s internal communication on being a Microsoft Volunteer.  Somehow I missed being a participant during Wave 1 but it was three months ago when I noticed that they were taking applications for Wave 2… I searched through the various opportunities and came across one that was in-country with a focus on devices… I had to apply.  But first, I had to call my manager to gauge her expectations.  To my surprise and delight, she was extremely eager for me to do this – “it’s a once in a lifetime experience” – and also promoted it to our executive leadership team.  Everyone has been supportive of this adventure.  I say it often and I’ll say it again – Microsoft is the best company in the world.

The Opportunity


A two week long assignment based in Nairobi Kenya, supporting the new sales device team to expand their skills and experience. Focusing on how to position different devices to different customer groups (e.g. Enterprise versus consumer), best practice in opportunity identification, plus the design and delivery of high priority pitches, create and pitch to retailers bundles of Microsoft software with devices and Strategy support to ensure retailers place Microsoft products prominently within their stores. The opportunity will be a combination of working with the team in the Microsoft Kenya office on strategy and theory (week 1) and working with the team in the field to model behaviour, transfer skills and build confidence (week 2) .

Key Skills required: Extensive sales experience. A proven track record in retail and devices sales. An understanding of the different ranges and devices and how to bundle these for retailers. Level 63-64 or above in a sales position (or a previous sales position). Other Skills: Coaching and mentoring skills, Effective communication , Ability to motivate and engage at an operational team level, Ability to role model best practice behavior in sales. Fluency in English language essential.

That sounds PERFECT!  I’ve been with Microsoft for over 13 years and had accepted the position about 9 months ago to be a Devices Solutions Specialist covering Public Sector – State & Local Government.  I’m one of 44 total Device Specialist in the United States.  It is a role with many exciting opportunities, challenges, and enthusiasm as we embark on this newly refined chapter at Microsoft – Mobile First, Cloud First.

The Logistics

Getting to Africa did have it’s challenges, especially if you know me.  I enjoy having my ducks in a row for many weeks if at all possible and I was down to two weeks before travel.  I was still trying to figure out if I was confirmed to go and if I should get my shots in preparation.  I took a little bit of risk and decided to go ahead and do the shots – 8 shots that is (Hep A&B, Yellow Fever, Polio, Tetanus, Flu, and others).

It was 4 days before I was to leave my hometown when I finally received my flight details… and, I was going to land in Kenya without truly understanding what I was going to be doing for the two weeks.  My biggest worry is that I don’t want to let the Microsoft Kenya team down… they are going through a lot of trouble and expense to get me here and I want to make sure I exceed their expectations.

By the end of last week, many of the details were starting to take shape… I had my shots, I had my plane ticket, I knew where I was going to stay (at the Fairmont The Norfolk), and the Country Manager – Kunle – connected me with a project manager, Andrew… I call him “The Handler”.

The Beginnings of my Visit

On Monday, I met with Andrew “The Handler” to go over the initial itinerary as he’s scheduling activities.  I met with the Kenya Sales team and gave a little background about myself and later that day I did a joint customer call at one of Kenya’s Banks. 

It’s now Tuesday morning… We were to have a customer meeting during the morning hours but the meeting never got confirmed… instead, I’ve been scrambling with the local team to plan a quick 1.5 day trip to Tanzania to support a large Windows-based Tablet opportunity.

So, here I go.  Later this afternoon (Tuesday), I’ll be taking a 90 minute flight to Tanzania to spend Wednesday with a few customers before I head back to Kenya.  My 1 country trip to Kenya has now turned into multiple countries… and I could possibly be going to Rwanda and others.  What a crazy and fantastic ride.  One thing I know… be flexible Stephen!

The Microsoft Kenya team have been amazing and very hospitable.  In fact, I’m finding all of the people I’ve encountered to be very pleasant, engaging, and an absolute joy.  I’m so grateful for all of the kindness I have received during my stay thus far.

I’ll post more later about my Kenya Africa experience… so far it has been one of wonder, beauty, and a lot of learning (and laughs as I’m educated on the “real Africa.”).  But for now, I’ve been fairly active…

Until the next post, enjoy my very first Windows 8 game, Simple Simon Said, and help me get to 500 installs.

6 thoughts on “MySkills4Afrika – Journal 01

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  1. “Once in a Lifetime…” I had to laugh at that one Stephen. That is what I thought the first time I went to Africa. I’ve been back almost every year since 🙂 -Brendan

    1. Well, I’ll tell you that my wife is disappointed that she isn’t here with me. So, maybe I’ll have to do a return trip… and I would come back to Kenya in a heartbeat!

  2. Stephen,

    I so want to follow in your foot steps. Well with the volunteering. 😊

    Sent from Windows Mail

    1. lol. I’m having a blast Bob. So glad I did this. Flew to Tanzania last night for a day meeting today. Now, back in Kenya. Not sure if I’ll be going to Rwanda.

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