I deliberately kept my face bland as I listened to my director tell my colleagues that I was going to be team lead for the project we were about to embark on.
Ka-Tell, the telecommunications company where I work, had acquired a new company some months earlier, and they were in the process of transferring some tower assets—site leases, employees, databases of sites and lease contracts, and physical infrastructure assets to the new company.
As a member of the privacy unit, the role of my department was to assess the project for privacy risks that could result in future lawsuits from companies or individuals whose details were on our databases, and to recommend the actions that would mitigate the identified risks.
“Mina has been part of several projects like this in the past,” Dele, my director said. “You’re all aware she worked closely with Peter,” he continued, referring to our former manager who had relocated to England a month earlier to join his family. “The last project they worked on was very similar to this new one.” Dele continued. “We all know that the new company will have to operate in a data protection regulation compliant way in the manner in which it collects and processes data. The emphasis on this can’t be overemphasized because any breach of privacy could cost Ka-Tell a lot of money.” His gaze swept over the room. “So, all loopholes will have to be sealed. This is where Mina’s experience will come in because she’s worked in this capacity before.”
My colleagues nodded intermittently as Dele continued his explanations but I noticed two of them, Nonso and Dotun, shooting me subtle dagger-like glances.
“So yes, Mina will be team lead,” Dele said. “But she’ll need everyone to put in their share of the work so that the project can run as smoothly as possible.”
“That’s great, Mina.” Dotun said, looking across the table at me.
I knew he thought he was smiling but it came across more like a grimace. I smirked inwardly. It didn’t matter whether he was genuinely smiling or not. What mattered was that I had whupped him where it hurt most—his ego.
“Thanks, Dotun.” I stretched my lips in a small, polite smile. “Like everyone else, I’m really looking forward to working on this new project.” As the team lead, I added silently.
“Me, too.” Nonso said with a smile as fake as Dotun’s.
I maintained the serene expression on my face but I was still smirking inwardly as I imagined Nonso and Dotun’s annoyance that they were not made team lead.
We had all been recruited into the company at about the same time. From the beginning, I’d noticed that they had assumed that I would be content to trail behind them and they made comments to that effect. They had also often offered, in a somewhat patronizing manner, to help me with one task or the other.
I had ignored their attitude but had made sure that any work I was assigned was not just done excellently but turned in well ahead of schedule. By the time they became fully aware that I wasn’t in the department to play, I was already being rated higher than them with respect to the key performance indices of the department.
“This is definitely a step in the right direction for Ka-Tell.” Dele continued “Acquiring this new company was a really smart move as it will lessen the pressure some departments are already facing. So, like I said before, it will be great if we can all pull together to ensure a smooth transition.”
“Of course.” Richard, another male colleague replied.
He gave me a thumbs-up, and I smiled at him. My smile, this time around, more genuine. Richard had joined the company about six months earlier. He was an easygoing guy and we got on well. But no matter how nice he appeared; the fact remained that I don’t trust any testosterone-laden specie.
“Dele, will we be reporting directly to you as before?” Nonso asked.
I angled my head slightly as I waited for Dele to clarify Nonso’s silly question. I thought that Dele had spoken plain English but maybe Nonso hadn’t heard clearly.
“Like I said before,” Dele replied, a slight frown furrowing his brows. “Mina is in charge of this project and everyone reports to her.” He turned towards me. “Please convene a meeting as soon as possible and assign tasks to each person. Of course, I’ll be leaving it at your discretion to pick the members of your core team. But I’ll need you to pick people you know will help you deliver your goals as quickly as possible.”
“Okay, Dele.” I said, in a respectful tone. “I’ll start on that immediately.”
I noticed that Nonso and Dotun had involuntarily straightened up as Dele spoke about me picking members of my team. I knew they were aware that being part of the core team which executed the project would put them in line for their next promotion.
Better fall in line, guys. Mina Braithwaite rules.
A project of this size was normally handled by people on managerial levels at Ka-Tell. Sure, Peter had left for England, but Dele could have pulled in another manager to do it. Choosing to let me handle it could only mean one thing; my dream of being a manager at Ka-Tell before I hit thirty would become a reality very soon.
The meeting finished shortly afterwards and everyone started heading towards their offices.
“Now, you can wipe that disgusting look off your face.” Adesua, another colleague said as she fell into step with me.
I giggled mischievously. Adesua knew me very well. We’ve been close friends since our days at uni. “Disgusting? It’s called a professional smile; I’ll have you know.”
“Professional, my foot.” She elbowed me slightly. “I could see that you thoroughly enjoyed seeing Nonso and Dotun’s disappointment at the news of your being made team lead.”
“I’ve hinted to Nonso in the past that I’ll wipe the floor with him if the company ever has to make a decision between both of us, and I’m glad he’s seen it happen.”
Adesua shook her head. “You’re so mean, Mina.”
“No meaner than the next man.” I retorted.
We passed by a senior manager, Ifeoma, along the corridor, and exchanged greetings with her before continuing on our way.
“Nonso was so wishing he would be team lead.” Adesua said. “He’s going to moan to all and sundry about how financially stretched he is now that his twins will be born soon.”
I wrinkled my nose in distaste. “He should save that story for the Joneses. He’s got twins on the way, and yet, he’s still carrying on with his side chick in Sales Department. He would have more cash in his pocket if he focused solely on his wife.”
“Poor woman. I wonder if she knows.”
I snorted. “I won’t be surprised she does but has chosen to bury her head in the sand. Or maybe she’s attending every prayer meeting she can find, and asking the pastors to intercede for her errant husband.”
“Prayer works, you know.”
My eyes hardened. “Kicking the jackass out works faster.”
My mind went to my mother, and my lips curled bitterly. She would easily win the award as the most “willingly abused” woman on our side of the map. She had chosen not to respond to all the atrocities my father had done over the years and still kept hoping he would change someday.
“I should be calling a meeting soon.” I told Adesua as we got to the entrance of her office. “I’ll email everyone once I’ve gotten a few things sorted out.”
“Aye, aye, ma’am.” Adesua gave me a mock salute.
I made a face at her as I moved off towards my office. Even though I was still savoring my win over Nonso and Dotun, I knew it was time to hit the ground running.
But I wasn’t really worried. Working hard and meeting deadlines are areas I excel in. I smiled again as my mind went over the meeting with Dele. I couldn’t deny the fact that the joy of being team lead was sweeter because I’d been chosen over my male colleagues. I had made up my mind long ago that no man would ever get the better of me. That had been my story so far, and I intended to keep it so.
It had meant longer hours. Taking on more work when everyone else was complaining they already had too much on their plate. It had also included keeping myself accredited and making sure I was abreast with the latest innovations in my field. I did all that, knowing that the time would come when those things would matter.
I smirked again. That time had certainly come now.
By the time this new project came up, I knew it would be easier for it to snow in Lagos than for Nonso or Dotun to be chosen over me.
To be continued…