Good morning, sir.
Nana here. If you’ve been reading my articles, you might have noticed that I write about African design. This might appear odd since I work for you as a Senior Financial Analyst. Well, the thing is I write about design because I have a parallel career as the Founder and Creative Director of Blueprint Africa, an interior styling consultancy focused on African aesthetics. Surprised? I was too when I discovered my superpowers. But, I want to come clean today.
Nana the ‘Senior Financial Analyst’ is my alter ego. I am actually Stylodec.
The truth is there are many of us out there working happily for you – bankers, engineers, lawyers by day – who are also chefs, cartoonists, and singers by night. We have other skills and talents that we channel into parallel careers we pursue in our ‘spare’ time. And our Clark Kent glasses are getting heavy. Let’s face the facts boss.
I formally launched Blueprint Africa late last year after 3 years of providing styling and décor sourcing services. I provided these services after eight productive hours in my alter ego suit. It was a bit scary at times. I would ask myself whether I would be considered a credible banker if people knew about my superhuman interior styling skills. Worse – now that I am transitioning into the design field full-time, I wonder if my clients would accept my credentials as an interior stylist if they knew that I could also execute an interest rate swap in Bloomberg.
But most of all, I am scared of you.
I have wanted to tell you many times about my superhero career. To me, the superhero and alter ego do not have to be mutually exclusive. Do you know that many superheroes actually do not have alter egos? Take Iron Man – he is a CEO and a superhero. He heads an industrial conglomerate and uses his money and access to the technology for superheroic tasks. Incredible Hulk is a scientist and a superhero. And Black Panther is a political leader and a superhero. They don’t have secret identities because their parallel careers are synergetic.
I believe my parallel careers have synergies too. My banking alter ego helped my superhero success. Similar to how Peter Parker gets advance warning of villainous activities as a photographer working at the Daily Bugle, I too strengthen my abilities as a superhero by working for you. I have traveled to over 30 African countries for you and been able to meet artisans from all over the continent, see different types of architecture, and appreciate the nuances in different African textiles from different regions. My alter ego builds my ability to be a superhuman stylist and an expert in my new field. I thank you for that.
Although you don’t hold me back from being a superhero, I wish I could be open with you about it. Your rules frown upon me participating in or earning income from ‘outside activities’. Thus, forcing me to keep my superhero career under wraps, and precluding you from benefitting from my hidden talents that fall outside of my front alter ego mandate. Have you ever considered alternative ways to address this? I often ask myself, “why are ‘they’ bringing in more consultants to do jobs that I could do?” Maybe you could use your procurement power to encourage me in an area that does not reflect my LinkedIn job title.
Personally, I would have loved the opportunity to bid as Blueprint Africa to decorate our new headquarter offices following our move back to Abidjan from Tunis. You could have considered opening the bid for such work to both internal and external applicants. Instead, you make me feel that I must hide my talents and make the Ethics Officer my greatest nemesis. You might retort by asking me about conflicts of interest, nepotism and corruption. Yes, all valid concerns. Nonetheless, you successfully manage these realities in other areas (recruitment and HR, anyone) so surely there are some win-win solutions we could explore.
But we don’t explore them and because of your current point of view, I have chosen to live in seclusion and demarcate other territories where my superhero career can thrive unencumbered. Nonetheless, I have to let you know it is getting harder to hide. People notice the good I am doing. They expect me to help them make their homes beautiful and I am running out of telephone booths to change in. One of these days we will likely meet when I am fully caped.
So sir, please think back to when you hired me, to when you said you wanted an employee that was multi-faceted and multi-disciplinary. Was that a lie? The real and comic book world suggest that our corporate culture demands that I be a dichotomous professional. I do not want to hide anymore because I am proud to work for you but I am also a superhero interior stylist. What I need is an ally in the workplace who understands my need to pursue superheroism. I would like that ally to be you. Could you be my Commissioner Gordon? My Charles Xavier? My support system?
Ironically, I might get better at my being my alter ego as a result.
Illustrations by Natasha Lisa of Afrodeco.
Do you have a passion project? How did your boss react? What’s your superhero name?