Welcome back to our returnees series. Sorry I have not been able to post this earlier. ( Lets just say work tuck-in kabba inside cyclist! 🙂 )
In today`s article, I am featuring Venatius Tsi Fon! ( I call him Venatius-From-England!) Dynamic young man who braved the storm and quit the UK to move back just 3 years ago. Today, he is doing extremely well! And he will tell you that anyday anytime. He says this about his move back home :
On thinking of moving back he says: “My main doubts were: would I get a job, will I be able to integrate in to the Cameroon society after ten years abroad, will I make it big, what would my peers say when I return”
“…..Being a marketing specialist ( in the UK) I knew I had no space in a society that was still trying to cope with the credit crunch”
“It took me three months to get a job. ” ( In Cameroon)
“The secret to succeeding in Cameroon is hard work…Hard work pays there are no short cuts to success. “.
…….Cameroon is your country: Get the Skills and come home so we can build a better Cameroon.
Here is the entire interview. If you are thinking of moving home, I hope his experience inspires and encourages you. If you have further quesstions, do not hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
All I can say to Vena is : You are an inspiration to many. Your journey is worth taking and your story definitely worth sharing. You still have great things ahead of you I can loudly say that! Keep it up! We are watching you!
Can you give us a brief introduction of yourself and what you currently do in Cameroon ?
I am Venatius Tsi Fon originally from Mankon –Bamenda Cameroon. A graduate from Southampton Business school( Southampton Solent University) in the UK with an MA in marketing management. I am also a qualified chartered marketer. I am 35 years old and currently work as the Communications and Fundraising Advisor for an International NGO SOS Children’s Villages International. An NGO that looks after orphaned children in 135 countries in the world. I am in charge of communications and fundraising in west and central Africa ,Managing 18 countries spread this region.
When and why did you leave Africa? Where did you travel to and for how long?
I left Cameroon in 2001 after the September 11 attacks; I flew in to the UK two weeks after these attacks. Then it was every young man’s dream to FALL Bush and I being an urban kid also had this dream in me, and I decided to move to Britain to chase the British dream ie if such a dream actually exists. I spent ten years in the UK . The first five years i spent studying for an undergraduate and Masters degree in Marketting. I also studied fora chartered marketing program; CIM . I hussled for the remaining 5 years.
What motivated you to move back home after the time spent abroad ? Was there a particular
incident/circumstance that made you say ” This is it!” I am going back home? Or was is a gradual well thought out process?
The reason I came home was to me very simple. I was a qualified chartered marketer with a master’s degree in marketing from a top business school in the UK, yet I was either a cleaner or a security guard in a super market. Most people from Cameroon in the UK would do the CARE job (working in the hospitals and caring for the old or mentally ill.) I did not like that and preferred the cleaning and security job.
The whole UK set up to me was the reason why I came back. The Brits have this very subtle racism that they show openly through their immigrations laws by not allowing immigrants to get top jobs after university or giving you a limited time of two years to work after graduation. When this time expires, you must leave the country , claim asylum or marry a British. I saw a system designed to make immigrants end up either as nurses, teachers, social workers or army officers. Being a marketing specialist I knew I had no space in a society that was still trying to cope with the credit crunch.
While working as a guard at the store . I use to have this anger towards my boss who had not even the equivalents of the Cameroon O levels. He was rude and very sarcastic . That was when I decided, ‘This is it. I have to come back to Cameroon.”
My elder brother had studied in Leeds University and had moved back to Cameroon, my other elder brother had also studied in the USA and had moved back to Cameroon so these two were the pillars that supported me to take that bold step to come home.
When I thought of moving home after my education , I had lots of doubts about what awaits me back here. Did you doubt as well? What were your main worries?
My main doubts were one would I get a job, will I be able to integrate in to the Cameroon society after ten years, will I make it big, what would my peers say when I return. You have these thoughts in you that scare you about your own country . You now suffer from what we know as reverse culture shock.
I had lost touch also with friends and all I was not sure if I would make new friends and all. So it was really something I had to think of. But having two brothers who had returned back from the USA and the UK I had some inspiration from them and the support was immense.
If you had doubts about Africa and Cameroon especially, why did you insist on moving back ?
Despite the doubts I moved back because home is home. I knew for sure with my wealth of education I will not lack a job I knew it will be hard but drawing from the experiences of others I knew I will get a job.
We all know how difficult the job market is out here. Can you explain to us how you handled it ? How long it took and what got you to where you are today in the corporate world?
Moving back is a daunting process as you would have lost touch with old friends and coming back means making new ones. This also means you would not know the job market and it’s not easy integrating in such a society. Coming back to Cameroon is like starting life afresh in a new country. The job market is really tight as jobs are not advertised as you will think it should, professional jobs are there but how do you get to see them, we don’t have jobs centers or unemployment centers where you walk in to and say I am looking for a job, we don’t have career offices etc. I arrived Cameroon and three months after I had a job.
Well first of all Cameroon is evolving in the online world and most jobs nowadays are posted online, secondly most corporate jobs are advertised in the Cameroon Tribune and if you read that newspaper you are bound to see something that you like. It took me three months to get a job. The first two months I would say I use it to acclimatize to my new environment. During the third month with the help of my brother I applied for hundreds of jobs; my target was minimum of ten per day. I must say Networking is very important, I use to drop CVS in all the companies in Douala, I would come to a company and lie that I have an appointment to see the GM and when I go in I would say I just wanted to hand in my CV to the right person.
I remember meeting the GM of UBA in Akwa and I walked to him telling him I had dropped my CV in his office. It’s also important to note that my choice of friends also helped me to succeed easily. I made friends with people who had come back from abroad and are settling in and this really helped as well. In the third month I had interviews with Maersk, British American Tobacco and Zenithe Insurance. BAT offered me a role but I was not keen on the salary I still had these big ideas of earning the biggest salary in Cameroon. Few weeks later Zenithe Insurance offered me the role of Marketing Manager for the Insurance company.
I took the Zenithe job and worked hard to make my impact. The secret to succeeding in Cameroon is hard work. I worked hard for one year there and carved out my career paths knowing that I may start in Zenithe but will not end there. When I knew I had reached my target and limits I decided to move on. I started applying for jobs again that fits my career plans and had interviews with UBA, ECOBANK, my Current office and Camairco. Had some interesting offers from the others but decided to go for SOS Children Villages International. Three years in Cameroon and am in top Management Managing 18 countries and am at the peak just where I had hoped I would be.
How would you describe the job hunting process here , compared to that abroad? What tools are available for job hunting ?
Job hunting in Cameroon is different we don’t have job centres, career fairs or unemployment centres. We have word of mouth so and so company is recruiting, networking you meet the GM and HR people recruiting and they will tell if there are vacancies or
not. Some recruiters post jobs online and many more do so in the Cameroon Tribune.. The issue is most people return and think that Cameroon tribune is the government paper. Instead of reading and learning and integrating they stand alone and criticize. I had a book where I wrtoe the names of the companies I had applied to what role I applied and what they do so that if called upon I just refer to it and prepare for the interview. I would take a taxi for the whole day and we would drop CVs to all the companies in Douala. Job hunting is a very tiring and boring process in Cameroon.
Some people might say you probably got a job and hence are succeeding because of connections, bribery and corruption. That’s the only way to get a good job here. What can you say to that?
Well in Europe, UK and USA there is something called lobby to me that’s open corruption as well but with a different name. I see nothing wrong if networking pays out. You meet a GM through a friend he sees your CV and thinks it fits what he is looking for and interviews you before giving you the job. This means to me you were at the right place at the right time. Now for those who are not qualified and still have the job that’s where I have a problem. I had interviews in the companies I have named above because they saw my CV and liked it. I was not sent to the company to meet so and so. I may have met some of the people in an informal setting and state my case that’s networking. I am where I am today out of hard work. I attended an interview where I currently work and we had Ivoirians, Ghanaians and Nigerians shortlisted for my role. I was given the role because of my competency. I attended an interview panel with whites and other Africans with just one Cameroonian that I did not know and had never met. I was selected based on my CV and recruited based on my interview and I am still in the company based on my competence. Hard work pays there are no short cuts to success.
Talking about connections, what kind of connections did you have at home before leaving and/or create while abroad and are any of them useful to you now? Would you say it’s essential to keep a strong connection with your networks back home if you plan to move back some day?
I had lost touch with most of my friends and connections and had to start afresh.
It is always necessary to keep in touch when you are abroad the issue is we move abroad most times and cut off with our old friends . Now Facebook, twitter and others are making things easy ,keep in touch for these connections and networks would help you to integrate when you come back home. To help the UK graduates in Cameroon or those planning to move back I have formed a support group on Facebook called UK graduates in Cameroon. In this network we coach about CV writing, post jobs link people up to companies that may be recruiting and coach on interviews. So it’s essential to have connections if you hope to move back home someday. My family really helped in making my life easy when I returned most people would not have that support so you need your friends. They would only help if you did stay in touch.
If Cameroon were a product and you were the marketing manager, what will be your message to your potential clients?
Cameroon your country: Get the Skills and come home so we can build a better Cameroon.
What is the funniest /strangest/alarming experience you had as a result of being a JJC ( Johnny Just Come)?
The same day I arrived Cameroon and reached Bonaberi there was a black out. I had a consultancy for the EU and had to evaluate
some projects in Mbengwi and other villages in Cameroon. As we sat in the Toyota corolla I was squeezed with three others in front on our way to the Village the amount of dust that came in to the car made to almost faint in the car and I had to tell the Driver to stop . I had not inhaled dust for ten years so it was giving me a fainting reaction. The passengers were so angry as I had to stop every five minutes on the road to catch some air. Well that was one of my funniest and horrifying experience. Well people pee on the road and will greet you after peeing, people don’t respect traffic lights people litter the streets it’s just a normal life style in Cameroon but as a JJC you find these things strange I refused greeting a friend who had just peed and was excited to see me, I did not take his hand and people thought I was rude lol. Oh and your accent also put people off lol.