2 years at Bolt: What a ride!

It all started in January 2019, I just left my job in consulting and took a gap year to think and reflect on what I really wanted to do with the next phase of my life. I was no longer enjoying what I was doing and was few moments from completely losing my mind. I wasn’t earning a huge salary back then, so there wasn’t much to think about before making a decision to quit. I resigned, took what was left of my savings, got a bus and went on a trip up north to Jos, Plateau State. I stayed in Jos for a while till the elections.

Getting back to Lagos sometime in April, I decided it was time to get a fresh challenge, and I started job searching. By the end of the month, I had gotten 5 different job offers, so the next question was which career path was most promising and fulfilling? I wrote a list of inspiring friends and mentors who I further quizzed before I made a decision. After careful thoughts, I decided to accept the offer from Bolt.

On May 27, 2019, I resumed work at Bolt office in Lagos where I would spend the next 2.5 weeks onboarding. The onboarding process wasn’t designed to take that long but my manager had recently gotten married and was on vacation – causing the delay. I needed to meet with him before I left for my station in Ibadan.


Bolt Ibadan team, 2019

I was temporarily assigned to the Ibadan office where I worked with the local ride-hailing team. I thoroughly enjoyed working with the team and quickly felt at home. We shared the same facility with Interswitch – the office space was really cool.

The best part about working at Ibadan? Definitely the nightlife – House 25, Amala Skye, a far better work-life balance and a ridiculously cheap cost of living. (Helluur! I was coming from Lagos).
Worst part? Drivers’ protest. Terrible experience yet provided the best learning curve on leadership, driver interactions, corporate communications, crisis management and conflict resolution.

Needless to emphasize, I was hired at Bolt to help launch the secondary category product in Nigeria, and we had made detailed plans in preparation for launch, only for this particular competitor with very deep pockets and low business intelligence to crash the entire (RH) market. We had to re-strategize, change launch plans and generally reworked operational procedures.

In January 2020, we launched our first city – Uyo. Since then, we have expanded operations into 5 cities. (Uyo, Enugu, Jos, Warri, Ilorin*) – each with a very unique and exciting experience. (Read more on my expansion experience here.)

ENTER LAGOS – again.

Sometime around March 2020, before Covid struck, I got transferred back to the Lagos office. Interestingly, we’ve all been working remotely since the pandemic struck, and as such I’m yet to work, physically, from the office for a prolonged period of time. The office in Lagos is a lot bigger of course.

Lessons I finally learnt after several failures:

1. #DoHardThings: The first time I heard this mantra was at Africa Leadership University and I would eventually adopt it. However, the first time I actually put it to use was at Bolt. Don’t be fooled, everything about the secondary product; from developing launch plans, ramping up supply, setting up local city operations, the demand side, managing driver efficiency, Every. Single. Thing. Is. HARD! Thankfully, I had a quick crash course working with the primary product team in Ibadan for a few months. Notwithstanding, launching the secondary product was entirely different. The dynamic and intricacies are quite complex than that of the primary RH product. I can also recall assisting with Bolt Food and Business launch – surreal experiences – all done right in the middle of a global crisis.

Nonetheless, looking back in retrospect, I’m grateful for these experiences; they provided me with a better perspective on the inner workings of operations from different business verticals. Now, I can boast of being amongst the very few in the Nigerian office with hands-on experience in Ride-Hailing Operations (Primary & Secondary Product), Product Launch & Expansion, Bolt Food, Bolt Business and Customer Support. One-man mopol kinda thing! [winks].

2. #GetShitDone: Well, I saw this on the job description before applying so, I can’t really complain. Besides, working in consulting for 2 years had kinda prepared me. Sometimes, you wake up check the numbers from the previous day/week and realize that over 85% of drivers had churned and the only effective way to fix it is to get your phone out pronto and call over 100+ drivers. Now multiply that by 5, then by 4 then by 12. That should give you a rough idea of getting shit done. Other times, you’ve got to prepare reports or carry out some gruelling analytics on Saturday evening – when Manchester United is playing and/or on Sunday morning – right before leaving for church service.

In addition, I can still vividly recall when I newly resumed at the Ibadan office [for some weird reason best known alone to him, Seyi felt I was giving the team trial version whatever that meant, lol] I did virtually everything, from driver activations, (re-) training, walk-in support, weekly analytics and reports, just name it. I had to do everything if I was ever going to get a hang of the business. It wasn’t because I was a genius or something, it was just how the culture was designed – we all had to be Honey Badgers. Everyone had to keep pushing even when faced with at least 20 obstacles daily [that’s exactly what’s on the JD].

3. #LearnToBuildSilently: When this particular competitor came into the market around late 2019, I suspected they were badly advised or just plain naïve, given the way they launched. The most important tool of efficiency in this line of business – or generally doing business in this part of the world is stealth. You’ve got to learn so deeply about your TAM, yet move so quick with very little noise and drama as possible. That’s how we were able to build, grow and expand the secondary product in Nigeria.

No stupid press conferences or needless press releases – spilling internal numbers. ssh!

4. #WeMoveStill: In 2019, I had a front-row seat in handling the driver crisis in Ibadan. This left an indelible mark and I gleaned the most lessons from that experience. Lol, it was so bad that Markus (the Co-founder/CEO) joined our Ibadan slack channel, only to post 2 words – “Fix It”. Word had travelled – as far as HQ – on how terrible the situation was. In our line of work, if you are not able to handle such an insane amount of pressure and crisis, sometimes death threat from irate drivers, it’s definitely not for you.
When I joined, and at every team-building event, stories about our humble beginnings were always shared. I suspected those experiences and stories not only inspired new joiners but they served as a precursor on what to expect. Generally, such tales help prep new joiners on developing tough skin.

Recently, we had another notable crisis with the #EndSARS movement, being caught right in the middle of the whole mess. Long story short, as an organisation, we have been able to pick ourselves up, grown and expanded to more cities. Las las, #WeMoveStill.
Currently, Bolt is in 26 cities across Nigeria. You can find the cities we are operational in here and sign up here if you’re interested in driving and earning on the platform. [Oh, on how to solve this driver crisis, just learn to treat drivers veeerrryyy well. It’s that simple.]

5. #PlayHard: Although I’m back working from the Lagos office [insert sad face], you see this play hard thingy, I learnt it most at Ibadan. Omo, Ibadan team na team [takes a bow]. MD, Seyi, Dami and our office assistant! real OGs! Working there was crazy fun. I remember attending bi-weekly team all-hands in the training room. Seyi – Bolt Sugar Daddy – would always set the space up like a cinema hall, ordered drinks and amala from Nigeria’s national treasure – Amala Skye. Those meetings slapped differently. Friday nights were even much crazier [however, this is neither the place nor time to share those experiences].

Like I said earlier, I’m back in Lagos and for now, I can’t tell about socials there but words on the street are that the Lagos team is built differently and work no dey finish. [insert premium tears]

My work at Bolt has really been humbling. From getting on a plane and in 10 business days (or fewer) launch operations in an entirely new city (5x); to the gruelling experience of acquiring supply; to getting teary testimonials on how driving on the platform helped transform their life outcome; to travelling to new cities and eating really strange-looking yet delicious meals; to getting calls at very odd hours of the day, resolving both driver and/or passengers complaints. Really humbling experience.

The last 2 years working at Bolt have been truly remarkable, fast-paced and have provided me with the greatest learning curve of my career. I am excited about future growth & endless opportunities.

Now, back to building silently.

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