Open Source Matters
What's to happen to Wesley's business was the last thing on my mind when I got the news of his death or even as I was making my way out here.
When I did meet his staff, the one thing they expressed with a great amount of zeal was the desire to let the company continue. I was quite happy to hear that at first and kept it at the back of my mind. My initial take on it was to ensure that I set the office up somewhere else as the current premises were too expensive and to hand it over to the main technical guy, Wez's right hand. After I got done with the last rites and sent Wez's ashes back to South Africa, I realised that the only person who could really manage the business was - guess what - me. His technical guy is very good but a bit young and needs supervision and guidance.
After the cremation and handing over of the ashes to a friend to take back to South Africa, I gave myself a weekend to do absolutely nothing. I was being hosted by a family who were very good friends of Wez and I. Their house is in a luxurious compound next to the ocean. I have my own bedroom and bathroom and was able to hide myself from the world. I had a miserable weekend, felt really sorry for myself and excruciatingly missed Wez. I realised that the typical mourning would not do. I would probably fall into a 'depths of despair' kind of depression if I sat doing nothing, crying and looking at pictures, smelling his clothes, going over all the if's and but's, and reading the dorky poems I used to write for him, about him.
Well anyway, so I have sort of quasi decided - more or less decided - fervently decided that running Wez's business is my raison d'etre. It'll give me some structure and purpose.
Now, I've seen Wesley build this business from scratch and was by his side at every step of the way. I have watched him develop business contacts - he believed in doing business after developing cordial and trustworthy relationships. I watched him design his company logo. I watched him set up his office, the office procedures, the tech room. I watched him train young high school graduates with the kind of patience, kindness and dedication that I have never seen before. I was always proud of him and that he was probably doing more for young Liberians than even the international blah blah's were doing. He picked up people from the street and trained them in something as sophisticated as setting up a V-SAT dish. Even his 'small' staff like the security know how to set up a computer. I listened with adoration as he explained his vision and dream for his company, his love of technology, writing code, how to do business and how to deal with problems. His overarching principle was trust and respect. I always appreciated and admired his honesty and dignity. As time went along, the business did flounder and I hoped it would pick up and he would bear the fruits of his hard work and sacrifice. I wanted nothing more than for him to succeed and enjoy his success.
Therefore, it was extremely hard to be separated from Wesley this last year in London. It was difficult to leave his side and go do my thing even though he utterly supported my endeavour. The only reason I was going to do the masters was so I could chase a UN career. I have pangs of guilt and pain that he was alone here and left this world alone. He was the closest person to me in the world. He was utterly part of my consciousness, my being and my dreams. I utterly believed in us, I believed he was the reason, and I found It with him. Freaking hell, we met at an airport! We were so meant to be together. To grow old together until our teeth fell out as he joked. You know that crowning romantic Bollywood Lata and Mukesh song 'Khabhi Khabhi' - it it says that I believe that you were made for me, that you were called to earth just for me. When you believe you were made for each other and your other half dies, it really fucks you up.
And I am sorry he died like this, that I was not here and he is gone from me. It hurts in so many ways and degrees I cannot explain it even to myself.
So grief aside, the running of the business has seemingly fallen into my lap and I feel happy and thrilled with the idea that I can keep his business and legacy alive. In fact, right from the beginning I assured clients that it was going to be 'business as usual' and we would continue to provide the low-cost, high quality services as before. I shifted offices in my usual organised, methodological manner. After my weekend of feeling sorry for myself, I put my mind to the business. I started chasing new business, seeking contacts, bugging people, getting behind the staff and so on.
I still do not have electricity in the office but found a very creative solution to get us powered until we are connected with LEC (Liberia Electricity Corporation). We ran a cable from our neighbour's kitchen and set up NLTC temporarily in the middle of the 'yard' with the sun beating on our heads. I am getting wireless internet from one of our neighbours. They're a big company here so they were happy to help me out. Now, I have run a cable from another neighbour's and have set up my office - good thing we have so many extensions. And, I am impressed with my guys, they really know their stuff. Wesley taught them well. I swear, when I was set up in my office, with the fan blowing in my face, my laptop connect to the WWW, my guys able to access the server and pumping out proposals and invoices, I felt as powerful as Zeus! I felt on top of the world!
It's been two or three weeks since I have really started running the business. I have about half a dozen new clients - maybe even more - and much more in the pipeline. The staff is incredibly loyal, very well trained and top of their stuff. They are freaking IT professionals, man. I am so proud of them and whatever Wesley achieved until now. And, it seems I have a knack for this. I totally love doing this.
I love overcoming the challenges, the sticky situations, difficult people, finding solutions every day. Some days are tougher than others but it's all part of the game. I feel alive, resourceful, motivated, driven and extremely passionate. I love feeling extremely exhausted at the end of the day and going to la la land as soon as my head hits the pillow. I do not have to think about my pain and grief and just focus on the future.
I feel like I am in his shoes and ever so close to him. It is so therapeutic. I love being close to his staff which are now my staff, my team, my people. Some of them have even picked up his habits and mannerisms, it's so cute. His main guy Linga has nearly picked up all the mannerisms. The way he uses his hands to explain something, his way of joking and teasing other colleagues and making people comfortable around him.
There are some people here who have been with us since 2003/2004! Can you imagine. The security still remember the time I used to tell them about my boyfriend whom I met in Jordan/Iraq. These security guards are now are company security.
I love the idea of this company and where it could go. If I can keep it alive and help it to survive and even thrive, it'll be something, eh?
This is my path to solace and peace and finding myself again. *
* Note on 'myself' - I am not sure whether I'll find the old myself again or another one is going to replace the old one. I changed a lot after the death of my best friend and surely, I will change after Wesley. Jodie Foster's character in "The Brave One" becomes a stranger after her fiance is murdered brutally. She finds a stranger within herself. I don't find a stranger within myself but I know I have changed. And I'll continue to see the changes within myself.