Why I Believe In The ‘Day One’ Email

Biodun (Executive Coordinator) and I in a meeting

Last week, my Executive Coordinator, Biodun, sent an inspiring message to me which reinforced my faith in the culture we’re building here at Andela. Biodun forwarded a welcome email I had sent to him on his first day of work, and thanked me for his “new-found understanding of human potential.” Reading it again, a year later, reminded me of just how impactful the Day One email can be.

The first day at work is filled with uncertainties about what to expect and just how well you’ll fit in. Years ago, I learned about the famed inspirational note that Apple gives to all employees on their first day of work. It felt very powerful, and I imagined what my first day at a new workplace would be like if I received such an inspiring message. In some ways, it mirrors the feeling we get when we arrive at a party and see a couple of familiar faces, beaming with smiles from across the room. It says “we’ve been waiting for you all this time. Welcome home.”

Years later, on my first day at Andela, Christina Sass sent me a welcome note. Her message gave me the much needed confidence to start my journey at Andela, and convinced me that I had without a doubt joined the right team. Two sections particularly resonated with me:

“Once again welcome to Andela! We are so glad to have you on board. We believe that your skills, unique experience, and enthusiasm for our mission will add immense value to Andela.
The Operations team in Lagos will look to you for overall leadership. One way I try to get people to grasp the essence of their role is to ask, “What are you the CEO of?” There are 100 little things a day that no one will explicitly tell you to do. But if you see yourself as the person accountable for something, you will know that you should take on that responsibility without anyone telling you. You are the Lagos CEO of a team of others CEOs — of Lagos training, of Lagos Success, of Lagos office management, of Lagos People and Culture. All the other CEOs in Lagos will look to you.
I view you as the top ambassador of our culture and our values in Lagos. Culture is the invisible force that transmits the message, “This is how we do things around here.” If we insist on excellence in performance, in the upkeep of our facilities, in people being at meetings on time and prepared, it will be because you insist that it be so.”

With this call to action, I jumped in with both feet and have had my best career experience yet.

One of my monthly dinners with new Andelans to welcome them “home”.

Most organizations I’ve worked at do not observe this seemingly simple, yet powerful practice. After a few months at Andela, I instituted a Day One message to be shared with all employees in Nigeria on their first day. I want everyone to show up on their first day of work, and know that they are an integral part of the team and critical to our success as a company.

As we grew and hired more people (Andela Nigeria is now over 450-strong), I knew that the impact Christina’s personalized message had on me could be replicated for others. I sent Biodun the personalized Day One email below, to let him know that I truly believed in his unlimited potential and that he had found the right home. He needed to be reminded that we had been waiting for him to join us on this awesome journey.

Over a year later, this message still has a profound impact on Biodun. It’s clear in the way he shows up everyday to play his part in positively impacting Africa’s trajectory.

Good morning Biodun,
Yesterday, a good friend of mine reminded me that the journey to achieving great things is littered with bodies of young burned out people. It’s a scary thought. But my experiences so far are quickly confirming this as a fact.
A man who spends 80 hours a week learning a skill and practicing it will likely end up better positioned than he who spends 40. When they meet, they probably won’t attribute their differences to this simple fact. He reminded me that we must put in the work if we are to be the best.
As Executive Coordinator to the (as of last week) Country Director of Andela :), you’ve accepted a pretty big challenge. I am excited to embark on this journey and challenge with you and I’m thankful that you have chosen to do the same. It’s going to be a rough journey sometimes, littered with our young burned out selves. But we can make it a worthwhile journey that propels us to levels of excellence we are yet to achieve or experience.
Luckily, we have the best community to support us on this journey, and today I welcome you on behalf of all our colleagues in the struggle.
Whenever in doubt, just remember that without us, Africa is headed for a technological future that underwhelms all. With us, Africa’s future is a whole lot brighter and millions of people will be better off for that. We WILL produce the future generation of technology (and many other) leaders of Africa.
You’ll be a part of that. Not too shabby.
Welcome to Andela.