James in his initial years in Chillibreeze
This is a three-part series on an important member of the core team of Chillibreeze - James Syngai. How he joined and how he contributed and was contributed to by the company.
Our interview with James continues…
I understand from you that there were no defined roles and responsibilities for you, as everything was just evolving. You even said that you were not clear about what you were supposed to do.
When did that change?
When the PPT inquiries started to come!
It was around mid-December 2005 that a PowerPoint inquiry came from The Arnold Group (TAG).
Any recollection of what this first business inquiry was about and how it went? When did you learn PPT?
Even back then, there was a team meeting every Saturday afternoon. I was told I would be working on the PowerPoint inquiry that had come from TAG. I remember Joanna asking me to talk about it. Even though it was probably just 10-15 people, I was very nervous and afraid at the thought of having to speak in front of everyone. I did it though and just about managed to mumble a few words. 😊
Chillibreeze first office at Laitumkhrah
PowerPoint was not something new to me. I had heard about it but had not used it much at that time.
The fact that I was pretty handy with a PC helped me when I first started to really use PowerPoint.
I distinctly remember that the first request from TAG was for a PowerPoint template. We didn’t really know what a template was but between Joanna, Sainbor, and I, we somehow managed to create something. If I can recall correctly, I don’t think that went well because I did not remember using any of what we had created.
The next task I believe was to format a deck (sort of what we are doing today). I remember receiving several sample decks and we were asked to do something like the sample.
What were the challenges you faced in the initial years?
I think the biggest challenge was having to figure things out on my own most of the time. In hindsight, this helped me become a good coach! Imagine, it was 2005, the same year that Youtube came out. Even if we thought of searching “how to… “ on Youtube, the site had probably not been populated with PowerPoint tips yet.
There were others around – Joanna, Sainbor, and Osmond – but they had their own work as well and I was tasked with working on PowerPoints. As much as I could, I would figure things out through trial and error.
There were not many materials online, for learning, and even if there was, we were still not at the stage where learning something online was natural to us.
Another challenge was having to learn something new whenever a new request came in. Come to think of it, this too made me, and the others, good at figuring things out – and to do the best for the customer. That was how I learned Word, OneNote, Excel, and OFTs. (this is far better than learning a skill in-depth and waiting for customers to ask for those very skills! This way CB was adapting to the needs of its customers.)
An interesting story comes to mind.
The first version of Microsoft Office that I used was Office XP. Though I started with Office 2003, I cannot even compare the version then with what we have now. Because of the limitations, I had to also learn the very basics of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. But I am glad because these challenges helped me improve my skills. And I am also pleased that I was fortunate enough to have worked with all the versions of Office since Office XP.
Was there any defining moment when things started to look up for you at Chillibreeze?
It was sometime towards the end of 2006. At that time, we were hiring people exclusively for PowerPoint work.
This made me realize that what I was doing in CB was worthwhile and good; that I’m in a position where I could play a part in creating jobs for others. I believe that was a defining moment for me.
Is there one principal value that you see as key to that turning point?
One of the major principles I live my life by is from Matthew 7:12 “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you…”.
While I might not have had that exactly in my mind back then, but I believed I was given the responsibility for a reason and purpose.
I could never have imagined back then how things would turn out now. Being able to say that I played a major part in building the Chillibreeze Production team will always be one of the proudest moments of my life.
Who influenced you the most in Chillibreeze?
I am going to be very candid. I believe Joanna made a much bigger influence on me. During my initial years, she was the one that I would go to for advice, ideas, and suggestions. She always challenged me to be better at what I do. She taught me little tips and tricks. From writing emails to doing QC to making it easier for customers. I believe my fanatical attitude towards always making it easy for customers coming from those early lessons from Joanna.
James (back row - second from left), Joanna (first row - third from left), and team (2009)
In all honesty, I don’t really recall much learning from Ralph initially… I guess that was because most of it was over my head.
I think it was around the time we did in-house training sessions with Jack Welch courses that I started to also have more regular meetings and conversations with Ralph. And I think things really started to click in our understanding of one another when the realization of why customers kept coming back to us hit me. It was a Eureka moment when it hit me that customers kept coming back because of our reliability, the quality we provided, and the availability to be there for the customers when they needed us the most.
James and Ralph (Chillibreeze 10 Years Celebration)
As we continue with our interview with James, click here to learn about the most exciting things that happened to James in Chillibreeze.