Anywhere you go in Lagos today, there’s an almost certain chance you’d see a green helmet-clad ‘OPay’ motorcyclist. Behind this seeming motorcycle-hailing invasion is Iniabasi Akpan, the Country Manager of OPay. With over 28 years of experience, Akpan is no newbie to Nigeria’s tech space.
On this week’s How I work, he gives us a sneak peek into his daily work routines and how he stays productive.
Current role: Country Manager, OPay Nigeria
Location: Lagos Nigeria
Current computer: MacBook Air
Current mobile device: iPhone 6S
Describe how you work in one word: Results
Tell us briefly how you started out and how you got where you are today
I began my career as a programmer/analyst in the banking industry in 1991, first working for a merchant bank for about two years and then for a mortgage bank for another two years as Head of the Electronic Banking Department.
In the early ’90s, the Information Technology industry in Nigeria began to show signs of growth and there was more adoption of technology by businesses, so to advance my technology career, in 1995, I moved fully to the IT industry.
I started working for iTECO Nigeria Limited a new IT startup established by Telnet Nigeria Limited as a programmer/analyst; within a few years and I rose to become the General Manager of the Systems and Applications Services Group by 1998.
In the year 2000, the software business became an independent business when global trends showed that the future of IT depended largely on software innovation and services.
I was then appointed as the managing director of SoftWorks Limited, a subsidiary of the Telnet Group which lasted for about 18 years. During my time in SoftWorks, I anchored the sale and management of several multimillion-dollar transformational projects including the first public key infrastructure and two-factor authentication project in Nigeria which was a security project for the CBN.
I also anchored the supply, installation and support of thousands of Automated Teller Machines for Banks, and the design, implementation and support of the Online Tax Registration and Collections Portal for the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). And I worked on the supply and implementation of the Nationwide Unique Tax Identification Number (UTIN) system for the Joint Tax Board (JTB) and the Integrated Tax Administration System (ITAS) for the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
In 2010, I spearheaded the establishment and incubation of PayCom Nigeria Limited which obtained a Mobile Money License from CBN in 2011 and provided oversight for it for seven years within the Telnet Group until Opera Software, through an investment vehicle OPay Digital Services Limited in 2017, invested in PayCom now popularly known as OPay. After this, I then retired from Telnet after 23 years of service to join OPay as Country Manager for Nigeria.
Walk us through a typical workday
I normally start my workday most times at 4:30 a.m. and sometimes an hour or two later when I am really tired. I regularly spend the first 20-30 minutes having my morning devotion. This is so crucial for me because I believe very strongly there is a spiritual dimension to life and everything. I also strongly believe that I cannot achieve much without God’s grace and help every day.
I then take a look at my phone to try to catch up on text, emails and WhatsApp messages delivered at night while I was asleep. I respond to the messages that are urgent and get prepared for the office.
I am usually at my desk between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Once at my desk I make a note of the things I need to cover for the day on my laptop. That helps me to order my day.
When this is done, I normally spend about 15-20 minutes reviewing the sales team reports and key performance indicators for the business from the previous day to ensure we are on track to achieve our weekly and monthly targets or identify problems which require remedial action.
The rest of the day is spent in scheduled or ad-hoc meetings discussing challenges, new opportunities, the status of new products and features, responding to emails and customer issues and other administrative tasks on my to-do-lists. I am social media-shy but in between, I check what is trending on social media so I can be up-to-date.
I usually leave work most times between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to avoid getting home too late due to the crazy traffic and also make sure I can spend some time with my wife and kids relaxing and reviewing the day. In between family time, I also do some work and respond to things that are business-critical and require my urgent attention.
Most times I try to be in bed by 10:30 p.m. to get enough sleep to start the next day.
What apps, gadgets, or tools can’t you do without?
Apps: Gmail, WhatsApp, Twitter, All my mobile banking apps.
Gadgets: My Mobile Phone
Tools: Laptop, Business Dashboard
What’s your favourite shortcut or hack?
We live in a fast-paced world and things are rapidly changing so there are many things that I don’t know and need to learn every day. Whenever I encounter things I don’t know I just Google them and read about them not necessarily to be an expert but to know enough about them.
Also when there are much tension and pressure related to work or life, I quickly get my mind off it and I find something else to do like play music and even go to bed to sleep. It always works to ease things. I suspect that is one of the reasons I don’t have a BP problem.
What task(s) do you dislike but still do?
The right people and good teamwork are critical to success. I am quite emotional about people, so firing or letting co-workers or team members go is a task I hate very much but have to do from time to time for good reasons.
How do you keep track of what you have to do?
I prepare a to-do-list on my laptop with priorities every day and tick off when things are completed.
How do you recharge or take a break?
I try to exercise two to three times a week, lounge at home and sleep as much as I can with no thought about work. It is always refreshing.
Besides work, what do you spend time doing? What do you enjoy?
I enjoy spending time with my wife and kids talking, eating and just having fun in general. I am addicted to watching Investigation Discovery channel and any interesting movie when I find one on cable TV. I also enjoy getting involved with work in the church that benefits others.
What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to? What do you recommend?
I read mostly leadership, management and Christian books that build me up and inspire me. Books from John Maxwell are on the top of my list.
Currently, I am reading a book written by Charles Spurgeon, an old-time Author that I admire so much, titled The Anointed Life.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I ever received was from one of my bosses, Ejovi Aror, in 1995 — “Never measure people by effort, always measure people by results.” In other words, effort without the expected result is not worth anything. So I learned to focus on the results because that is what matters most in life.
What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?
Lifting people out of poverty.
Many people die because they are poor and do not have access to opportunities and financial services that can help them to live a better quality of life. That is the big idea behind OPay and I am hopeful that we are able to empower the poor with financial technology-enabled solutions to make the needed difference in the lives of such people in Nigeria and across Africa.
Who would you like to see answer these questions?
Any other business leader in the fintech industry.