From working for a startup to working with them: my first month at MEST!

Lundie Strom, Friday January 25th 2019

When I got an offer to work for a Pan-African digital media start up straight out of university two years ago, I jumped at the opportunity. Shortly after graduation I packed my bags, moved to the continent, and began working for She Leads Africa - a small, female-run company that aimed to help millennial African women achieve their professional goals.

Start-up culture gave me the opportunity to try out multiple roles and departments within the company; I jumped from Program Manager, to Marketing Manager, and eventually landed as Head of Operations. Working for, with and around intelligent, ambitious African women (and men!) only furthered my passion for social entrepreneurship, impact investment and professional development on the continent. Fast forward to the end of 2018, and I was ready for my next challenge.

I was drawn to MEST as soon as I heard about its founder and Meltwater CEO Jorn Lyseggen's driving principle: "Talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not." A company that not only aims to bring Africa’s brightest minds the resources to start global companies, but has successfully trained over 400 entrepreneurs and invested in over 50 early stage startups in ten years? I wanted in. The application process was extensive; I spent several weeks completing role-specific tasks and interviewing with multiple directors (funny story - my house was robbed while I took my first phone interview from my bedroom, and I finished the call without flinching… Impressive or insane? You be the judge).

A few more (less stressful) phone interviews, in-person meetings and negotiations later, I started 2019 off as the new Community Manager of MEST Cape Town. I was warmly welcomed by our Regional Director Victoria and Operations Associate Nafi, and then got to work.

MEST Community Managers (there are four of us across the continent!) wear many hats; we are in charge of planning events and programs, coordinating local marketing strategies and content, maintaining partnerships, composing internal and external communications, and overseeing the day-to-day operations of each Incubator. The CMs in Cape Town, Accra, Lagos and Nairobi also contribute to the greater Pan-African mission of MEST, and help with regional recruitment for our annual entrepreneurial training program.

In addition to the educational programs and networking events that it puts on, I think one of MEST Cape Town’s biggest assets is the space itself. It's open, bright, inviting, friendly and focused all at the same time. It provides an environment for hard work, productivity and collaboration, and people genuinely seem to like spending time here (unless it's Friday afternoon, but that's Cape Town for you). I’m really looking forward to getting to know all of the incredible people and companies that share desks here, and I'm equally as excited to spend time at some of the other MEST Incubators this year in Accra, Lagos, Nairobi and Abidjan.

I’m truly impressed by the work that MEST does, and am excited to be part of an organisation that makes a tangible impact and contributes to sustainable development across the continent. It has only been three weeks, and I can already tell my time at MEST will be equal parts challenging and rewarding. I look forward to growing in my new role in Cape Town, exploring the West and East African tech spaces further, meeting incredible people with world-changing aspirations, and learning from MEST directors and Entrepreneurs-In-Training alike.

See you around!