Hi there! My name is Chisom Udeze and in my social spaces in Norway, many people know me as the Founder of Diversify. In my professional space, I am an Economist and the Founder of Mettle Consult, and also work as the COO of an impact-driven Modular Ship Logistics company – which basically keeps me very busy. Lately, I feel like my head is barely above water with the number of deliverables I have, whilst navigating my first pregnancy. Luckily, I have a great team who pull their weight to ensure that we continue to deliver to our clients.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have received questions from people on how I balance both my professional life with Mettle Consult, my organization/passion project, Diversify (which is taking on a life of its own and starting to feel like my second full-time job), and my personal and social lives. Sometimes, I honestly do not know! Having received many of these questions, and being encouraged to move past my inherent discomfort to write about myself online (still a work in progress, by the way!), I figured it could be a good idea to make a diary of my life and work schedule for 2 weeks. I have also asked other women I know to see if they’d be interested in profiling a week or two of their lives as it could be an interesting read for those wondering what it takes to start and run a company or organization.
So, here I go! I begin my diary on Sunday, September 8. I plan to keep notes until Sunday, September 20.
Sunday September 8, 2019:
Today is the official first Diversify Lunch, hosted in collaboration with Chef Ampy Basa of Casa Basa. I couldn’t have imagined a better chef to cater this event! Ampy Basa is a Chef and Founder of Casa Basa – her dishes are delicious and of high quality. To read more about Ampy and Casa Basa, click here.
Given the goal of the Diversify Lunch, I wanted to ensure that we had a diverse pool of women, not only those known to me or the Diversify team. I reach out to a few women I know and ask them to (in turn) invite one additional woman each. I ask Ampy to do the same. By the Lunch date, we have at least 20 diverse women, who in their own rights are powerhouses. Some of these women, I knew from a distance and others, I met for the first time that day. After everyone had arrived, we sit around in Ampy’s gorgeous living space and discuss questions picked out of a hat over drinks. Some of the questions we discuss are:
“Is the glass half-empty or half-full? Is hard work, mindset and motivation all that is needed to succeed in Norway (or any country for that matter)? What does unconscious bias mean to you? Have you identified any type of unconscious bias in yourself? Do you feel that your unique attributes, traits, characteristics, skills, experience and background are valued at work or society? – Why or why not?“
We have delicious starters and continue on with the discussion. Soon, it is time for lunch, and thereafter desserts. We discuss some more. Soon, it’s time to go home. My husband picks me up.
This was a successful first event. It was such a pleasure to work with Ampy, and I am looking forward to the next events we collaborate on.
Monday, September 9, 2019:
I am flying out to Boston tomorrow for work. I’ll be in the US from the 10thto the 13thof September. We (my colleague and I) have a pretty big presentation scheduled for Thursday, September 12. So, I am working on the presentation and drowning in the data. And because last minute is life, I also start packing in the evening, but I am not too worried. I am only in the US for a few days, so I do not need much. I am also hoping to do some shopping if I can find some time on Friday, September 13thbefore we catch our flight back to Oslo. This evening, we get a text message from the company that they would like us to come to their offices straight from the airport!
Tuesday, September 10, 2019:
I wake up, shower, get dressed and head to the airport to catch my flight. I arrive in more than enough time, so I go to the SAS lounge to grab a snack/drink and continue to do some work, whilst I wait for my colleague who is flying in to arrive at Oslo airport. He arrives and we both head towards our departure gate. We board our flight to Copenhagen. Quick flight! We have less than 30 minutes to go through immigration and catch our connecting flight to America. Easy peasy! Barely any lines at the immigration, we make our flight. The SAS flight was nice and comfortable. I kept hydrated throughout the flight, whilst working on the presentation and some additional analysis. I am trying my best not to fall asleep on the flight, so as to offset the jetlag.
The flight is about 8.5 hours. Around hour 6.5, I give in, I need a nap as I am quite pregnant, my hormones won’t allow me stay up any longer. I take a nap for about an hour. I am awoken for pre-landing meal. I feel semi-refreshed. We land and go through immigration. It’s good to be back in the US. It is the familiar. We hail a cab and head straight to the offices per instructions. When we get there, we meet many of the partners and stakeholders. Turns out we need to do a mini-presentation for one of the key stakeholders who will not be available in the coming days. We give a presentation and then answer questions on the products, technical capacity and delivery. After 3 – 4 hours at the office, we have additional data to find to provide more clarity. We are asked to come back for an early start at 8am the following day.
Time to go check in to our hotel rooms. We hail a cab, get to our hotel and check in. My colleague and I ask at the reception where we can get some food. We are directed to a place called BeeHive on South End. We get there, have dinner and walk back to our hotel. I bid my colleague good night and head to my room. I call my husband, who is luckily awake but getting ready to go to bed (it’s almost 2am in Norway!). I catch him up on my trip so far, say good night, brush my teeth and pass out. I wake up at about 2am Boston time, I struggle to stay asleep, but I am exhausted.
Dear diary, I am hilariously tired!
Wednesday, September 11, 2019:
At 7.45am, I meet my colleague at the hotel lobby and we set off via taxi to the office. It is an intense day. All the partners and stakeholders are around. This is their monthly meeting where all stakeholders and partners fly in from different parts of the country. We give presentations after presentations, we talk to people, we answer questions, lunch is catered. We eat, we answer more questions and have more tasks to perform and data to analyze. My brain is exploding.
One of the smartest humans I know, and my dear friend, Kene, lives in Cambridge, Boston, where he studies, at Harvard Law School. I had called him the day before to see if he’d have some time to come say hello. He comes by our client offices and picks me and my colleague up. He drives us back to our hotel. Whilst he waits downstairs, my colleague and I hurry to our respective rooms to change and get ready for dinner. We head to BeeHive yet again.
Thursday, September 12, 2019:
D-Day! We arrive at the offices at 8.30am. We give presentations to 3 different partners, collect feedback and take notes of additional indicators to consider and analyze. All in all, we were successful! My colleague and I are proud. We head off home a bit earlier today, at about 4pm. To ‘somewhat’ celebrate our success, we head out to eat dinner at a new place. We find a place next door to BeeHive called Mayans. Celebrating when 7 months pregnant means asking the waiters for creative mocktails. I order a Korean dish. After dinner, we stop by the bar at the lobby of our hotel. My colleague has a small drink, whilst we take stock of the trip and reiterate all we need to do when we return to Norway. We have a deadline to deliver some data driven information by September 19, and two remote presentation/video conference coming up on September 23 and 24.
I edit and schedule some posts for Diversify.
Friday, September 13, 2019:
Check out day. Check out is at 11am. My colleague and I agreed to get breakfast at a nearby diner at 8.30. I feel very hungry. So, I order a serving of blueberry pancakes and an omelet. Thereafter, we go back to our rooms and finish packing. By 11am, my colleague and I are at the lobby and by 11.30, we are checked out. Our flight leaves at 5.30pm. So Kene comes by at about 1pm, picks us up and takes us to Cambridge to see the city and perhaps do some shopping. Like every responsible pregnant woman, I rationalize that I must shop for my incoming baby. I find shopping in the US much easier than shopping in Norway or Europe in general. I look for a familiar store – I find TJ Maxx, yes! At this point, it’s about 2pm. I’ve got an hour to shop and then, we must head to the airport at 3pm (normally no more than 20 minutes’ drive away). I stress shop and buy everything cute I see: dresses, blankets, comforters, handling cloth (what the heck is a handling cloth? Looks cute so I buy it anyways!), swaddles, etc. My shopping cart is packed full and then some. I’m terrified of how much it will cost. It’s 3pm. My colleague and friend come looking for me, they laugh at how much stuff I have. I threaten them, so they back off :). It’s my turn to checkout – I spend a lot of money – I think to myself, “It’s okay. It’s for baby.”
I do not have time to pack, so I take off all the hangers in the car, whilst Kene drives us to the airport. As fate would have it, there is traffic, so a 20 minutes (max) trip takes about 40 minutes. We make it to the airport; I have to pack all I bought into my suitcase. I look for my keys to unlock my suitcase and I cannot find it. I search multiple times, no luck! Kene looks around for something heavy to break my lock with. I’m trying to keep my cool. I take a breath and figure I try one more time. I turn my purse inside out, the keys fall out. I roll up my clothes (military style), say my goodbyes to Kene and head to baggage check. Because we have priority check in, we do not wait in line, hurray! We also go quickly through security control and make it to our gates.
I am looking forward to the flight. I am so exhausted and jetlagged. I plan to sleep through most of the flight. Upon take off, I exchange a few texts with my husband, eat, attempted to watch a movie but failed and thereafter, I slept.
Saturday, September 14, 2019:
Our flight arrives in Copenhagen. My colleague and I say our goodbyes as I head off to catch my flight to Oslo and he, elsewhere. I board my flight to Oslo and immediately fall asleep. We arrive in Oslo; I stop by duty free and buy my husband a single malt whiskey (it’s my “thank you for being my champ” gift to him). I grab my bags from baggage claim and board the airport train. My husband meets me at the train station. We get home. I attempt to sit on couch for a few minutes, I pass out and wake up 4 hours later. My husband made some lunch, I can’t remember what he made. I eat and fall back asleep.
Sunday, September 15, 2019:
I spend time on the couch with my husband binge watching a show on Netflix. I fall in and out of sleep for most of the day with him by my side (paradise :-))! Dear diary, I am jetlagged!
Monday, September 16, 2019:
Early morning flight to catch to Bergen. I’ll be spending the day with Leila Rossow and Papillon Bergen. Papillon Bergen is an impact driven organization founded by Leila to bridge the gap between newly arrived immigrant women and their new Norwegian society. To read more about my session with Papillon Bergen, click here.
Tuesday, September 17, 2019:
We catch a 6.40am flight back to Oslo. We almost miss our flight, we run to the gate. Simple things are getting harder to do. My pelvis is failing me. I am not as strong as I used to be. We arrive in Oslo. I fall asleep on the couch for about an hour. I am awoken by my husband with a presentation of Eggs Benedict. I eat quickly. I have a surgery schedule for 10am at Ahus. We go in for surgery. After about an hour and a half, I am finished and head back home. The anesthetic begins to wear off, I apply local anesthetic. I sleep through the pain, basically, most of the day.
Dear diary, I am in pain!
Wednesday, September 18, 2019:
I slept through the first half of today. I need to recuperate from surgery. But I also have a presentation via video conference tomorrow and these are important clients/stakeholders. I work through the second half of the day, collecting and analyzing data on CO2 emissions and transport routes! I work until 3am in the morning. I am feeling pretty tired, unrested and riddled with migraines for the past three days now. Heaven help me!
Thursday, September 19, 2019:
The first half of the presentation went well. The second half was quite underwhelming. My team and I are disappointed in our performance. We received questions we have answers to, but somehow, we froze and thereafter, everything went downhill. Today is not a good day. Over 10 partners signed on to the call from different parts of the world, and we did a poor job! I spend the remainder of the day/night beating myself up – “If we weren’t ready, we should have postponed. Why couldn’t I answer those questions? I am so embarrassed. This has never happened to me before. This cannot happen again!”
Friday, September 20, 2019:
Team meeting! What the heck happened yesterday? We spend the day going over the week – in truth, it has been exhausting and I was operating at 20% of my normal capacity, but still. Well, life happens – we take notes on lessons learned from this and put mitigative strategies in place to ensure that there is no repeat event. We have more presentations and deliverables next week.
At 2.30pm, I head to Oslo airport. My oldest sister is visiting from the UK with my two nieces (6-year-old and 20-month-old). It’d be good to have them around for a distraction. I pick them up from Gardermoen, it’s great to see them again. They will keep me busy for the rest of the weekend.
I genuinely look forward to not having to work or look at my computer.
This last two weeks have been hectic (actually the last couple of months), but I didn’t plan for it to be that way. I generally try to keep a sustainable schedule that doesn’t wear me out, but lately, it has been hard to do. This year, whilst my professional life and opportunities have skyrocketed (for which I am extremely grateful), it has also come with frequent travels, late nights working, and general stress on my pregnant body.
I still find enormous joy in Diversify and the work I do around it. It has, however, grown beyond one person (me) so I must form a team to take it to the heights I know is possible.
Sometimes, things do not go according to plan as with my presentation on September 19. While I have never had such a bad presentation experience in my entire life (I mean, I was a university lecturer for God’s sake! I gave presentations for a living), I also know that life happens. I was burned out and barely functioning on little sleep and reeling from surgery pains. What I should have done was to ask to postpone for a few days. I am neither indispensable nor a robot! I need to practice better self-care. Not self-care when I burn out, but before I burn out. (PS: We got a rare and much appreciated second chance for a do-over of this presentation. Needless to say, we knocked it right out of the park :))!
Being a professional, an entrepreneur and a work horse is never an easy thing to do. But I do enjoy the life and job(s) that I have and the ability to a large degree, control my schedule (there are a few weekdays when I riot/rebel and do nothing but watch Netflix all day!). Nonetheless, there’s only so much we can control as sometimes, life comes at us fast! Whilst I have been in the professional world for over 10 years, I am still learning to balance life and work. This year has been a significant eye opener in my life, and although I’m still navigating and negotiating work and life, I am thankful for good health, a pretty phenomenal and supportive husband, “ride or die” family members and great friends.
When I look back to how my year started (with a brain trauma from a fall), and where I am today (with multiple meaningful projects via Mettle Consult; and a fulfilling, eye opening and evolving experience via Diversify), I am grateful for the opportunities to liaise with many great minds and the ability to meet with so many inspiring and supportive people, especially women. I am thankful for my work team and clients, and my growing Diversify team (Iva, Jenny, Madara and Betty – you ladies keep me sane :))!
I am not sure what the next chapter of my life brings. I know I’ll have a small baby to love madly, and care for. I also plan to continue to work professionally, as well as on Diversify and other projects in the pipelines. I often wonder whether I’ll be able to joggle my increasing workload and being a hands-on mom. What trade-offs do I have to make? I’ll be lying if I said I am not scared, but I have cultivated a good relationship with fear over the years, and I am confident that I will make it through – with both baby and work intact. I have a good example after all – my mother did it with four children, so I can do it too! I’ll probably make mistakes (I am human :)), but I trust that my husband, family, friends and team of cheerleaders will love me all the same.