“Not a word passes between us, not because we have nothing to say, but because we don’t have to say anything – that is how, it is between people who are each other’s first memories”
― Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner
It’s like it was just yesterday.
“Ahlan”, the guys would say to each other every morning, gathering around one another, shaking hands, joking around, making fun and laughing. They would switch between Arabic and French. It was a strange brotherhood between all of them; a kinship that I wouldn’t dare interrupt- just admire from a distance.
It’s UAE. Dubai. March. 2012. I entered the office and felt a blow of energy. A row of tables extended beyond what my eyes could see. Young, twenty-something-year-old people, sitting quietly on their desks, working away. Then, a young mid-twenty year old guy wearing a blue shirt headed directly at me, shook hands and asked ‘Is this your first day?’ (Youssef ). ‘Ha, yes’ I replied. He courteously requested me to take a seat. As I settled into a chair waiting to meet the Managing Director, my wandering eyes settled on a gentleman: White shirt, grey pants, glasses. He had a laptop screen in front of him, but his focus was nowhere near that screen (Anthony). I looked around further, I saw a group of people sitting on a desk. One of the girls looked at me and smiled as she stepped away from her desk. I smiled right back (My team of content writers, that I ended up managing).
It was all very casual. It felt nice. Back then, Mizado was called Lazada. Upon meeting the Managing Director (Mahmoud), I asked, “People don’t really dress up formally here, eh?”. “We don’t really care about how people look” he replied. Shortly after, I had, what we like to refer to as the ‘First Meeting’ when Youssef gave an official introduction to Anthony and myself about what Mizado.com was all about. He explained that in a start-up venture like this, you’re going to ‘run before you walk’.
After a couple hours, I had lunch with my first-friend-in-Dubai,: Anthony. ‘Sehtan’ was the first word he unsolicitedly taught me: equivalent to Bon Apetit. ‘Sehtan’ I said to him, as I struggled to swallow my food, butterflies in my stomach (I was so eager to witness the future materialize itself). Then shortly after, I met Alya, the girl who finally explained to me ‘what my job is’. After a series of introductions and meetings, my manager said that I looked tired and that I should go home, ‘but from tomorrow onwards, bring on 110%”. I was still jetlagged from my thousand-hour flight from Canada. I immortalized that day in my head, packed my stuff up and went home. Youssef’s phrase always stuck with me, however. “You run before you walk”- he was so right.
What I described to you, ladies and gentleman, was my first day at work in Mizado.com–a start-up venture of Rocket Internet, and an Amazon Clone that once existed in the UAE. When it existed, it existed with grace. Here are some peeks into history (mostly, inside jokes):
- An intern proudly saying to another intern “Mizado is run by us- the Interns. We run Mizado”. I thought it was so admirable that interns took so much ownership and pride in what they accomplished.
- How some of us were almost homeless in the first 2-3 weeks because a lot of us relocated from a different country.
- When Anthony and Youssef fiercely managed the 30-something interns and had their end-of-the-day meetings to reward the intern-of-the-day. It was like aggressive bursts of management at 9:00am and then again at 5:00pm. They surely held a whip and they held it loudly and proudly.
- When Nadim uttered the word ‘Laptops’ and when Anirudh said “Home Appliances”. They were so obsessed with their categories.
- Hearing a sudden uproar when the internet was down and the sudden silence that followed when it was back up.
- When Moutassem would visibly and justifiably lose his temper over the phone. At the end, he always concluded that ‘its better in Germany’.
- When Alaa and Moutassem invited people for lunch to their secret ‘Mandi” spot.
- Every time Khaled called someone ‘Hayati”.
- When Alaa & Anthony talked politics. Syria, Lebanon etc.
- Emad’s immovable spot and his big chair
- When Virat sent out the ‘newest version’ of the PowerPivot Table. “Dude, I have this amazing report to show you”- he would say to everyone after the tiniest revisions in his fabulous PowerPivot Reports.
- The horror induced when graphic designers saw Amena approaching their table, with a bright morning smile and ofcourse, a hidden agenda.
- When Alaa took ‘Asana’- the task manager, a bit too seriously and actually finished tasks asked to him even when the tasks were a joke!
- When everyone thought that M’zo was Hany (although it was originally designed by Karim, before Hany even joined Mizado).
- Appetite. Caffé di Casa. More. The disappearing Vending Machine. The endless sea of green cups.
- Uzma, and everything about her.
- The loud and proud Content Team and how much they ‘loved’ content-upload.
- Soccer. Euro 2012. Watching the games together.
- Foosball. The Mizado tournament.
- The scattered bunch of interns that joined us over the summer, during Ramadan. Iftar in Atlantis.
- Big Hearts. Brave Minds-Faraz’s All Mizado Meetings.
- Mizado breakfasts: when we realized how big Mizado actually was
- Random applauses to celebrate the smallest of things.
- etc. etc.
The past five months showcased brilliance where spirits were high and dreams unlimited. So much to reminisce. Procurement Team. HR. Design Team. Operations. Marketing. Content. Customer Service. IT. We saw people come and we saw some go. We hired people and we saw new competitors emerge. We sparked ideas and implemented them. We made things happen. We created something that we proudly called Mizado.com.
Moreover, for me, it was more of an introduction to working in a Middle Eastern environment–an environment that demands you to be a lot more aggressive, knowing at every step, what exactly it is that you want. It was a lot of very young people, in a very fluid environment. This was different. This was Rocket Internet. Some called ourselves a fish market, others, a school library. Most of us just remember it as being a ‘fun place to work in’–because truly, it was ours- we rocked it. So- here we have it, a perfectly encapsulated morsel of a good experience. Its’ radiance best enjoyed, beauty-untouched. Let’s swallow it, and move on.
…But let me say it one more time, “Mizado. It was so much fun!”