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Setting up Roots Back in Ethiopia

By Tamiru Belayneh | Tue Dec 03 2019
I have three major milestones in my life that help tell my story: (1) growing up in Ethiopia; (2) moving to the U.S.; and (3) moving back to Ethiopia.
1. Growing up in Ethiopia
Being raised in a family of 10 by parents who were teachers, I was privileged to have a safe, nurturing childhood and lots of opportunities to learn from my elders. While reflecting back on my childhood memories, the good thing about growing up in a big family is we have been like a community in our small world – lots of fun, engaging moments, too many rules and at times chaotic, which all led to great family bonding.
Now that I am a father of two (a 10 year old boy and a 3 year old daughter), I can witness all the excitement as well as the never-ending responsibilities of parenting. I always look back and appreciate the commitment and wisdom my parents had raising a big family with very limited resources.
With the amazing support of family and friends, I was able to successfully navigate through life, both in academics and in my career with no major setback or challenges: earning a BA degree in accounting in 2001 and a BSC degree in information systems in 2005, receiving multiple promotions during my 8 year financial services career working with more than 5 supervisors/mentors, and advancing to a leadership post having a direct report of close to 25 employees.
Above all, winning the heart of my love (my wife), I declared myself the lucky one – life is beautiful. It is at this point that I decided to go international, and I chose the U.S. as my next adventure to pursue my MBA and the “American dream”.
2. Moving to the U.S.
Once I secured my student visa to the U.S., I was carried away by this dream of how my life would be transformed in a few years with lots of learning and exposure. I even made plans in advance as to what I would do for family and others five years down the road. My flight to the U.S. was my first international travel and also the first time I boarded a plane. That 17-hour flight by Ethiopian Airlines felt like a year as I was eager to hit the ground in the U.S.
Transitioning to the U.S. and leaving my family behind was a different reality, followed by enjoying all the blessings of the U.S. (the “Land of Opportunity”). What a mixed emotion! I have to admit that the 2008 global financial crisis gave me a big blow, and, for the first time in my life, I faced what it feels like to be unemployed, lonely, confused, full of uncertainty, and challenged to start a career and life the American way.
After several attempts to secure a job – multiple calls, follow-ups, few interviews, and rejections – I was offered my first job opportunity (a temp assignment). After that first hire, I continued to have nonstop and progressive responsibility in four companies, including a Fortune 500 company.
Unlike my professional experience in Ethiopia, all of my supervisors while working in the U.S. were females from different nationalities including the U.S, U.K., Iran, and Russia – their devotion, commitment, and judgment were amazing and that really changed my perspective on the leadership capacity of women. I have a special regard and respect for my last boss in the U.S. who truly dedicated lots of time and energy in mentoring me and put tremendous confidence and trust in me to lead and push on various initiatives.
My American dream halted unexpectedly when my employment contract was terminated. By then, I decided to move back to Ethiopia right away instead of looking for other opportunities.
My experience working with more than 2,000 offshore employees based in India, Sri Lanka, and others led me to the idea of exploring the possibility of creating an outsourcing hub in Ethiopia as my next driver going back home.
3. Moving back to Ethiopia
Reconnecting and settling back home is not as easy as you may anticipate. With the full support and comfort of our families, we have managed to ensure a smooth transition for the family by navigating through some challenges patiently. The focus, persistence and hard work of my wife (Dr. Selam Tilahun), who is also my silent healer and therapist, was critical. I took the longest break of my life to refill my energy. I got time to enjoy my family, appreciate the little things, revisit my battle rhythm to success, and reflect on my ambition and journey.
After that, I got fired up and started pushing forward on my big project of establishing an outsourcing hub that would provide accounting and business process outsourcing which would serve local and international businesses. The attempt didn’t succeed at the time due to conflicting scope, priority and other reasons.
After the above failed entrepreneurial efforts, I decided to rejoin my first bank and accepted a role in product development and innovation. After more than one year of service, I needed to dive deeper on accounting/finance and business processes to stay on track toward my goal and started to look for other opportunities.
It is at this time that I learned about an employment opportunity at RENEW. The idea of impact, various projects, multiple portfolio companies, a focus on accounting and finance, a grand vision, and American entrepreneurs made me seriously interested in the role.
Here I am counting more than 8 months of an engaged, focused and transparent work environment at RENEW. On a regular basis, I interact directly with portfolio companies, specifically their finance team, to ensure timely and accurate financial reporting. Almost half of our portfolio companies’ finance teams are led by women. Enabling and empowering them in their finance and leadership journey is an exciting part of my job.
I am inspired by Matthew Davis, CEO of RENEW, by his perspectives, grand vision for the company and attending The Exec’s Program focusing on the habits, discipline, and practices of successful corporate athletes. I am committed to continuously improving myself and to add to RENEW’s initiatives of establishing the “Berkshire Hathaway” of Africa.
That is ME and my 40 years’ life journey in brief! The adventure continues in an impactful way. With everything going on, I choose to be excited and optimistic about the future again!
Renew Capital is an Africa-focused impact investment firm that backs innovative companies with high-growth potential. Renew Capital manages investments made on behalf of the Renew Capital Angels, a global network of angel investors, foundations and family offices who seek financial returns and sustainable social impact. For the latest on investing in Africa, subscribe and follow us at our social links below.

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