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  • Writer's pictureKallie Ejigu


By Kallie Ejigu

Inevitably, when working with your family, there are going to be cringe worthy moments of either complete embarrassment or disaster. Before embarking on joining my father, I wasn’t sure what to anticipate as far as our work relationship was concerned. Would he be a totalitarian and dictate to me how he wanted things? Are we going to fight over every important decision? Will we think in a like-minded way and maintain professionalism? How would our work and home life balance be?

“Would he be a totalitarian and dictate to me how he wanted things? Are we going to fight over every important decision?”

Around 2011 my father started to explore a talent of his own, that he had dreamed of exploring easily almost two decades prior. He has been a practicing respiratory therapist for about as long as I’ve been alive; and always working for someone else. He loved it, though, because he enjoyed helping and treating people. But he hated working for others. So he decided to finally pursue building his own durable medical equipment company; one where he’d continue to practice care but also be his own boss. By 2013 he was fully operational, but business grew at a glacial speed. So he continued to work full-time as an RT at a local hospital, while simultaneously trying to build his business.

By this time I had moved back home from a stint at NBC in New York City, and faced an inquiry of what I was doing with my talents. My father needed help, and I had the capacity to do it. I had worked doing sleep studies back in undergrad and grad school; so I had the clinical understanding of respiratory care. At the start, my father was laying off his only employee. After I joined, and at our height, we moved into a significantly larger office managing a staff of 10-15.

Suffice to say, working with my father has probably been the easiest part of this experience. We discuss and analyze options and directions logically and try to maintain compassion for our customers and patients without getting personal or taking anything to heart. This doesn’t mean awkward interactions and mild arguments don’t occur. Sometimes we take work home and to the dinner table. There have been times I haven’t spoken to him and vice versa at home, but upon entering the office doors, we resume communication. But really, he’s probably the easiest person I’ve ever worked with.

Honestly, the best anecdotes are the funny or embarrassing ones. The very first incident being the story behind this post title, which is a series where I’ll share embarrassing, cringeworthy, and/or funny moments I’ve experienced working with my father.

For around the first two years of my joining the business, it was only my father and myself. We did everything. From my scrubbing the toilet to interviewing hires, to him visiting his patients to going to business meetings; it was just us two keeping the ship afloat. As such, the environment was more familial than professional. I got used to yelling across the office, “Hey Baba, did you get a chance to…” or, “Baba, I thought we were going to…” In turn he’d respond or call for me by my full name: Kalkidan. It was, after all, just us.

As business grew we made our first hire. This person has come to be an important part of our team, but at the time was simply an employee who was neither kin or kinfolk. Simply put: she’s a white woman. Okay? So, she joins our team and we begin to build our workflow and rhythm for our day-to-day. Well, one morning she knocks on the door to come in for the day and my father opens it. All of a sudden I hear her say:

“Good morning Baba! Thanks for opening the door.”

“Simply put: she’s a white woman.”

There is a lot of intimacy in language and this was a lesson we both had to learn for the sake of professionalism. Not that my full name is unprofessional, or that my father should not be called endearingly, but that the way you communicate with one at home is not for your professional world to be invited to. “If you can’t pronounce Asmamaw, you can say Asme. If Kalkidan is too difficult, call me Kallie.” These are conventions we both have adopted as tools of assimilation that have served us well.

But, family is not business. Carefully crafted faces for an outside world are removed when you return home. Well hidden accents can announce themselves. Vibrant spices and aromas can cloak the skin and clothes, shamelessly. Traditions from back home are safe from judgment.

“These are conventions we both have adopted as tools of assimilation that have served us well.”

And language. Language can express itself without truncation, pregnant with meaning never requiring the labor of explanation.

“Carefully crafted faces for an outside world are removed when you return home.”

Lesson learned: I no longer call my father Baba in the office, but by his first name. At the office it’s business. So please, don’t call my father Baba, because he ain’t your daddy.

Kallie Ejigu is a small business owner (and occasional writer) based in Baltimore, Maryland. She typically spends her free time reading history and sci-fi; engaging in creative writing; and developing new skills that seldom turn into sustained hobbies. She is also an editorial assistant for DIASPORA.

Twitter @kallieejigu

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27 jul 2023
Obtuvo 5 de 5 estrellas.

I can't wait to read part 2. It is educational. Keep up the great work


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27 jul 2023
Obtuvo 5 de 5 estrellas.

This is Wonderful Kalu! Looking forward to reading more.

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