Stewart Tepelunde’s amazing career breakthrough

Around 2009, when I was working for Malswitch (now known as Nitel), Stewart Tupelunde was a junior officer in my Technical Services Department.

His job title was something like fingerprint security officer. He was in charge of ensuring that bank customers’ biometric data was properly captured and stored safely and he operated the systems that dealt with this, including production of automated teller machine (ATM) cards for the banks whose ATMs were being managed by Malswitch at the time

One time, I was running short of time to prepare for a major presentation that I was to make at a conference in South Africa. I observed that out of a team of some 40 members in the department, Stewart was the least busy.

His workload was directly dictated by how many new customers had applied for iATM cards. At times he would have a sizeable amount but most times he didn’t. As a result, it was not uncommon to see him leave office at exactly 5pm.

I went to Stewart Tepelunde’s work station and found him surfing the Internet as he did not have much to do. I asked him if he could do me a favour. He was very keen to help. I told him to try and do some research on my presentation topic, which was related to information security and somehow close to what he did.

I gave him a sketch and outline of my presentation. I then gave him three or so samples of slide packs that I had produced before so that he could design his slides to resemble my preferred style.

I gave him something like five days to produce the first version of the draft presentation and I advised him that I would review and send him back and that we would need three to five iterations to have a final grade that would be good enough for me to present at the international conference in South Africa.

Well before the five days, Stewart came to my office with the slides on his memory stick! I loaded the slides onto my laptop and we reviewed them. They were perfect! I changed nothing substantial and we did not have the iterations I had talked about. Stewart thoroughly impressed me. For a young graduate like him, this was far beyond expectation.

If it was the army, I was tempted to give him instant promotion! But I did something close to that. I asked him to help me with another paper on green IT and again he did it with precision.

At the time, Stewart worked in a four-member team under the legendary IT guru Fred Kamwaza. His two peers were two expert and specialist system administrators, one managing the ATM backbone switching system and the other was manning the system that managed the automated clearance of interbank cheques and interbank payments.

In fact, the company was sitting on a ticking bomb because if one or both of them had left Malswitch at the time, it would have been difficult and expensive to find a replacement, possibly from the system vendors abroad.

I thought Stewart’s sharp mind, positive attitude and sheer hard work were compelling attributes to make him understudy both the specialists. I asked him what was the grade of his degree and when he told me I was not surprised because his output was clearly of a smart person.

I told him that going forward, he should understudy both the experts. He accepted and I introduced him to the two system administrators and Kamwaza who would oversee the process.

Fast forward a year later,  the two experts left—one for two-year studies abroad and the other for other career options. Stewart was immediately promoted and took charge of all the systems. Within a short time, one of the banks hired him for a managerial role in IT and he is now an IT manager at one of the two biggest banks in Malawi.

Stewart achieved amazing career breakthrough within a very short period—due to his positive attitude, hard-work and most especially, his eagerness to be given more work and responsibilities.

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