Showing Up ^ Exposure Matters, and Why I Think It Matters More in the Ethiopian Context

Lately, I came to realize that I won’t professionally grow until I show up and take massive action and it is my call for every one of you who come to my personal blog to do the same.  I have learnt that showing up and exposing myself is the 1st key step leading me where I aspire to go. Beyond myself, this is an agenda I want to push to the Ethiopian youth through Showing Up ^ Exposure matters.  

As we grow up, Ethiopian boys and girls are expected to be more reserved. We are encouraged more to listening than to speaking up. Unfortunately, the reserved behavior we grow up with follows us throughout our professional life as well.  As Ethiopians, we opt for leaving our achievements and accomplishments to speak for itself.  Being reserved is not bad by itself had Ethiopians operate within Ethiopia alone, and it may still at times be useful to practice it in an Ethiopian context.  

Related: How I End Up Building a Website: Showing Up ^ Exposure matters

However, the reality is, today’s global workplace where Ethiopia is increasingly becoming a member, disproportionately favors speaking for yourself before either your accomplishments or anybody else does for you.  Those who speak up for themselves well are, in fact, ahead of the ever-dynamic game. The rule is to Show up, speak up and expose yourself to the game. In such dynamics, I don’t see a benefit of staying reserved .

For Ethiopian youth (majority), the problem goes beyond being able to speak up.  Just because we leave experiences and accomplishments to speak for itself, in many instances, we as subjects and owners even do not articulate them enough as they are not in our day today radar of thinking, leading to failure of justifying enough whether we fit for a job, position or entrepreneurial drive whenever opportunity presents itself. That again provides a wrong perception that Ethiopians sound professionally shy and at times incapable or unskilled.

I am not essentially against being reserved so long as we built the skills of listening and the ability to reflect enough as the call comes.

When I was in college, we used to mock outspoken colleagues as talkative and noisy. The moment we left the college, they are surprisingly the ones who ace interviews and most of them are well ahead in their career by now. I am sure there are many acquittances you may easily relate to, and it is the way forward. Reservation no more.

In a very recent article of Shega, I read the Executive Team set up of Safaricom Ethiopia for its operation in Ethiopia, following its telecom licensing approval.  Not surprisingly, only one out of eight of them is an Ethiopian.  I can understand the shareholder and back office interest for Safaricom to assign as diverse team as possible but it was equally notable to anticipate more Ethiopians as the company’s place of operation is in Ethiopia. There are a lot of advantages for this. I really don’t have the answer why it turned out the way it is but I can equally attribute to the misguided perception of the outside world towards Ethiopian professionals.

RelatedComments, Likes and Clicks Carry More Good and Money than Many Ethiopians Think

I once heard an Ethiopian who was born and grew up in Ethiopia and later moved to the United States of America speaking about his professional experiences and how he is balancing it.  While he stays too reserved for an Ethiopian (local) audience, he proudly, openly and courageously talks about his achievements and successes while he is in the United States.  He realized the cultural interpretations in the two countries and readjusted his approach accordingly. He learned that doing it the other way round is detrimental to his professional visibility.

To move to the next level, we need to clearly understand the dynamics and cultural context, and readjusted our approach accordingly. As the dynamic changes, it is important we also adapt to the new realities. We should not be followers all the time. We must start to show up and lead.

In a strange way, most Ethiopians are impressed by a well-organized and articulate ventures.  Yet, encouraging the behavior leading us there does not get an equal level of support and excitement. We are rather too critical of it. The actions we pursue are not mostly supporting the outcome we all want to see and hear.

When shame becomes a management style, engagement dies. When failure is not an option we can forget about learning, creativity, and innovation


For example, mentorship and finding someone for a role play is not that easy, the least. For that reason alone, it apparently takes most of us long to realize the importance of pre, during and post interviews, sales pitches and get together events when compared even to the level of African peers.

I think it is the culture that is holding us back. While it is fundamental to influence the behavior on a country level, we must also be proactive to expose ourselves on an individual level.  While working on upskilling and re-skilling is relevant creating the exposure is, I think, what matters most in our case.  While hard skills are fundamental in the work place, soft skills are far more important and that is where showing up and exposure really matters. There is no way to improve our communication, management and leadership skills unless we show up, expose ourselves and learn from our failures quickly.   

Ironically, Ethiopians have an added burden of the perception in the new market place and we must find a way to balance it at least in our backyard. If it is the culture, it is time to be consciously nurturing the behavior that influences the culture. If it is fear of vulnerability, it is time to accept it and do something about it. Adapting to the new realities and earning a decent leaving shall be a priority rather than complaining about lack of job opportunities or the challenges of the business landscape.

Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience. We must walk into the arena, whatever it may be—a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation—with courage and the willingness to engage. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgment and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen.


I was a kind of back of the seat boy throughout schooling. It persists throughout much of my career until I made a decision that I must show up and speak up for myself.  There was once a time where I attended a leadership training seminar. Prior to the seminar, I told to myself that I must seat in the front seat and actively participate throughout the seminar and I did. Just because I sat in the front desk, the trainer asked questions and obviously it was easier to point his finger directly to me. He asked, I replied. He ones again asked a follow up question, and I responded. He finally opened his hand and threw one hundred dollars as a reward. He did not know that I was in an exercise of exposing myself but the thought process connected everything, probably the miraculous universe encouraging me personally.

Without exaggeration, I am in a much better track in my career after I made a decision to show up and expose myself, and you should too.

In another instant, while I was a demo project lead of high client expectation, I was having a conversation with my manager of how the project was progressing.  As I was presenting to him, he asked?

Tigabu, why don’t you present the project outcome to the client yourself,

I knew we had other senior colleagues preparing materials to present the same content to the same client and after moments pause, I told him that I will be happy to do so as it will help me create the exposure and I asked what about the other colleagues who are dealing with it?

He replied,

I want you to present it, and don’t worry, I will manage the others.

I prepared the material, practiced the delivery, conducted the presentation and it was a complete success. Unexpectedly, there was a lot of resistance from my colleagues on why I should present the outcome until the manager insisted that I was better positioned to do so for so many reasons.

RelatedFor Ethiopian New Graduates & Youth: Defining ICT (Infrastructure) Roles in the Market Place!

After the event, I realized that it was an opportunity for them to show up and expose themselves too as it was an important client, hence the resistance to take it from me. Every time you are disengaged, you should remember that you forgone the chance to show up and expose yourself. No matter how hard you work or try, if you fail to show up and expose yourself, you don’t get the chance to grow. Showing up and creating the exposure is the avenue of growth.  


Jane Marczewski (goes by music name Nightbirde) , Golden Buzzer winner from Simon Cowell for her original Song in – America’s Got Talent 2021 competition, has been told to have only a 2% chance of survival from a cancer. Yet, she showed up and made an incredible impact around the world and proved that she is so much more than the cancer! You have no idea how much influence she brought to the world and off course the level of support pouring to her has been huge since then , and who knows if the exposure is a means for her complete survival. If she can show up and do it with that level of uncertainty, what hold us back then?

For me, exposing ourselves should be part of our priority list beginning in the New Ethiopian Year, 2014. Why? Simply the market dynamics is changing and it will not be slowing down. The ongoing market reform puts the government’s direct influence unlikely anymore and there will not be protection as much as it it used to be. We must prepare to show up and expose ourselves to stand on our feet and compete. We all need to be comfortable in being uncomfortable. Once exposing ourselves, we act with rigor and consistency, and whatever we do, we do it with purpose and dignity. No Less.

They say, the only way to control change is to create it

At Showing up ^ Exposure Matters , I believe, it is fundamental to create the change and its control pushing every avenue that can influence the prevailing behavior hoping it gets easier for the next generation of Ethiopians to show up and expose themselves in their career very early on.  It could be pushing the youth to actively attend classes, workshops, webinars, conduct presentations, ask more questions in meetings, provide written and verbal feedbacks and take whatever action that will add professional value and make them visible in the public arena. The motto is : the dynamics is changing and reservation no more .   


End.  One final Thought: What ever we do to succeed,

Showing Up Matters

We write and Podcast on career growth & personal development and inspire the youth to take action. 

Disclaimer: I acknowledge that millions of Ethiopians are doing an excellent job almost everywhere. This write up is by no means to underestimate the existing potential. It is rather to highlight the cultural perspective and give direction for others to follow suit. Given the number, I just believe that we can do better if we can influence the behavior that in turn shaped the culture of being excessively reserved( Undo it). The write up is neither hypothetical nor a result of an exhausted research. It is somewhere in the middle, mainly observation or informed by the experiences of his own personal career growth, working as an interviewer, and being a mentor for new graduates. He just wanted to see a better future for the youth behind him.

3 thoughts on “Showing Up ^ Exposure Matters, and Why I Think It Matters More in the Ethiopian Context”

  1. Pingback: How I End Up Building a Website: Showing Up ^ Exposure matters » Showing Up ^ Exposure Matters

  2. Pingback: Insights of ICT Infrastructure Sector and Way Forward in Ethiopia » Showing Up ^ Exposure Matters

  3. Pingback: Capturing and Sharing of Great Moments and Lived Experiences » Showing Up ^ Exposure Matters

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.