My name is Ikey Ajavon and I’m leaving Bak USA forever.
Okay, that’s pretty dramatic. But now that I’ve got your attention, I can tell you how I got here, where I’m going, and why Bak USA helped me every step of the way. FYI, this blog isn’t just my story—it’s also the story of other Bak USA employees who’ve made progress at Bak USA and beyond.
I’ve had the honor of making a name for myself at Bak USA. This is my story.
- How I Got Here
As many seniors in college know, there is a time when you start thinking about what you want to do after you graduate. For some, that is having a job lined up or going right into grad school. For me, it was finding an internship to test out different aspects of marketing and figure out what I like about it. That’s where Bak USA came in.
I found Bak USA on the University at Buffalo’s School of Management job site, applied, and got a call for an interview. My interview was with then-marketing manager, Alexandra McLeod. We talked about the company’s business plan, commitment to employees, dreams for the future, and—more specifically—marketing efforts. I felt good after the interview. Right after, I met Christian Bak who gave me a sneak peak of the main floor of Bak USA before it was even finished. We talked in detail about all the things they planned on doing and the people they would be helping. At that moment I knew I wanted to be a part of this company.
- Becoming a Pro
I literally started my career at the same time Bak USA became a business. (At the time, there were no more than 20 employees. Today there are well over 100.) When I graduated from the University at Buffalo with my bachelor’s in business administration and marketing in June 2015, Bak USA promoted me from marketing intern to full-time marketing coordinator.
Three years, six months, and 27 days later, I cannot imagine a more amazing first job. Bak USA built an ecosystem for career growth and employee development that has helped me grow as a marketer but also as a person. Here’s a quick look at my trajectory:
- I was immediately thrown into all marketing duties
- Social Media
- Customer Relationships
- Web Development
- Public Relations
- Event Planning
- My responsibilities narrowed to ads, analytics, and social media strategy
- I collaborated with our new communication manager and VP of marketing
- I earned three promotions
- Marketing Coordinator
- Marketing Specialist
- Marketing Strategy Specialist
- I was immediately thrown into all marketing duties
- Onward and Upward
So, what’s next? I have decided to take my talents to Manchester, England: This September, I will be moving to Great Britain to pursue a master’s degree in marketing and creative advertising from Manchester Metropolitan University!
Bak USA has been incredibly supportive of my decision to go back to school. My direct manager, Carly Battin, and our VP of marketing, Jason Drewniak, had amazing reactions to the news; I received full support from the second I mentioned this opportunity. This summer, we worked together to develop an “exit plan” so we can safely “offload” my responsibilities and guarantee a smooth transition for myself and the team.
Without Bak USA, I’m not sure where I would be now in terms of my career. I can say with full confidence that they have prepared me to take on this new challenge and continue forward on my career path. I will be forever grateful for what I’ve learned and the time I got to spend with my wonderful co-workers.
- Babyface. Ikey introduces his youthful energy to Bak USA in January 2015.
- Three men and an office. From left to right: Bak USA Creative Director Luis Fernandez, Bak USA VP of Product Christian Bak, and Marketing Strategy Specialist Ikey Ajavon smile for the camera in March 2015.
- Where’s Ikey? Ikey celebrates the holidays with the original Bak Pack in December 2015.
- Double trouble. Ikey and former Bak USA Intern Celine Keefe show off early models of the Atlas laptop and Seal rugged tablet in the summer of 2016.
- Bro-workers. Ikey and former Bak USA Brand Engagement Specialist Nick Kaczmarek ham it up for the camera on picture day in November 2017.
- Work parents. Ikey poses with Bak USA co-founders J.P. and Ulla Bak at the company’s 100th employee milestone celebration in January 2018.
- Stylin’ and smilin’. Ikey spruces up to celebrate Bak USA Day and the company’s third birthday at the Statler City Hotel in February 2018.
- Summer of Seal. Ikey and his fellow crewmembers gear up to film an episode of the “Summer of Seal” series in August 2018.
I’m not the only one who has made strides at Bak USA and beyond. While many of us have enjoyed career development in a lot of different departments, here are some specific examples of how we’re upskilling employees in our tech departments.
- Mapping Career Plans
Bak USA is committed to upskilling employees, creating new opportunities for growth, and supporting lifelong learning. Bak USA Manufacturing Manager Karthik Thangavel says it best:
The current technician team’s career plan is focused on improving themselves in the department they are working in. In other words, many technicians have moved one or two levels up (out of five levels) in their career plan. Their title remains the same, but as they improve their skill sets and showcase their talents efficiently, they earn more and continue to progress.
Here are the five departments of technicians and their corresponding responsibilities:
Order Fulfillment Technician
- To add and ensure the devices have the required customizations such as SN, asset tags, etc.
- To ensure the devices are leaving the company in pristine condition and packaged efficiently
- To assemble high-quality devices with lower downtime
- To increase the throughput consistently
- To find ways to reduce the lead time
- To enhance and sustain the organized work environment
- To receive and prepare the components that are to be assembled on the production floor
- To ensure the production team is equipped with the required components and resources all the time
- To deploy the high-quality devices with the required operating system (OS)
- To create and customize the additional details such as UUID, SN, etc. that can improve the traceability on the customer end
- To ensure the assembled devices reach customer hands with the highest possible quality
- To look for opportunities of improvement
- To optimize the different processes in the organization effectively
- Bak USA Success StoriesHired as one of Bak USA’s original builders in 2015, Ali Alshemmary has been promoted twice—first to electronics technician and again to RMA coordinator. In his time with us, Ali has continuously demonstrated his ability to quickly identify, diagnose, troubleshoot, and address issues. An amazing problem-solver, Ali is often relied on for his technical expertise and suggestions; he has become a strong technical expert for our products.
In April 2017, Koushikee Chatterjee (aka “Koush”) was brought on as a logistics coordinator. Later that year, Koush was promoted to order fulfillment supervisor. As a leader in these areas, Koush has improved warehouse, inventory, and kitting operations. And just this month, Koush was promoted to deployment manager. In this new and expanded role, Koush will continue previous duties while helping prepare devices for customer deployments.
In January 2017, Srinath Natarajan (aka “Sri” for short) entered Bak USA as a research and development engineer intern. Six short months later, Sri completed his PhD in electrical engineering from the University at Buffalo and became Bak USA’s technical product manager. In this position, Sri researches and evaluates optimal parts for computer modules and accessories while collaborating with partners to oversee the Atlas product line.
In June 2016, Hevorh Dishunts (affectionately known as “G”) began his career in IT support. Soon thereafter, G “graduated” to help stand up our deployment and imaging area. Roughly one month later, G’s position has evolved to IT application & support specialist, a position in which he writes IT applications to streamline our production processes.
In January 2016, Karthik Thangavel started as a quality assurance intern. Since then he has been promoted to quality control coordinator, quality control supervisor, and manufacturing manager. In his latest role, Karthik manages the production and quality departments at Bak USA, including 23 production technicians and seven quality technicians.
- Getting it done. Ali works with Bak USA Associate Product Engineer Sangyul Lee to put a personal touch on the Atlas laptop experience.
- Another day in the office. Koushikee (aka Koush) discusses logistics and fulfillment operations with Bak USA Quality Systems Manager Khaled Fathallah.
- Leading by example. Srinath (aka Sri) explains the intricacies of computer modules and accessories to a team of technicians and engineers.
- Testing, testing, one, two. Hevorh (aka “G”) puts his IT support skills to the test as he pre-loads tools and apps onto an Atlas 2-in-1 laptop.
- Looking ahead. Karthik acknowledges a friendly passerby as he manages production and quality from his workstation in the fourth-floor product workshop.