Three Things I Learned In My First Year Working At AFEX

4 min readJun 17, 2021

Michael Martins is a Portfolio Manager at AFEX. Here, he shares more about his first experience working here — what excites him most about his role, finding his voice, and the importance of building a career in a commodities firm like AFEX.

The big first day at the new job always stands out for everyone. It could be about the new people, the new environment, the culture, and processes, etc. but mine started with food. Yes, food.

On getting to the firm on the first day, I sat at my desk, patiently and sufficiently minding my own business, and the office assistant at the time walked up to me and said

what will you like to eat?”

My mind was blown, I thought I had found myself in another place like Google. I cast my first-day jitters aside and confidently placed my order for a plate of yam and eggs. Shortly after, she came back and asked for money for the food. I was taken quite aback because I was under the assumption that the office was paying for the food. I asked her if I could say no to the food and she said I could. And that’s how my journey started, quelling the nerves of a first-day experience and not buying food for most of the first month. But I wasn’t all wrong because it turned out free meals are indeed one perk of working at AFEX.

I joined AFEX in January 2020, and I can’t remember any point in my university days when I thought I would work in the agricultural sector or commodities space. I wanted to do something sexier like investment banking and alternatively, management consulting. However, I am glad I took the internship position to work here because AFEX is a growing company with amazing innovations and creativity that is positioning to be a leader in the commodities space for many many years to come. The opportunity to truly be a first mover, and blaze a trail for others to follow is something AFEX has given me that very few companies can and this is one of the things I love about AFEX and my job role here.

As I reflect on my past months at AFEX and how I’ve come to have a better sense of this work-life and even more -what AFEX is like as a company and what makes it exciting to be called an Xpert, I’ll say I learned three important lessons that be a guide to someone looking forward to work in a culture like ours.

1. Never underestimate the power of reading:

When I joined AFEX, my financial and commodities knowledge was pretty much non-existent at that time. I was apprehensive about becoming valuable because there was a significant knowledge gap and my imposter syndrome was always on overdrive. Unlike other industries technical skills take a back seat to soft skills, in the commodities market, mastery of economics, finance, and trading knowledge, as well as the requisite soft skills, is non-negotiable. What I did was immerse myself in all the resources about the commodities space I could get my hands on. Then I started paying attention to industry experts, reading Bloomberg and FT Articles. I also reached out to experts and older colleagues on LinkedIn for guidance and I watched a lot of webinars. And fortunately, all these made the experience easier for me.

2. Build relationships:

It’s important to share correspondence with your colleagues so that you can get a mirage of honest and smart opinions on whatever you are coming up with or trying to solve. I was lucky to have an understanding colleague, Yusuf Ogunbiyi, who took his time to always explain the intricacies of the commodities space to me. It’s a good thing that at AFEX, you’re surrounded by an army of industry experts and young minds that are always ready to help.

3. Learn the right skills:

Industry-related skills relevant to the commodities space are essential to the workings of AFEX’s operations. It is important to learn these skills to deliver effectively here. Skills such as data research, how to draft a commodities report, and many others. The secret is to always keep an open mind and remain curious.

All in all, my first-year experience has been full of growth and achievements. I see myself pursuing a long-term career at AFEX. For potential candidates looking forward to work at AFEX, I want you to know it is a fun place to be and might turn out to be your best career move.

Oh did I mention, the free meal still stands…lol…there is a continuous supply of food and resources you need to function.

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AFEX’s infrastructure and platforms drive capital to build a trust economy in Africa’s commodity markets.