Obi is a project manager for one of the largest construction companies in the UK. He studied Mechanical Engineering and worked in the Power Sector for a few years but decided to pursue his passion in architectural and engineering design and this eventually led him to pursue a Master’s Degree in Construction Project Management.
Welcome to our 6-question series of Inspire Career
When did you relocate and what made you relocate?
I relocated in 1997 mid-way through undertaking a first year degree in Mechanical and Material engineering at one of the prestigious technology focused universities in Nigeria. The decision was ultimately due to a mixture of the uncertainty of ASUU strikes in Nigeria at the time as well as a wish to study in the UK living close to my elder sister who had relocated a year earlier.
Did you face any challenges initially?
Not really, I settled in pretty quickly and got involved with a local community centre where I joined the table tennis and basketball teams. As I moved in the summer, the temperature difference between the UK and Nigeria was not significant and by September I had acclimatised.
Managing my own money was a tiny bit of a challenge initially though as I had never had that kind of responsibility. I still laugh when I remember the numerous times I went to the cash machine to withdraw money. For me it was more of the novelty of having access to it whenever I wanted rather than the actual spending.
How did you choose your career?
I took a round-about route to get where I am now. I started my career working in the Power Sector as a Turbine Support Engineer however I did not feel challenged and got disillusioned with the shift patterns in a 24-hour operating environment. I started a postgraduate certificate in Architecture in 2004 (I didn’t finish this course) as a means to change career and this got me a foot in the door into the Façade engineering industry. From there I secured jobs with a construction fit-out firm specialising in restoration of heritage buildings then moved on to mainstream construction, first in retail, then luxury hotels, education schemes and now I work on practically everything. In 2008, I started a part time MSC in Construction Project Management with one of the top UK universities and this has opened doors ever since.
What is your 5 year plan career-wise?
Someone once said in this modern age, one could change their career path up to 3 times in their lifetime and I’m already halfway there. I would like to set up my own construction design consultancy business but this isn’t necessarily cast in stone.
In retrospect would you have done anything differently?
I try not to dwell too much on what could have been but there are a few things that I could have done differently which could have led me to a different path in my life.
My choice of university as a first because whether you like it or not, a 2:2 from a top 20 university is better than a 2:1 from a bottom 20 university on the ratings scale.
Secondly, I had a placement opportunity with the UK’s top research laboratory for space technology and I turned it down for another placement opportunity in a power station which was paying more money. I subsequently left that industry as stated above.
I had the opportunity to go to Sandhurst on a full service commission with the British Army and they would have paid for any post graduate study and career development schemes however as there was a war looming in Afghanistan, I decided I didn’t want to be the first Nigerian martyr to die for another country.
Advice for anyone wishing to relocate?
The secret to getting settled in is to get involved with the local community as early as possible and always have a positive outlook to change.
Learn from other people’s mistakes- you don’t always have to make mistakes yourself. Also study all opportunities and weigh pros and cons. Don’t expect things to fall no your lap, keep your eyes open and listen out for opportunities, don’t be shy to ask.
I made a lot of mistakes along the way and I hope hearing a condensed version of my story would help someone in the future.