This week, we have a chemical engineer on the hot-seat! Although he has chosen to tell his story anonymously, it's quite detailed and highlights his interesting experiences since he moved back and also what life as a chemical engineer with a highly reputable oil and gas organisation is like. Enjoy!
Thanks for speaking with us: Can you briefly introduce yourself?
I attended secondary school in Nigeria and then moved to the U.S to study Computer Engineering. However, I discovered after my first year that it was not exactly what I had hoped it would be, so I switched to Chemical Engineering. I finished my first degree in 2007 and moved back to Nigeria after that for NYSC, but for personal reasons I had to return to the U.S. I then decided to go back for another degree which I did, graduating with an MSc. in Chemical Engineering. After about 4-5 months, I made the decision to move back to Nigeria.
Moving back to Nigeria was a huge culture shock for me despite visiting Nigeria annually since I left. I moved back after graduate school and served in Iseyin, Oyo State for my NYSC and I would say it was a major eye opener for me. I should add here that although a lot of Nigerians believe the NYSC scheme should be eliminated, I find it really helped me settle in and also exposed me to people that I ordinarily would not have had the opportunity to meet. It was a humbling experience for me. I got posted to one of the major oil producing companies after the 3week orientation program, only started actually working about 3months later and that’s where I still work today as a Chemical Process Engineer.
Why did you feel the need to undertake the National Youth Service Corps?
I always knew that it was something I had to do if I planned on moving back to Nigeria. I made the switch from Computer to Chemical Engineering because at the time, technology in Nigeria was not what it currently is and I needed a degree I could work with in Nigeria. When I left, I knew I was going to come back and contribute to the change in the country. I always knew I would move back, I just didn’t think I would move back as soon as I did but I certainly don’t have any regrets.
What inspired this yearning to move back to Nigeria?
Growing up I didn't travel much, everything I knew about the U.S for instance was from the experience of others. Nigeria was the country I knew for the most part, my friends were here and my family was here. I was excited to leave when I did, but I also came back every Christmas. Nigeria is home!
What does your work entail on a daily basis?
My typical day starts at 7am when I get to work. My major tasks involve drill and well work coordination. This basically means that before a new well is going to be drilled, all the engineers/functions come together to ensure the wells can flow. This includes a lot of phone calls, face time, etc. I get to interface with the General Managers and Executive Director every week, submit proposals and give presentations; exposure that is more valuable in the long run than most technical work. Anyone looking to work in the same role can make anything in the region of $8,000- $10,000 a month at entry level.
How long do you see yourself in this role?
A few developments in the global oil & gas markets and within my company make me a little apprehensive about the future. The environment in Nigeria is not particularly stable at the moment, operations are being moved further and further offshore, and many of the large oil companies are divesting. Investors will always look for areas where they can get the most returns for their money and the discovery of much more profitable reserves in North America means that with time, these oil companies will have to reallocate their resources (which are finite) in a manner that can maximize shareholder value. With this knowledge and the opportunities that are available, I am working on several aspects that have not been fully explored. I am monitoring the trends and watching for the best time to move on but I don’t see myself in my current role for more than another year.
What has your experience been since you moved back?
The biggest issue for me was the lack of respect for personal space; I found people to literally be very touchy. Another issue for me which may not hold for others is the relative lack of freedom which has made me a little less adventurous. I used to love to travel while in the States but with all the happenings in Nigeria, I haven’t been able to do so. Then there are the regular issues of traffic, electricity and the likes. I think that if you can afford to insulate yourself from all of the “hardships” then you will be ok.
It can be easily argued that if you have to insulate yourself from the core of the environment, then you may as well stay somewhere else isn’t it?
In my opinion, no matter where you are, there will always be the inner feeling that it isn’t home 100% and this may not be the case for everyone. There was always a sense of being a second class citizen while in the States and I don’t get that at home, you really can’t put a monetary value on that! Some of these “hardships” make for great stories, the kind of things people bond over. In spite of all the chaos, there is something calming about being home especially with family and friends.
What would you say are the positives for you since you moved back home?
There are quite a few: Close proximity to family and friends, the opportunities for starting a business and having the kind of support system that would help the business grow.
On a final note, what tips or advice do you have for people considering the move back to Nigeria?
When you are moving back, if you haven’t already gone through it, I would advise doing the NYSC. The experience is extremely valuable, one that I cannot over emphasize. If you are moving back, move back for the right reasons; don’t move back just to make money because you can make money anywhere.
I think Nigerians that go to study abroad and come back home have an advantage over a majority of Nigerians that study in the country at the Tertiary level due to the challenges they face (strikes and so on), I believe we are obligated to generally improve things with our different insights and ideologies.
My next tip may sound very counter intuitive and most people would argue against, but I think if you’re going to move back, have a solid exit strategy. Have an exit strategy because moving back isn’t necessarily for everyone and if it doesn’t turn out to be what you want with no exit strategy, you can easily turn out to be very resentful.
Thanks for your time and best wishes moving forward.