From Classroom to practice: Making the necessary transition.

GODSON Nkeokelonye
9 min readJul 24, 2019

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A commencement speech delivered at the hooding event of the College of Engineering, Covenant University.

The Vice-chancellor Covenant university, Professor Aderemi Atayero, the Dean College of Engineering, Professor David Omole, Heads of departments, Distinguished Professors, Doctors and the entire members of the Academic community of the prestigious Covenant University. Not forgetting our distinguished guest from the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE).

I am honored to be addressing you today, as we congratulate a group of scholars who over the last 5 years have put in their best effort and fulfilled all the requirement needed to be the beneficiaries of this hooding ceremony.

Every year, about 1.5 million intending students apply to different higher institutions across the country. Usually, only about 33% of this number successfully secure an admission. Of this number, just under 50,000 get the opportunity to pursue a degree in Engineering.

About 5 years ago, 607 of that number were admitted into this college of engineering and today 352 had made it across the line. can we all put our hands together for the class of 2019?

Today’s graduates have not only expanded their knowledge but have demonstrated the ability to be focused, dedicated, result-driven and made permanent their desire for learning.

They have worked together as a group and in teams, they have managed deadlines, multitasked and defended what they have learned in assignments, tests, and examinations. As a graduating student seated here today, the experiences created here over the last 5 years, would linger for the rest of your life. Some good, some bad, others, very funny.

So I am going to share with you 7 key things you would need as you transition from an Engineer in training to an Engineer in Practice.

1. Be a student for life.

Today we celebrate your mastery of the art of learning as a graduate engineer fully of energy and pregnant with endless possibilities.

Tomorrow, you would continue learning. However, In this kind of learning you may not always be taught, you also may never take a test but the world would always ask you for results and the only way you produce results is by applying what is learned. Hence it is safe to say that learning is not complete until applied.

Thomas Huxley a great biologist put it simply “Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.”

Make no mistake, what we celebrate today is the successful demonstration of your ability to learn. The learning process may no longer be organised, scheduled or in classrooms. It would be personalised and would sometimes take you out of your comfort domains. Innovations happen at intersections, especially between disciplines.

From modern building techniques to material sciences, software’s, medicine, finance, law, Agriculture and the rest. Learn! Learn!! and keep Learning.

2. Prioritise Growth over Wage

I bet some of the biggest questions in your mind in the last few months would have been: Where do I go from here, Who would employ me, What can I offer my employer, How much would I be paid, and what does the future hold?

These feelings are entirely normal and happen to every graduate. I may not be able to answer all the questions but I sure can advise on what to focus on.

As a fresh graduate, my advice is that you prioritise skills acquisition, seek out fast growth employers that take personal development seriously. Work with companies that value innovation and encourages process improvement. Ask fact-finding questions at interviews to uncover the company’s culture.

Growing companies and teams have proven over time to help you learn faster and rise quicker. Often, employees at these companies are able to gain exposure more quickly to different functional areas of the business and would rise up the ladders much faster.

This kind of companies have proven to be a lot more purposeful, flexible and can provide greater opportunities for growth. Money is a reward for hard work and excellence, seek hard work and excellence and the money will rain in.

Money is a reward for hard work and excellence, seek hard work and excellence and the money will rain in.

3. Get a workplace sponsor

A sponsor is simply an influential senior colleague who knows and understands your potential, someone who advocates for your growth at the highest level within the organisation and helps you avoid needless obstacles on your pathway.

Image source: pexels.com
image source: www.pexels.com

Nick Caldwell the vice president of Engineering at Reddit defines it as “Someone who is in the room when opportunities arise and make sure your name comes up.”

A sponsor would help you get on the right project, seek out assignments that showcase your potential, make calls were necessary to advance your career.

It is important to note that competence and handwork can only thrive in the face of opportunity.

Competence and handwork can only thrive in the face of opportunity.

So many promising engineering careers have been frozen out in companies because they lacked sponsors. Do not be cut off guard. Get a sponsor for everywhere you decide to work.

A sponsor is not the same as a mentor, though the roles overlap, a sponsor must be someone from your workplace.

4. Develope a culture of Excellence

Culture is coined from two important words CULTIVATION and NURTURING.

Your culture is what you cultivate and nurture over time. The last 5 years you have been cultivating excellence which is what this great institution represents. Now is the time to nurture it and see it blossom.

Image Source: www.pexel.com

Show me a Man who is diligent in his way, and he would stand before Kings says the great book.

Be an enabler, be a conduit and not a container, pass down the ladder and Pay it forward and avoid mediocrity.

It is always said in the workPlace “No one is indispensable” I dare say that you can make yourself indispensable by demonstrating excellence in all your endeavor.

5. Plan to be an ENTREPRENEUR or an INTRAPRENEUR at some point.

This is a part that is very dear to my heart as it is my constituency. I became an entrepreneur out of passion, it is by far the hardest thing I have ever had to do but like an Affidavit, I was sworn to it.

So, when I was about to be married, I had to visit and invite family and friends. On this day, my host was a Pastor of living faith and during our conversation, he asked what I did for a living.

Trust me it is not fashionable to be an entrepreneur when you are asking a lady’s hand in marriage. You find that every parent suddenly becomes a risk manager.

I said I was an entrepreneur and I saw a smile on his face. Expecting the all too usual questions I asked, Is anything wrong sir? He said I am very glad you found your way out.

A man who is diligent in HIS ways would stand before Kings. He said (emphasise on HIS) he further said to me that Gods promise is to Bless the works of YOUR hand

It is very important that at some point in your life that YOUR hands are working for you so that God’s blessing would remain with you.

For years the Academic community neglected the development of entrepreneurial capacities in students hence a lot of would-be successful entrepreneurs wastes productive years searching for employment that may not exist or staying in dead-end jobs that undermine their full potentials.

You would have noticed the other word Intrapreneur in the title.

Intrapreneurship is defined as the act of behaving like an entrepreneur while working within an organization.

It integrates risk-taking, innovative approaches to problem-solving, a sense of ownership and purpose-driven.

Should you not be opportune to transition into full entrepreneurship, ensure you work in organisations that value and invest in innovation and work yourself into the innovations and/or transformation units as these roles accord all the flexibility of an entrepreneur while still retaining your employment.

Image source: www.pexels.com

Great products have come out of Intrapreneurship in the past, some of which have transformed industries and changed the playing field for companies that midwife these ideas.

JAVA programming language was a product of Intrapreneurship at SUN Microsystem, Play station, the very popular game console brand also was a product of Intrapreneurship at SONY.

GMAIL is a product of Google allowing its employees to spend 20% of their time doing what they like.

Let’s bring it home, Systemspec founded in 1992 was a local partner for SUN Microsystem (acquired by Oracle), they later developed a marquee Payroll and HRM system called Human Manager. Today, we all use REMITA which again is a product of intrapreneurship. ALAT by WEMA bank, JUMIA foods from JUMIA Group, GIG Logistics from GIGM.

As a graduate engineer, you should be able to recognise these opportunities and capitalise on them when they come bye.

6. Build your network and enhance your communication.

Image source: www.pexels.com

It is said that your network is your net worth. The role of building a great network can never be overemphasised, it starts with those seated with you in this room today. The pattern is that some of you may never see and speak to each other again. It doesn’t have to be this way. Thanks to the new technologies available today, keeping in touch has never been easier and accessible.

A good network would help increase your confidence, raise the level of your conversation, keep you abreast with new opportunities and increase your chances of a promotion.

Make no mistake, know-how would always be on the shelf, anyone can always be hired to do a job.

Balance your pursuit for knowledge and expertise with building healthy and productive relationships.

The world’s most successful leaders are often great at building relationships. Success in nearly every aspect of life comes down to your ability to build meaningful relationships — both personal and professional.

7. Put God first!

Put God first in all your endeavors. He who is with God is a majority. In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverb 3 vs 6). So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Is 41 vs 10)

God Starts when we exhaust. trust him in all your ways and would not regret you did.

Finally, I won't end without reminding you of this:

The universe is not a work of art, it is a product of engineering, planets stay on their orbits, the earth revolves around the SUN, there are 365 days in the year, winter and Summer, Day and night and patterns are established.

Engineering is the study of patterns. Indeed, God must be an Engineer.

As you step into the next phase of life, Do not let life happen to you, Happen to life. I would see you all on the field.

Thank you and Congratulations.

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GODSON Nkeokelonye

A Solutions Architect and Chief Operating Officer of Excite Panacea with close to 16 years’ experience managing design and implementation in ICT