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Career Change – "How I Dumped Medicine for IT"

Born out of wedlock, little Uvie-Emegbo lived the first seven years of his life with his mother. He was pampered and almost became a spoilt child. But his father, now a retired civil servant, came for him when he was seven. From then on, his life changed. His disciplinarian father drew out a “harsh daily study programme” for him.

Every moment of his day from then on revolved around just one thing-book. Due to his ‘bookish’ background, it was not long that the boy became an academic champion in Delta State.

Uvie-Emegbo, who had his primary education at Delta Steel Company Primary School II from 1983 – 1988 and secondary school at Delta Steel Company Technical High School, Orhunwhorun near Warri between 1989 and 1994 became a state academic champion when he emerged the best candidate at the 1994 May/June West African Examinations Council Senior School Certificate Examinations in Delta State. He had A1 in five subjects and A2 in three other subjects. He had also made the best results in the state at the Junior Secondary School Certificate Examinations.

With the SSSCE, he proceeded to the OAU to read Medicine and Surgery. At OAU, he got in contact with the Internet. Fascinated by IT, he developed interest in computer and like they say, the rest is now history. By the time he entered the second year in the university, his course-mates had nicknamed him the ‘Internet Doctor’. From then on, he became a sort of consultant to some of his lecturers and students who needed to do some work on the Internet.

Uvie-Emegbo said, “In 1996, the OAU campus was one of the very first places in Nigeria to have Internet access. I immediately fell in love with the Internet. Specifically I was intrigued by the immense power of the Internet to enhance productivity and improve competitiveness. As I spent more and more time with my friends in Engineering disciplines, I found out that I was not interested in computer hardware, software or programming.

“Rather my fascination was on how businesses and individuals can leverage new web technologies and other innovative trends to improve performance. What started as a hobby, a vocation with on and off little consulting jobs gradually evolved as I gained more insight and experience. I recall that as far back as 1999, my classmates in the medical school called me the internet doctor. That was because even back then, I prepared for every presentation to my peers as if I was preparing to deliver an inaugural speech at Harvard. The internet opened a part of me that I am still discovering – a borderless world.”

Uvie-Emegbo, who narrated his story to our correspondent after he delivered a lecture at a  workshop organised for some journalists in Lagos by ExxonMobil, said his metamorphosis and stay on campus were not easy.

“Even though I was winning laurels right from my days in the primary school, I struggled to find acceptance at home. I used to feel that I was much more celebrated outside than in my home. I was quite introverted at home and extroverted outside. Another challenge was that in my first year in the university, the Delta Steel Company where my dad was working had several challenges, which culminated in salaries being owed for close to three years. Early enough I learnt to be self-dependent,” he said.

So how did he sustain himself in school? Uvie-Emegbo said, he lived on proceeds from his little computing work for his lecturers and mates on campus and scholarship that came later from some oil companies.

“But in 1996, I applied for and was successful at the Shell Petroleum Development Company scholarship interview. It was worth N50,000 annually and it was a great relief. To augment my scholarship allowance, I started doing some little consulting jobs for doctors on how to optimise the use of their desktop computers,” he said.

Though the money was small it was enough to cover his daily needs. However, union strikes and the then Ife-Modakeke crisis prolonged his stay and his suffering on campus as he spent eight years, five months and six days studying Medicine and Surgery. His scholarship ended when he was about to enter his clinical year (Part 4).

But with conditions at home still dismal, the young man applied for the Mobil Producing Unlimited undergraduate scholarship. Fortunately, he was one of the five successful students from Delta State who were awarded the scholarship.

It was for two years and was worth N100,000 annually. With this money, he bought his first computer system and developed his consulting business further.

“I was able to successfully graduate without any issues,” he said.

After graduation and the mandatory national service year, Uvie-Emegbo, who is the first child in a family of eight, got a job as a medical doctor in a private hospital. However, the urge to pursue his passion in ICT remained.

“No matter how hard I tried to focus on Medicine, I kept developing my skills in web strategy and project management. Eventually in 2007 after three years and five months of practice, it was clear that I had to make a career change. I formally left medical practice on June 28, 2007. I recall that my last day was a sad one. I was paid N33,000 that month because the Medical Director of the private hospital I worked insisted that he paid me half salary as I gave only 28 days resignation notice and not the mandatory 30 days,” he said.

This experience, Uvie-Emegbo admitted, taught him about the essence of reading and keeping contractual agreements.

Asked whether he would go back to Medicine later in life, Uvie-Emegbo, who now lectures in three universities in Africa, including Pan African University, Lagos said, “one can never say never.”

But he added that in his brief time in medical practice, he performed singly or assisted over 40 surgeries, taken delivery of at least 15 babies, attended to over 2,500 patients, worked in eight hospitals in five states in Nigeria.

“It’s a lifetime of memories that would never fade away. Medicine taught me empathy, responsibility, ownership, follow through, attention to detail, leadership, risk management, ethics, competitiveness, research and communication skills – all key ingredients for a productive life. I was able to seamlessly transfer all of these into my new career in management consulting.

So what has his experience been like since he ventured into ICT, Uvie-Emegbo said changes have their own challenges.  And he has had his fair share of challenges. He, however, said that his breakthrough came six months after.

“Six months after I started my new career, I made my first million from sharing my thoughts on digital media to one of Africa’s leading business icons. I shared my thoughts in the cosy warmth of his lovely Ikoyi home for one hour and got N1m just like that! That was four years ago,” he said.

Digital Media is profitable if you carve a niche and own it, he added.

“My focus is on developing and leading digital transformation for discerning brands in Africa. Leading brands increasingly understand this value and are willing to pay a premium for such services.

I have multiple streams of income. I earn a salary at my firm Dymore Vision Consulting. I teach, consult, implement and publish all things digital. All these are different sources of income. I teach at three of the leading postgraduate schools in Africa (Lagos Business School, Strathmore Business School, Kenya and the School of Media & Communication, Pan African University). I consult across Africa. The Lagos Business School has published my case studies on Digital Media,” he said.

But asked how much he was worth, he said, “Enough to pay my bills.”

Uvie-Emegbo also advised jobless graduates to take advantage of the internet to better their lot.

He, however, added that for a jobless graduate to succeed in this competitive world and be effective at any job/task, he or she must have passion and drive.

“Anyone that does not have these is employed at the business owner’s risk. The key competencies ownership, follow through and intrapreneurship. Ownership refers to the ability of the employee to perform his/her duties as if he/she owned that business. Follow Through comes after ownership. It is the ability to see an issue/challenge, that one has accepted personal responsibility for to a logical and mutually agreeable conclusion. Ownership without follow through is absolutely useless.   Which is the ability of the employee to think of and help find ingenious ways of increasing revenues and or reducing costs.

It starts with thinking about how the organisation generates revenues and how one’s role in making this possible. It is implied that anyone with these traits has a great attitude. Show me such a person and you have yourself a winner. When you find them, please keep them. They are not so many around,” he said.

Given the challenges that he has overcome, Uvie-Emegbo advised those facing similar challenges to hold on to their faith in God, to stay focused, and to endure hardship and training.

“It is never too late to become what you might have been. You are never as bad as they tell you when you lose nor are you as good as they say when you win, stay hungry.

“Life is jealous of scattered energies, stay focused. You don’t have to be as old as Methuselah to have the wisdom of Solomon, – age is not a barrier. An unwilling man would give a thousand excuses but a willing man will find a thousand ways, volunteer, try, start – but give no excuses.

“Don’t rush your preparation phase – otherwise people would find out just how empty you are. One thing that energises me is the fact that my potential have almost always been under-estimated by many. That is all the challenge I need. Say it has never been done before and I get to work to do just that. Maybe it has never being done before.

Uvie-Emegbo, however, called on the governments at all levels to formulate policies that would enhance educational development of the youth and the establishment of a knowledge-driven economy.

“If we must not fall into another round of colonisation, we must develop a knowledge-driven economy. It is time to cut down on the number of jobs that are outsourced outside Africa.

However while in the short term this can be achieved by legislation, the sustainable option would be to have a growing army of empowered and competent “global” citizens,” he added.

This, he said, informed his decision to establish the GAPS Academy to create sustainable wealth for Africans by imparting them with the essential knowledge and skills that they need for a productive life.

This, he said, informed his decision to establish the GAPS Academy in conjunction with Jobberman.com to create sustainable wealth for Africans by imparting them with the essential knowledge and skills that they need for a productive life.

The GAPS Academy is the foremost education and information platform in Africa by Africans. With more than 4,000 videos, the experience created on GAPS Academy is enlightening and fun.

This article was originally posted on PUNCH Online.

WRITTEN BY
Nathan Jeffery
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