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From Gulf Coast to Ghana: Skills Gained in Houston Used in Young Leaders Workshop in Ghana

In 1995, when I was in fourth grade, my parents moved the family to Adenta, a small suburb of Accra, Ghana, to afford a better standard of living. For 2 years, we lived with no access to water or electricity. After school, my brothers and I would stay up into the wee hours, using lanterns to complete our homework. Friday nights were a weekly treat; I would pick up a 12 V car battery, recharged from the local mechanic, and connect it to a black and white TV to watch with the family for a couple of hours. This tradition first sparked my interest in engineering at a young age. After high school, I secured a scholarship to study at Truman State, and later transferred to Minnesota State, where I earned a degree in electronic engineering.

After I graduated, National Oilwell Varco took a chance on me and allowed me to work on a downhole drilling tool, which changed the way drilling is automated. I was fortunate enough to serve on the SPE Gulf Coast Section board, during which I organized my first Emerging Engineers Conference (EEC). Fiercely dedicated, and with encouragement from my fellow board members, I helped increase participation by 15% and raised about $40,000 for scholarships for students in the Gulf Coast area. With valuable skills acquired, I further contributed to and recommended critical initiatives, such as the SPE GCS entrepreneurship cell, and served on many Gulf Coast Section related boards.

In the summer of 2015, Janeen Judah, 2017 SPE president, and I saw a post on LinkedIn about a visit to Ghana. I have always wanted to give back to the youth of my home country and encourage them; if I can make it out of a house with no electricity, they also have a fighting chance to succeed if they work hard and never give up. I reached out to Judah about my plan to organize an EEC-type workshop in Ghana with three aims:

  • To educate young students/professionals about the oil and gas industry
  • To conduct a résumé workshop
  • To coach them on ways to build and improve their soft skills

In 2017, Judah discussed my idea with Darcy Spady, the current SPE president. As it so happened that the SPE Board of Directors was hosting their annual meeting in Ghana, I was given the green light to organize a pilot workshop in conjunction with the board meeting.

I gathered a team comprising local section members, and we started planning the conference. I utilized the skills and project management I had learned from organizing similar workshops in Houston. We secured vital players in the industry and sponsors to help facilitate the event. The budget limited our attendance count to 130; about a month before the workshop, we had to close registration due to the large number of people signing up.

On 15 March, the SPE Workshop: Ghana Future Leaders was held in Ghana. One hundred sixty students and young professionals from all over Africa attended the event. The feedback from participants was great, and we were delighted to know that they benefited from the discussions and interactions during the workshop. Having recorded an enormously successful pilot program, the team is now inspired to do even more. We are currently in discussions with SPE on making the conference a yearly event, held in different oil-producing countries across the continent. We hope that SPE and the sponsoring companies will continue to support this great initiative, and as such, help the local SPE chapters in target countries grow.

It’s hard to imagine that the fourth-grade boy who tinkered with a car battery and a TV would someday make such a positive impact from thousands of miles away. The experience of organizing this workshop has been both professionally and personally fulfilling, and I am very grateful to have had this opportunity.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank National Oilwell Varco for sponsoring my involvement and trip; SPE board members and SPE Presidents Darcy Spady and Janeen Judah; a friend and a mentor, Sid Smith for his guidance; Mervin Azeta (Schlumberger), Springfield Energy, and Seaworld Engineering for sponsoring the plaques; Afrikanus Mensah of Amaja Oilfield Limited; the SPE Ghana section; and the speakers and volunteers.

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