Our latest blog entry is by 2009 Chevening Scholar Erick Kowa, who shares his Chevening Experience with us. Erick is from Papua New Guinea and he studied for a Masters degree in Oil and Gas Engineering at the University of Aberdeen.
The prestigious Chevening Scholarship was a tremendous experience that propelled me onto a new level in my career. Studying in the UK during an election year, meeting many new scholars from around the world and the opportunity to travel around Scotland, the UK and Europe immensely broadened my world view leaving me asking more questions than I have answers for about the world as it is and the world as it should be. Before Chevening, I worked for a few years as a Petroleum Engineer in the Papua New Guinea Highlands after completing a Chemical Engineering degree in Australia under a prior scholarship straight after year 12 in Papua New Guinea. Hence by the time I applied for and got the Chevening scholarship I had clear personal and career goals.
Through the Chevening programme I completed a masters degree in oil and gas engineering at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. Aberdeen is an industry hub for the oil and gas sector in Europe and as such was an ideal setting to pursue my Chevening award. The engineering graduate school at The University of Aberdeen presents opportunities to attend and participate in activities hosted by key industry organisations like the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) and UK’s Energy Institute (EI). Their monthly chapter meetings and conferences provide a good opportunity to network widely with other industry professionals who were either working or doing graduate school. The oil and gas world is competitive but small for those who aim high and love challenges. Being exposed to a mature environment of resource exploitation such as the North Sea unveiled to me gaps in my home country’s handling of its mineral resources, from government policy and regulations to fiscal and technical aspects necessary for successful exploitation. Seeing industry practices of the Scottish and UK governments, operating companies and service companies in dealing with complexities of resource exploitation within the UK continental shelf of the North Sea inspired me to think of new pragmatic ideas to solve the many resource sector challenges facing my home country.
My masters’ studies consolidated my experience and cemented my knowledge of the oil and gas sector, both technically and from a business and regulatory standpoint. The course modules at the University of Aberdeen are taught by experts and guest lecturers with extensive field experience in the industry. This facilitates delivery of learning content that is relevant and applicable to solving current and future industry challenges ranging from decision management in exploration and appraisal of new hydrocarbon plays to forward planning on sustainability and decommissioning issues post resource exploitation.
One of the many highlights of my time at graduate school was joining the university’s beer appreciation society – a rather bizarre immersion for someone from a strong Pentecostal Christian background, albeit this affiliation presented free passes to travel around Scotland on weekends visiting many old breweries, vintage wineries and trademark single malt whiskey distilleries from Glenfiddich distillery in the Highlands to Macallan distillery in Speyside. Having a few glasses of whiskey among the Scots on a chilling December night in Glasgow’s Ibrox stadium while watching the Rangers battle with Celtics in the Scottish football league is a story I will spare for now – to be continued at another time and place over a pint of single malt in the company of friends.
The Chevening scholarship support staff were very helpful with scholarship related matters. Chevening’s organised events were always something to look forward to – I had a blast with the scholarship reception in Edinburgh back in 2009 and it only feels like yesterday! I completed my summer dissertation well ahead of time and it took me a few months to decide where in the world I should settle and commence the next phase in my career. Life after Chevening has been one with endless opportunities and possibilities. I am currently based out of Singapore working for an American consulting house, IPA Global, as an E&P capital projects analyst evaluating capital projects for oil and gas majors, independents and national oil companies.
My year of graduate school in Scotland was an excellent setup for my current role which renders me involvement with the premier league when it comes to playing in the top division of international business with major resource projects. I travel widely around the globe with work these days and enjoy the fast pace, high octane and often brutal corporate consulting environment. You need to believe that your work adds value and I passionately believe that engineers and technocrats who are well informed about the world around them can lift their nation (and the world) out of poverty and help solve many of the problems that face us. I would ultimately like to return to my home country, Papua New Guinea, when this season of globe trotting is over and hopefully contribute in some way towards impacting integral human development and sustainable progress of my home country’s future. The Chevening scholarship is about leadership, leadership for me is about solutions, and lasting solutions are trademarks of time that leave behind a positive legacy when the leader is long gone.
Getting a Chevening scholarship is not necessarily a licence to make you a Prime Minister of a country or CEO of an organisation tomorrow, but it is certainly a break to attain a new level of experience in learning which hopefully translates into the recipient making a difference in his or her sphere of influence, however big or small that may be. My Chevening experience has been a rewarding one both personally and career wise. For that I will always be forever grateful. I encourage leaders (and future leaders) who are keen to participate at a higher level of decision making and thought leadership in the future of our society to seize this opportunity to join the Chevening club. Join Chevening, make the climb, leave behind a legacy…see you when you get there!