Many graduates are wondering why their academic exercise is yet to deliver to the desired result, while others are cashing out and enjoying enormous benefit from their academic adventure. Our guest today is one of those who have enjoyed great benefit from his academic investment. He has attracted two international scholarships at his masters and Ph.D which have granted him several research exposure in various top rated universities in the world. He is currently working for a multi-national company in Germany. Some may call it hard work or luck, to others grace, while the rest may still be dumbfounded about the mysteries of this dividend. Dr. Kelechi Onwukamike: A Double PhD degree holder shares his inspiring story on what has given him advantage in life and many more. You can’t afford to miss the details of this interview.
LBC CREW: Could you please introduce yourself?
Dr. kelechi: First of all, I thank you for reaching out to me, I have always wanted to be in a platform where I can reach out to young people. My name is Dr. Kelechi Onwukamike. In December 2011, I got my first degree in Industrial Chemistry from Federal university of technology and in October 2013, I moved to Germany for my Master’s Degree. I got Erasmus Mundus Joint Masters scholarship, which gave me access to do my MSc. in two countries. I started the first phase of my masters in the University of Ausburg, where I studied Functional Advance Material Engineering basically focused on designing materials to meet specific needs. The year after this, I moved to the University of Bordeaux where I studied Polymer Chemistry. At the end of my Masters, I got funding from the European Union for a joint doctorate program and it simply means I had to do a Ph.D programme in two countries simultaneously. I was enrolled in two University: One in France and the other in Germany. The theme was to focus on exploring sustainable ways of making materials from cellulose. I spent three years trying to develop these options. I am currently working as a Research Scientist at Procter and Gamble.
LBC CREW: How do you see life beyond all your certificate? Does your current work life situation match with all your certification?
Dr. Kelechi: Let me begin by saying this: Education gives you more than just certificates. You have to think about the skills you have earned because at the end of the day, you have to work using those skills and training. The first question you must ask yourself is this: What do I know? What can I do? What can I do with the skills acquired from the University? If you start asking these questions early enough, and fill in the gaps, then life will be better. For example, at my first degree, I studied Industrial Chemistry and from my third year I already knew I needed the right skills to make certain products I could easily market. One of these things was paint. There was no avenue for me to learn certain ways to make some of these products so what I cautiously chose to do, was to go for Industrial Training in a Paint Industry where I was not paid. I knew this skill would one day be relevant in the university. I knew after graduation, I could use this knowledge to start up my own paint production company. This is only an instance. If you are in a University, always ask yourself; What can I offer at the end of this program? This is because the certificate shows that you satisfied a requirement, but it is not going to give you the job. And when you start applying for jobs, you have to tell your potential employers about your skills. The traditional educational system is not an excuse for not developing functional skills. Always query the system to discover skills gap in the industry and develop yourself to be visible.
LBC CREW: What do you think gave you the advantage to get the scholarship?
Dr. Kelechi: I wouldn’t say it’s an advantage, it is more of access to the right information. I was fortunate to have an elder brother that went through this route. He disclosed all the necessary information to me from the start. There is also the place of persistence and resilience. When you understand that you are competing with other intelligent folks from all over the world, you will strife to be better. I started applying for my Master’s scholarship even when I was not ready; that was in my third year of the undergraduate program. I didn’t even have all documents, but thought it was wise making attempt for the sake of experience. I failed and tried again for the second time. By then, I was in my final year. I already had my international passport and had also written my English proficiency exams. I passed the first stage and got on the waiting list. When I applied again during my NYSC, being my third attempt, I was successful. If you fail, don’t give up. As for the PhD, I just kept applying. I kept applying for every opportunity that I had without even considering options and fortunately I was successful. It is important to have an open option. Applying for scholarships takes time and money, so you must be sure you make the best shot. It doesn’t make sense sending too many applications, when you are not adequately prepared for any. Listening is another key factor. Reach out to people who have gone through the same route and get guidance. Never feel because you made a first class, you know it all. Reach out to people that have applied, build a relationship with them and gain from their experiences.