Being the Keynote Address delivered by Engr. Adekunle Sunday Makinde, FNSE, FNIEEE on Tuesday 23rd of March, 2021 at the 2021 NSE Graduate Members Induction Ceremony of The College of Engineering, Bells University of Technology, Otta, Ogun State
Let me start by appreciating the high echelon and authorities of this citadel of higher learning, for the special opportunity accorded me to be standing on this podium to deliver this keynote address to my friends, the NSE Graduate members on their induction today. I do not take it lightly. For me, it is an honour. Thank you, Sirs and Madams.
It gives me great pleasure to address a gathering of smart young minds who through hard work, self-discipline, interest in Calculus, and perhaps a bit of mentoring, have found themselves as undergraduate students of the College of Engineering, Bells University University of Technology. This is not unconnected with the great efforts of those who appreciate, encourage and mentor younger ones aspiring to be Engineers, such as the Vice Chancellor himself, the Dean, Head of SPGS, Head of Department and other bright minds and lecturers here. Interestingly, I have been privileged to be in position of mentoring younger ones within and outside the Engineering profession for some time, a privilege which I so much cherish.
First of all, permit me to introduce myself. I am Engr. Adekunle Sunday Makinde, FNSE, FNIEEE. I have been privileged to lead the body of Electrical and Electronic Engineers in the country as the National Chairman of The Nigerian Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (NIEEE). I have served at the highest level of Engineering decision making body in Nigeria as well, as an Executive Committee Member of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE National Body). I was also the President of the Young Engineers Forum of Nigeria (YEFoN).
In The NIEEE, I have served at different levels from Co-opted Member, Exco Member, Assistant General Secretary, General Secretary, National Vice Chairman and later rose to the apex as the National Chairman. Different Boards and Committees of the NSE and NIEEE were several of the places where I have been assigned different duties of service. I have also been an Associate Examiner with the NSE for about a decade and half, having been an Examiner with Council for the Regulation of engineering in Nigeria as well.
I started my working career as a young boy/apprentice in my late father’s printing press, Nigerian Guide Press, operating heavy machinery like the Heidelberg printing machine, case typesetting, touch typewriting system (using manual and later electric typewriters), proof-reading, etc. Though not donning uniform like the other apprentices, we were given the same treatment as them all. After my polytechnic education in 1992, I got my one-year SIWES placement with a company that deals in Banking Automation System, which helped me to really hone my practice of mechatronics, especially, circuit analysis and troubleshooting. Later I got into the defunct Nigerian Telecommunications Plc as a pupil Engineer and later rose to be an Assistant Manager before leaving for Globacom, where I am presently the National Head, Last Mile Connectivity and Access Network, across the entire nation. All of these have helped me to be what I am today.
I have never regretted becoming an Engineer and I am truly excited to see the upcoming Engineers poised to take over from where some have gotten and where some of us are still going to, with so many opportunities presenting themselves.
The Engineering profession, like most other professions, has a long history of development. In Nigeria, the earliest mention of a practicing professional Engineer is Herbert Macaulay, a Civil Engineer who was trained in England and returned to Nigeria in 1893. As the number of Engineers multiplied geometrically and exponentially, the need to better organize themselves arose. Subsequently the Nigerian Society of Engineers was founded in the United Kingdom precisely on 16th February 1958. The N.S.E. has since grown in leaps and bounds and today boasts of 81 branches and 25 divisions. The NIEEE was the first division of the N.S.E. and was established in 1984.
Curiosity and Continuous Learning
If asked what I think the most valuable traits of an Engineer should be, I would say curiosity or the word “IF”. Many of the things that we take for granted: from the wheels that allow us to enjoy our cars, trucks and trains to steam engines which powered the industrial revolution, were so invented and developed. I have always been curious, and in some instances, this has landed me in trouble. From helping my Father’s radio set to work better and not remembering how to reassemble it; to using the bed springs to boil corn in the school dormitory in the process of manufacturing a make-shift electric ring boiler, etc.
Another very important trait is the desire to learn new things.
As an Engineer, you are a lifelong student. You will be amazed that Electrical Engineering has found its way into almost all aspects of our modern living. From land to air transportation (surfing the web at 33,000 feet above the sea level); driverless cars and unmanned aircraft/drones; smart living room/homes to smart cities; automated industries; precision agriculture, bio-medicals, etc. Without constant retraining, the technology of 5 years ago is almost obsolete. The current frontier is the IoT (Internet of Things) and AI (Artificial Intelligence). IoT is about the network of physical objects (things) that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet. Convergence of multiple technologies have really helped with the evolution of IoT. Examples abound, with some as part of what I have earlier spoken of: smart homes/cities, home security, wearable health monitors, smart farming, etc.
AI is about simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. It can also be applied to any machine that exhibits traits associated with a human mind such as learning and problem-solving. Whether we realize it or not, AI is all around us and playing very active roles in our daily lives. Every occasion that you open Facebook newsfeed, do a google search, get a product recommendation from Amazon or book a trip online, AI is lurking somewhere in the background. Some examples of AI are smart assistants, automated financial investing, social media monitoring, manufacturing robots, disease mapping, etc.
Power of the Mind
As we all know, engineering is the bedrock of the society. As a matter of fact, unlike any other profession, engineering has brought greater innovations and creativity in knowledge delivery before, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic scourge. Engineering facilities and infrastructure have continued to sustain the lives of the frontline workers at the hospitals, under the sea, and even in the space. A great example of such is the recent launch of SpaceX technology by Elon Musk which has greatly opened more opportunities in space travels. Man can now have live feeds (not just still pictures or recorded videos) directly from the Red Planet, Mars. Who would have ever thought of such a feat being achieved some decades back? It is simply unfathomable what engineering minds could achieve! In other words, as long as you can think about ANYTHING in in your mind, IT IS ALREADY POSSIBLE! Somebody said and I quote: if it is possible; it would be done. If it is impossible; IT CAN BE DONE! As long as you can PERCEIVE it, you can ACHIEVE it!
Indeed a good measure of self-discipline must have played a key role in getting you this far. Hard work also, because we know how competitive it is to get into any engineering programme anywhere in the world and the discipline to stay focused on your goal of one day becoming a successful practicing Engineer. Hopefully one day in the not too distant future, you would have earned the right to be addressed as Engineer…….. Let me confess to you that it takes more than earning an Engineering degree to be addressed as an Engineer. Professional examinations and interviews (both written and oral) at different stages are some little hurdles you still have to scale. Permit me to congratulate you in advance. But there is work ahead!
It usually comes as a rude shock to engineering graduates when they discover that most of the advanced integral calculus, Gaussian Integral, Fourier series, Laplace transform, Jacobian’s theorem and others that they learnt during their undergraduate degree programmes are hardly used in the day–to-day Engineering Practice, with the exception of those Engineers engaged in academics and research. On getting to the “outside world”, you would be encountering more of the application of these basic and fundamental topics. And that is when and where you need to engage in a new level of learning. Of course, you cannot be taught everything within the walls of the university. No. So, be guided and be ready to extend your tentacles far, spreading your nets wide. Even the study of Engineering at the Undergraduate level is structured around disciplines. In the past there were three main disciplines (Electrical, Mechanical and Civil Engineering). But today, we have quite a number of disciplines without clearly defined boundaries. An example is mechatronics, which embodies both Mechanical and Electrical Engineering disciplines.
5G ≠ Corona Virus
Let me quickly debunk the notion that 5G has any connection with the Corona virus. 5G is simply an advanced communication protocol capable of such massive data transmission as to allow for remote surgery and many other applications, at extremely fast speed. As a Communications Engineer, albeit the National Head (Last Mile Connectivity & Access Network) with the company that prides itself as the Grand Master of Data, I have been a living witness to the transformation power of Engineering on the way society works and interacts. Before the advent of the GSM, we had an analogue network consisting mainly of fixed line subscribers of slightly above 100,000 lines. Today, some 20 years down the line, the subscriber base is well over 100 million lines.
Money is NOT Everything!
After completing my first two years in the polytechnic with my National Diploma (OND) in the kitty, I got a placement in a private establishment wherein the main focus is banking automation. Because of the sensitivity of the job, each staff member or technician-designee is trained (and keenly observed) between a period of 6 months to one year, before being empowered with a customized tool bag, to go out individually as the company’s ambassador. Interestingly, even as an industrial attaché, I was handed my own tool kit in about 3 months. Remember, I have always had a passion for such, repairs, maintenance, etc. so, I took special interest in the job and later went extra miles beyond what my bosses taught me there. I remember resolving the problem on an abandoned DLR 2300 machine, by tracing the circuit schematics. This was greeted by a rousing ovation in the office. Recall I was trained by graduates who are workshop managers and General Managers.
There were also tests with banknotes, inside the vault! But, I was never swayed by the sight of money or greed. These were some of the values inculcated in us from little ages by our parents. Money is NOT Everything! Then, I had colleagues that were accosted in the bank for theft of the bank notes given to them to test the machine, or even one that made away with the notes and he was traced back to our office then.
The Group Managing Director then, though not generally available (we were in different buildings), used to hear all the reports of what transpired and took notes. I never knew all of these then. So, when I was done and informed the management of my intention to go back to the university as a Direct Entry student, I was summoned to his office! I was afraid! He later came around and said he has heard sterling reports about me and wouldn’t want to lose me, but wanted me to stay so that my internship could be converted to a full staff member, waving a big/fat salary before me then as an incentive. When I politely declined all the juicy offers based on the need to further my education, he then offered to convert my leaving to a study leave without pay. In other words, whenever I so wish (breaks or ASUU strikes in school), I could come over, work and get paid!
Do I make an open confession here? While working there, I made some contacts through which I was getting some private jobs. I maintained same whilst in school (rushed down from Akure to Lagos in the evenings, visit the bank(s) early and possibly travel back to Akure same day or the following day). I was able to sponsor my university education and even support my younger ones (including gifts for my parents) with the proceeds of the jobs from these contacts!
Focus, morals and virtue
On completion of first semester of my 4th year in the university, it was then time to go for SIWES. Someone helped with a contact at Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), but in the reprographics department! Though enjoying staff bus, served tea and snacks, sumptuous lunch…., I decided to move on. To where? A 1-man ICT technical workshop, both software and hardware. More or less an apprentice! Someone that couldn’t speak English language very correctly. I even became his driver! But, he taught me! Oh, I was taught! And what I gained from him I still have till today!
So, I left an oil company with all the pecks (but not deriving intellectual fulfilment) and moved to where I was became apprentice cum driver without pay (but deriving intellectual satisfaction). Spot the difference.
What is your focus? Where is your focus? Only money or material things? What is your level of contentment? That is one major issue with our new world, which is rather changing very fast. Values and morals are being eroded. Gone were the days to farmers/traders leave a bunch of plantain by the roadside for sale, leaving the exact amount of money they want it sold there. You get there, drop the exact amount of money left there (making double of same), pick up the item being advertised for sale and off you go. If you try that now……..??? Your guess is as good as mine.
Techpreneurship/Entrepreneurship – THINK BEYOND YOUR CERTIFICATE!
As earlier posited, there is definitely no limit to the capacity of the human mind and what it can achieve. Let me make a passionate appeal to us all: don’t limit yourself to your certificate. As strange as this might sound, especially from someone that is supposed to deliver the keynote address here today, I daresay that this is the bitter and gospel truth! After some years (or even earlier) of working, you would have been positioned to learn some skills and garnered some information along the line that would be of immense benefit to you. That is why some say no knowledge is lost. Some of those things you have learnt somewhere along the line would now become very useful for you when you are trying to set up an entrepreneurial or techpreneurial outfit somewhere. See, it’s a great thing to be an Engineer, because it opens up your mind and widen your imagination, so that you can foray into different ventures with some good advantage. Therefore, if and when the opportunity comes, latch on to it quickly. But the ultimate for many is to be your own Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer, whereby you are at the helm of affairs. The ultimate for many more, is not just to manage machineries and plants, but more to manage the human resources, those that are controlling and managing the equipment. That is when you are on top of the ladder.
I have quite a number of friends that have multiple certificates and second or third degrees, but are profitably engaged in ventures that are far different from what they studied. Incidentally, yours truly also have some limited liability companies registered, doing some small businesses when the occasion arises.
You know what you have flair for, where your passion is. Follow your passion!
Entrepreneurs in the next decade will be far more diverse than their predecessors in age, origin, gender, and educational background. These shifts in small business ownership will create new opportunities for many, and it will change Nigeria and the global economy. Entrepreneurs will no longer come predominantly from the middle of the age group, but instead from the edges. People nearing retirement and their children just entering the job market will become the most entrepreneurial generation ever. You can be part of this! It could be an engineering outfit in line with your certificate, but I am also saying that it must not necessarily be so! Just follow your passion, backed up by great ideas and solid plans!
You need your network
Some might be asking: why all these ceremonies? Can’t we just do what we need to do and move on? Remember, you are to be found worthy “in learning and in character”. The elders have a saying: what an elder sees and observes whilst sitting down, a child cannot see even with the advantage of sitting atop a tree. So, I give credit and kudos to the Vice Chancellor, the Dean, HoD and all those that facilitated this initiative. I always share a story to prospective Engineers (NSE candidates) as a facilitator: a man that was nominated as a minister in the federal republic, engineering graduate just like yourselves. But not connected to any engineering body in Nigeria, and introduced himself as an Engineer. As fate would have it, there were two Engineers on the floor of the Senate that was to clear him. On questioning later, he fainted.
There would be solution to nagging problems from amongst your network of colleagues and professionals. There is no way you can be an island unto yourself. Even information is very key, which would only be found amongst your engineering peers and pals. So, you need your network of professionals. Don’t cut them off!
Need for better Academia-Industry Synergy
Permit me to briefly speak to our leaders in Engineering and teachers in the citadels of learning. I am very much aware of the Washington Accord, which is championing the OBE, the Outcome Based Engineering Education, wherein the focus is not only on what is taught but more on what the students learned. In the traditional education approach. Students are given grades and rankings compared to one another, which makes them become exam-oriented or CGPA-driven. As a result, many of the graduates are not prepared for the workforce, since there is no much emphasis on soft skills needed in jobs, like communication skills, interpersonal skills, analytical skills, working attitude, etc. Having learners do important things with what they know is a major step beyond knowing itself. That is why I am positing that there should be some surgical procedures carried out on our engineering education system. I think that Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) should do more by encouraging our institutions of learning, especially the technological/engineering based ones, to embrace professionals from the industry as partner, thereby enhancing real and practical knowledge transfer. I believe that Bells University of Technology is already a step ahead in this regard, considering what is going on here today and what has been in practice over the years.
Coincidentally, I was part of the erstwhile COREN’s Engineering Accreditation Board (EAB), which was saddled with the onerous task of putting the machinery in motion with clear guidelines and instructions, for the OBE implementation in selected Nigerian Universities as a pilot project. If this is implemented, especially with more infusion from the industry, I believe that such a powerful synergy would engender more excellent engineering education for the learners, and we would have far less of the cases of unemployable graduates. Post-graduation training, just like housemanship for graduate medical Doctors, would also be a very welcome idea.
And, another beautiful thing with such handshake is that: our researchers in the universities would have more connection with the industries, who would then better fund their ideas and researches. With such, innovations evolve and thrive more easily, whilst the academic institutions would complain far less about paucity of funds. They would also be able to attract more projects and grants.
At this juncture, I will like to encourage all inductees to please hold on to all that you have been taught in the lecture theatres and workshops, make extensive uses of the library resources (virtual/physical), and get ready to do more than just traditional engineering of drawings and calculations. Think outside the box! Think outside your certificates! In so doing, you will not only engage your mindset in teamwork with your colleagues globally, but will also be vast in networking with the experienced industry professionals, who will in turn, add value to your greater learning. Be curious and never stop learning. Engage the power of your mind. Work hard and work smart. Have an open mind. Be focused, imbibe morals and great virtue: Money is NOT Everything! Think beyond your certificate. Remember, you also need your network.
Knowledge is power, goes the saying, but your path and your purpose will determine your power and of course your knowledge.
I would like to close this address by putting the role of the Engineer in the Society in the right perspective. A close study of technologically advanced countries shows that a good proportion of the decision makers are Engineers. Unlike all other professions where the practitioner is answerable to only a single client, Engineers are answerable to two clients. The first being the person paying for the services of the Engineer and the second being the Society. Society trust engineers as they have primary duty to protect public safety, health, and welfare, the failure of which may result in severe injuries or even deaths. A lawyer sends his error to the prison. A doctor sends his error to the grave. A Civil Engineer send his error (many people in a building for mass burial), whilst an electrical Engineer sends his own error (himself and others) into fire and later grave!
So, if you are great at solving problems, curious about how things work, always looking for a better way of doing things, thinking beyond your certificate, learning continuously, know that money is not everything, imbibing good morals and virtues, and not abandoning your professional network: then rest assured that with lots of hard work, focus and prayers, you will succeed as an Engineer. In fact, as an Engineer, you will definitely be a change agent in this changing world.
I wish you great success and may the good Lord be with you all!
Thank you for listening.
Engr. Adekunle Sunday Makinde, B.Eng, M.Sc, FNSE, FNIEEE
Past National Chairman, The NIEEE
Former President, Young Engineers Forum of Nigeria (YEFoN)
Former Executive Committee Member, NSE (National)