Dare to Dream
Category : General
Dare to Dream
By Ofonime Essien
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” ― Helen Keller
Dream is not what you see at night when you sleep but that which will not let you sleep. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”.
I don’t like dreaming small dreams or setting small goals. I like dreaming difficult dreams. I like dreaming dreams that will not let me sleep. In the words of a Yiddish Proverb, “If you want your dreams to come true, stop sleeping”.
Read more:Your Destiny is in Your Hands
All my life, I always believe in the mantra, “Make a move, God will make a way”. I have always been divinely guided. All my life, I always have dreams or goals to work on. I am a persistent, passionate and goal-oriented person. In life, the only thing that will change you from where you are today to where you ought to be tomorrow is: the books you read, the people you meet and the dreams you dream. Three (3) dreams shaped my life, because I dared.
3. Becoming an Information Technology (IT) Professional /Attending NIIT
I arrived National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) District Dispatch Office, Wuse, Zone 6 Abuja – Nigeria, one fateful day in August 2001, to meet my friends, Mr. Bobmanuel Desire and Mr. Fidelis Palmer, arguing on what programme I should do: City and Guild (C&G) Diploma in Electrical Engineering or a NIIT Information Technology (IT) course. Mr. Fidel Palmer felt I should attend the C&G programme but Mr. Bobmanuel Desire believed it was the NIIT course that I needed. God bless you guys.
A month prior to this incident, we had attended a course at the then National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) Training Centre, Kaduna on Substation Operations and Management. My friends realized how good I was in Physics. I was second overall in the course and first among the Abuja contingent. Some of my colleagues from Abuja were surprised I didn’t come first overall. It was during this training I started mulling the idea of attending the C&G programme since I couldn’t get a study leave with pay to do a full time course in the university. Getting study leave with pay in my organization was difficult except you had somebody in top management who will be willing to push it for you. Since I had none, I started looking for a programme that I will do and at the same time keep my job.
I attended NIIT through my good friend, Mr. Bobmanuel Desire. I had read about NIIT in the National Dailies a week before the particular encounter that involved Bobmanuel Desire and Fidel Palmer in Abuja, Nigeria but didn’t know where their office in Abuja was. I asked Bobmanuel Desire for directions to NIIT Centre, Wuse II – Abuja, Nigeria and left them immediately.
Read more:Overcoming Setbacks and Difficulties
I got to NIIT Centre and met the Centre Head, Mr. Ben Okafor. I asked a lot of questions concerning the school and their programmes. I was given admission to join a class that was starting in a week’s time. I made part payment of US $202 (N20, 000.00), thanks to the payment of my 2001 annual bulk rent by my employer.
NIIT programme was very expensive for me, considering my salary then. The tuition fees was US $667 (N66,000.00) per semester in 2001 and I was to do four (4) semesters in order to prepare for four (4) Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD) certification examinations. I did only one (1) semester, borrowed books and prepared for the other three (3) examinations on my own. I learnt Microsoft SQL Server 7.0, Java programming language and Unified Markup Language (UML) in NIIT.
I sincerely didn’t know where the money will come from to pay for the course. I didn’t consider my salary before enrolling for the course. I believed that God will always make a way. Most days, I trekked long distances to make up for what I had. Some days, I asked some of my course mates for transport money back home.
Mr. Benedict Josiah, one of my colleagues one day asked me, “Ofonime, is it the same salary we are collecting that you are using to run this course?” Josiah believed I was getting money from other sources because the salary was barely enough, let alone pay for a course like that. But what he didn’t realized was that, “What the mind of man can conceive and believe, he can achieve”, Napoleon Hill. Am sure he didn’t know about self-sacrifice and delayed gratification.
Completing Microsoft Certified Solution Developer Tracks
After the first semester, NIIT changed their curriculum, unfortunately, it wasn’t to my favour. I had travelled to Kaduna, Nigeria to write the first paper, Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 in December 2001. The only closest Prometric Centre for information technology examinations was in Kaduna. I started thinking of ways to buy the books or get materials for the remaining three (3) papers.
One fateful day, I learnt there was a new Prometric Centre in Abuja. I was so thrilled because it will save me the cost and stress of travelling to Kaduna for examinations. I went to check out the place. I met the Test Administrator, Mr. Johnson Morrison. We got talking and I told him the difficulty I had in sourcing materials for the remaining three (3) papers. He told me the guy that left, just finished his last paper that I should go talk to him. He believed that the guy will help.
I approached Mr. Kunle, a staff of defunct Oceanic Bank in Nigeria. I told him my challenge. He took me to his office and showed me the three (3) books I was looking for. He told me he will release them one at a time. I have to return one before collecting another. He told me he was expecting his transfer to Lagos, Nigeria soon. He was indeed God sent.
He gave me the first book, Designing and Implementing Desktop Applications: Visual Basic 6.0, same day. He gave out his valuable book to a guy he just met for less than an hour. God bless you immensely wherever you are.
At that point in time, my life depended on those books because I couldn’t afford to buy them. I took the book home, arranged with my colleagues to cover my duties for three (3) days. I told my friends that I don’t want anybody to visit me that period. Some understood, some didn’t. I locked myself up in my little room and devoured the book. I read it day and night. I finished the 352 pages book in two (2) days and read it twice in five (5) days. I installed the Visual Basic 6 program that came with the book in one of the computers in NIIT Centre and practiced for the examination. I gave money to a fellow student whom I trusted to clone a computer for me, but he used the money without delivering the system. I also practiced the questions on each of the chapters that came with the CD. I got 84.6%. As far as I was concerned, I was ready for the exam. The Christmas bonus I was expecting from my office to register for the exam got delayed, I returned the book and collected the second book.
The second book, Designing and Implementing Distributed Applications: Visual Basic 6.0, was part B of the second paper, it helped me understand the Part A more. When I finally wrote the second paper, I got 1000/1000. The VUE Administrator in Kaduna and people there were surprised at my result. He told me since he started running that Centre, no student has ever scored everything. I was happy and proud that my efforts were not in vain. The Centre in Abuja didn’t have voucher for the exam when I wanted to write it. I had to go to Kaduna. The third paper I got 997/1000 and the last 897. The last paper, Solution Architecture, was the most difficult; till date it remained the most difficult IT exam I had ever written. My heart pounded very fast after I clicked the Submit button. Given my lean resources, I didn’t want to repeat any paper. Failure wasn’t an option.
After the exams, I raised money and made copies of the books. A fellow Faculty, Peace borrowed the second book after joining NIIT as a Faculty. One day, she asked me in the Faculty’s Office with the book in her hand, “Essien, did you actually finish this book in 2 days?” I smiled and answered, “Yes”. She couldn’t finish the book in one month. When there is a will, there is always a way.
Becoming a Faculty in NIIT
After the MCSD exams, Mr. Ben Okafor, the NIIT Centre Head called me to his office one day and congratulated me. He said, “Essien, I like your passion and am proud of you. Why not join us as a Faculty?” I was the first student in the Centre to achieve that feat. Some of the Faculties had not written even one certification examination. I submitted my Curriculum vitae and interview was conducted for me. I took up an appointment as a Faculty on part time basis and prepared students for Microsoft Certified Solution Developer certification examinations. It had to be part time because I was gainfully employed. I took up the appointment not for the money but for other opportunities it would bring and to enrich my curriculum vitae. I realized that the more you teach, the more you learn.
Becoming a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD) and Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA) was one achievement I cherished so much, but one my employer didn’t recognize. They recognized and gained from the knowledge but refused to recognize or accept the certifications. When I submitted my certifications for promotion, people started taunting me that I wanted to become a Manager overnight and started calling me Overnight Manager. Other certifications later joined including becoming an Oracle Certified Associate (OCA) on Oracle Database 10g. I wrote a total of fourteen (14) IT certification examinations before I had a career change to the aviation industry. I never repeated an exam.
Read more:The Day I Cried in Flying School
It was the dream of being an IT Professional that later took me to work in West African Power Pool (WAPP), Cotonou – Benin Republic on Secondment for three (3) years as a Database Information Systems Manager (DISM). I helped the Agency deploy Oracle Database 11g for Accounting, Human Resources and Asset Management. And it was in Cotonou, I received the vision to become a Pilot. I will always be grateful to Engr. Babatunde Adeyemo, Director, Information and Co-ordination Centre (DICC), West African Power Pool (WAPP) for the faith he showed in me and for the privilege. Thank you, Sir. God bless you.
2. UK Education Dream
In 2005, a dear friend of mine and neighbor in Abuja, Mr. Mike Ebijimi, asked me to help him check for MSc Economics degree course on the University of Essex, UK website. After getting the details for Michael, a thought came to me to check Computer Science courses for myself. I checked and later got offer letter from the University of Essex. That was how the UK Education Dream began. I wrote down the courses I wanted to do, their durations and the cost of doing each of them. I printed it on A4 paper and placed on the walls of my room. I realized that it wasn’t bold enough so I printed it on A3 paper. Some of my friends thought I was crazy because they knew my financial status. They felt there was no way I was going to achieve such dream. They didn’t know that what the mind of man can conceive and believe, he can achieve.
When I had the dream of furthering my education in the UK, I tagged it “UK Education Dream” and the motto was that “Education is More Important than Money”.
I analyzed my financial situation with a senior colleague and friend, Engr. Emmanuel A. Anumaka, Assistant General Manager, Corporate Planning, Transmission Company of Nigeria. We realized that even if my employer was to pay me my 10 years salary in advance, it won’t pay for my UK Education. This realization pushed me into developing my entrepreneurial and business skills.
I tried my hands on various businesses – fish farming, online forex trading, sports/football viewing centre, micro lending, wheat ovals from Dangote Company, stock market investments. While waiting to raise more money, I invested the little money I had in the Nigerian Stock Market. Unfortunately, all the stock investments I had got swallowed in the stock market crash of 2008. The stock I had become worthless. It was a big setback. I had to start all over again.
Jim Rohn said “Dream dreams not for what you will achieve but for what you will become in the process”. I am happy with who I became in the course of pursuing my UK Education Dream. I pursued the UK Education Dream for seven (7) years until I received a vision to become a Pilot.
1. Pilot Training
I was thrilled when I received the vision of becoming a Pilot. I wanted to belong to that league of “Special Beings”. I wanted to belong to those few “elites” who will lift a heavy machine into the sky, maneuver it and enjoy the fun of flying it. I wanted to become a Pilot but that dream didn’t come easy. I knew if it was that easy becoming a Pilot, everybody will be one.
For those of you who have read my article, “How I Became a Helicopter Pilot”, you already know how difficult it was achieving that dream. Becoming a Pilot was the most difficult dream I ever had as at that time. I am glad I dared.
What dreams or goals have you been sleeping on? Is it fear or lack of money that is holding you back? How many opportunities have we wasted not throwing ourselves in that dream, into that career, reaching that goal that would make us somebody? Whatever you have lost due to this disease, shall be recovered. Wake up from your sleep and attack that dream or goals. You can become anything you want in life, if you make up your mind to, persevere and be willing to pay the price.
Have you ever had a dream you really believe in turn into a frustrating nightmare? Have you ever become distraught because of life challenges? If yes, you are not alone. Sometimes, life hit us with a brick on the head. Flavia Weedn, an artist and writer, once said, “If one’s dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick one of those pieces up and begin again”. I have had to pick up pieces of my broken dreams and begin again, a good number of times.
If it is in your heart, it will be in your hands. If God has ever given you a vision, don’t give it up. It shall come to pass. If He puts it in your heart, He will soon put it in your hands. The vision shall come to pass. Anything is possible with God. Blessed are those who dream dreams and stand by those dreams until they become a reality. Even though the vision tarry, wait for it, it will come to pass. If you can see it, you can seize it.
You can do anything you want to do. You can be anything you want to be. You can go from where you are to where you want to be – if you are willing to dream big and work hard. Never stop reaching out for your dreams. In the words of a popular musical group, “So impossible as it may seem, you’ve got to fight for every dream because who’s to know which one you let go would have made you complete”. Don’t give up on your dream just because it is not going in the direction you want, there are different routes to the same destination. All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them. – Walt Disney