Updated: Aug 29
Derek Boadi left Ghana to deepen his knowledge of mechanical engineering. In the process, he spent the last 26 months studying, gaining work experience and touring the EU. He talks to Rhoda Korley-Owu about his favourite spot in France and the knowledge he gained while earning his degree in England.
What made you leave Ghana?
It was my desire to further my education and after taking advice from my parents, particularly my dad, I decided to pursue engineering management. My journey started from 2013 when I was the first batch of interns to work with multinational cocoa processing company Cargill Ghana. After graduating with a first-class BSc in mechanical engineering from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), I was promoted at Cargill and worked for about three and half years as a maintenance planner and reliability engineer.
I moved on to work for Callebaut Ghana, one of the largest cocoa processors and chocolate manufacturers, in 2018, reviewing most of their maintenance strategies. But I wanted to enhance my career performance and thought a master’s degree in operations or engineering management would do that.
I thankfully had the opportunity to pursue my dream after gaining a part scholarship from Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford, UK.
I threw myself into extracurricular activities at the university and worked part-time as a Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) advocate. I also interned at the university’s international office and was a student ambassador, organising an international student dinner and salsa dance night. By God's grace l completed my course – an MSc. In engineering management with a distinction and found work in 2019 at metal sheet engineering contractors Beckwith and Son Engineering in Danbury, UK.
How did you end up working in France?
I gained admission to the IUT de Chambéry - the University of Savoie Mont Blanc, Annecy, France. I pursued a six-month international electrical engineering semester course in artificial intelligence (AI). I chose this course because I knew it would be beneficial in finance, healthcare, engineering and profitable.
It was split into a three-month classroom session and three-month industrial internship but due to the pandemic, the internship was interrupted. The internship was replaced with a group research project on electricity tariffs/policies and their effects on commercial and industrial activities in Canada’s electricity sector. I believe Ghana can take a cue from that and adopt a grid power supply. This will enable us to have a diverse source of power (nuclear, solar, wind and hydro power) to choose from.
I completed the AI course and also received an award for having a positive attitude and enticing personality.
Before I left Ghana, I had a business in waste management, which I plan to continue with that and hopefully venture into agribusiness.
What part of France do you live in and what is your favourite tourist hot spot?
I live in Annecy, which is about an hour by bus from Geneva, Switzerland, and six hours by public transport from Paris. My favourite tourist hotspot is Annecy, because you can see the French Alps and go hiking there, and you can go biking around the Lake Annecy and swimming.
Although Paris has the Eiffel Tower and all the beauty a capital city can offer, Annecy is relatively less populated and has less traffic and pollution. Aside from being peaceful and serene, Annecy is actually known as the best town to live in France, according to a study from the official statistics body Insee.
What other EU countries did you visit and why?
I’ve visited Portugal, Denmark and Switzerland.
What qualities from your Ghanaian culture have helped with your transition to life abroad and your career progression?
Being resilient, friendly, good at networking, polite and respectful and having religious tolerance are qualities I brought from Ghanaian culture.
What do you like and dislike about French culture?
I like that they're open-minded, willing to help and are friendly, especially in Annecy. They are active and like sports such as hiking, biking and swimming. I like that they are environmentally conscious, law abiding and have respect for the elderly. I don't like that they have a wrong perception about Africans and Africa, their smoking and I also find them to be very authoritative and formal.
Are you part of an active Ghanaian community in France?
Yes, I am part of an active community in France. The group executives helped me to repatriate to Ghana and started communicating with the consular in March when I had wanted to go home and the borders were closed - due to the pandemic. Thankfully, I am finally home.
What skills from abroad can you bring to Ghana and do you have any business plans when you return?
Before I left Ghana, I had a business in waste management, which I plan to continue with, now that I am back. I also want to venture into agribusiness and believe skills I have learnt in project and operations management, research, sales, marketing and customer service are qualities I can bring to Ghana. The main idea is to industrialise Ghana and Africa. Now that I am back, I have begun the process of registering my company and seeking expert advice.
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