Impossible is Nothing: Tochukwu Onu
Even when Tochukwu was just a child, there were already signs he was destined for a future in engineering. “I loved taking apart radios, and then putting them back together”, he says. “I just loved to be busy!”
This budding engineer left Nigeria at just 16 years of age. “I waved goodbye to my family at home and landed in London all on my own. I had to summon my courage and find my own way.” Tochukwu ended up in Coventry, where he successfully gained a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and built the hard and soft skills that would prepare him for success.
Achieving the Impossible: Tochukwu Onu
One of those issues was finding skilled employees. Exeter is largely Caucasian, with relatively little diversity compared to cities such as London, and Tochukwu struggled to find staff with previous experience cooking African food or working in an Afro-Caribbean restaurant.
Tochukwu also learned that there are many differences between entrepreneurship in Nigeria and overseas, in countries such as the UK.
After several years in the UK, Tochukwu took the plunge and decided to head home to Nigeria. He is now the Director of Administration at Nigeria’s first secondary school specializing in science, computing and technology. “It’s an exciting project. We’re the first school of our kind in the country; a shining beacon.”
Getting the school off the ground has been challenging, as Tochukwu and his colleagues seek to forge a new path for innovative schooling and education in Nigeria, equipping the country’s next generation of leaders with the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century. Despite the school’s ambitious goals, access to water was nevertheless a major challenge in the first few months. Tochukwu and his colleagues decided to build six water reservoirs on campus, as well as a filtration plant. Clean drinking water is now available around the clock throughout the school’s facilities.
The single most important lesson that Tochukwu has learned is that self-belief is crucial, both in business and in life. “You have to believe that you can do it; that, yes, you can. It’s very important that you believe you can achieve what you’ve set out to do.” Self-doubt, and the doubt of others in your ability to achieve, can be daunting, admits Tochukwu. “But if you start to believe the people who doubt you, that would be your biggest challenge,” he says.